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The unseen portion of the poetry exam will expect you to provide a
detailed analysis of a previously unseen poem.

Useful websites
The poetry archieves

Poetry Foundation

Poem Hunter

Getting into poetry

The living poem sends out tendrils, ripples, shockwaves to engage, disturb, assault and grapple with the
world. It offers the reader an experience that is individual, another person could read the same poem and
see it completely differently. You person response is valid, provided you support you interpretation with
1. Give the poem a chance the poet has worked hard to choose words that offer different ways of
viewing the world. Dont expect to get it the first time you read it. Explore the poem paying close
attention to the word that have been chosen.
2. Be open to discovering what the poem is about poets write because they have noticed something
that they want to explore, a story or observation. To impart a feeling or emotion. When you read a
poem write down your first impressions, then add to this as you read again.
3. Notice the words Underline or highlight any words or phrases that you think are particularly
important in exploring the poem. Which one stand out. Perhaps the unusual images or beautiful
descriptions, a theme colours, nature, family that the poet has used.
4. Pick out literary features Not every poem will have metaphors, personification, rhyme but a good
knowledge of literary terms however is essential and provides an excellent starting point for
analysis. But do bear in mind that you should explore some poetry without such feature to be fully
prepared, to be able to comment on this form of poetry.
5. Offer your own interpretation There are not hard facts, this is not science or maths. It is fine to be
unsure. It is the quality of your exploration and written response that matters. A good Band 5
Response is likely to suggest layers of meanings within the poem and should contain phrases such

This could represent.

This might suggest..

It could also imply.

It makes me / the reader think.

This line / phrase also seems to

relate to
Another useful method to find meanings is to ask
questions of the poem.

What is the poem about on the surface?

What is it really about?

What else might it represent?

What else?

6. Use evidence Quotations, literary features, use these to support your discussion about the poem.
Take single phrases or words to explore in depth.
7. Write precisely there are marks in the exam for sentence structure, expression, punctuation etc.
this technical precision in your writing can mean important extra marks. You must practice
questions. This includes planning out your answers and working through your thoughts about the
poem to produce a well-crafted response.
Most importantly it is an unseen poem this means you are not expected to know everything about the
poet or the poem.
Highlight examples of the following in the poems you read.






Iambic pentameter

Free verse


Make a mind map for each poem or a poster showing the typical style and key points of analysis.
In the unseen section of the exam you expected to explain how language, structure and form contribute to
writers presentation of poetic forms showing ideas, theme and setting.

How do




To gain marks you need to

Explain ideas presented in the poem

Explain how language, structure and form achieve different effects

Use examples from the poem

Organise and communicate your ideas using accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.

In order to gain marks in the Bands 1 5 the examiners are looking for the following:
Band 1


A generally sound

Band 2


A sound response

Band 3


A sustained

Band 4


An assured

Band 5


A perceptive

Explain your ideas about the poem

Use a few quotations
Mention some poetic techniques
Write in English
Examine the shape and language
Use quotation and explore them
Use poetic techniques accurately
Write clearly
Examine how the poet presents ideas
Pick out appropriate quotations
Use literary language confidently
Write confidently
Examine the poems ideas in depth
Use embedded quotations and offer more than one
possible interpretation
Use literary terminology accurately
Write confidently and accurately
Offer more thoughtful suggestions as to interpretations
notice less obvious ideas and themes
Use embedded quotations throughout, examine
significant words, explore the layers of the poem
Write confidently and accurately throughout.