Unpacking questions

On the Paper 2 exam, you will find 4 unseen questions. Which one should you choose? What should you do with the question that you have selected? For criterion A and B, which account fo 20 of the 30 marks, you are assessed on your ability to respond to the question. So how should you 'unpack' your question? 

  1. If you have not already done so, browse through the with practice Paper 2s on this Support Site. Read at least 16 questions to gain a better understanding of the nature of the questions that will be asked on the exam. If you could put these questions into several categories, how would you label these categories? What commonalities do you see among the questions? Do this activity offline by downloading the A6 cards and laminating them. 

  2. A6 cards: Unpacking Paper 2 questions
  3. In the previous activity, were some questions difficult to answer? Some exam questions are nearly impossible to answer, no matter which works you have read. Other questions might be excellent, but not relevant to your works. What makes the following questions difficult to answer? How can you learn to identify such impossible questions?

  4. Questions to avoid

    • The meaning of a literary work can change over time. Compare how the meanings of two literary works that you have read have changed over time.

    • One characteristic of a literary work is that it never stops speaking to audiences. Compare how two literary works have continued to speak to their audiences over time.

    • How have the writers’ choices of character names and places contributed to the meaning of two works that you have studied?

  5. Take a practice Paper 2 from this Support Site and create a table to see where you can make connections between the literary works that you have read and the questions that are asked. Write your works in the left column and some key words from only two or three of the exam questions across the top row. Where do you see opportunities to write a coherent comparative essay? The example below is based on questions 3 and 4 of Paper 2 practice exam 3 from this Support Site. 

  6. Work 3. Suspense 4. Injustice
    The Tempest Audience wonders if Ariel will go free. Will Caliban exact revenge on Prospero? Prospero will exact revenge on Frederick? Caliban's island was taken away unjustly, so was Prospero's dukedom, Miranda nearly raped
    Disgrace Petrus and his family's presence create suspense. What will David do about Lucy's rape? Apartheid was unjust, David feels he has been treated unjustly. There's no justice for Lucy's rape.
    Death & the Maiden When will the gun go off? Will Paulina exact her revenge? Is Dr. Miranda really the torturer?  Paulina's imprisonment was unjust. The country seeks justice. Is Dr. Miranda is unjustly held captive?
    Woman at point zero Will Firdaus escape her pimp? Will she be killed for her crimes? Is the imprisonment of Firdaus justified? 
  7. After creating a table like the one above, you should be able to see which question has the most potential in relation to two works that you have read. Once you have decided on a question, it is time to 'unpack' it. To 'unpack' a question is to explore its intricacies. One way to unpack a question is to question it, like a prosecutor would question a witness in a trial. Study the example below and unpack a practice Paper 2 exam question in relation to two works that you ahve read.

  8. Question for unpacking

    The struggle against injustice is a theme that speaks to readers. Compare the ways in which two authors of two literary works have depicted unjust worlds. 
      • What is meant by 'struggle'? Physical? Emotional?
      • What is meant by 'speak to readers'? Do readers identify with particular struggles?
      • What is meant by 'unjust worlds?' Evil? Dystopian? Unfair?
      • Should I compare the unjust world or the authors' 'depictions' of these worlds?
Last modified: Thursday, 7 May 2020, 12:31 PM