There are a few hints that can make a difference in your outcome.  What would I, as an examiner recommend?  Based on the May Subject Reports for 2013, here are 5 things that can make a difference:

1. In Paper 1, try to combine your writing about your interpretation (what you ‘hear’ the poem or passage saying–its content– but also the writer’s attitude toward the content –the tone) with the literary techniques used to deliver that.  For example, you see that a ruby is connected with the worth the writer puts on the woman described, but as ‘ruby’ is repeated you see that the writer is building that reference into a symbol.  Not easy, but this combination raises the quality of your performance.

2. Following along with that, be careful of making everything “symbolize” something else or indulging in the repeated use of the term ‘theme’ when what you mean is ‘content’–what’s being written about.  Not everything is a ‘theme.’  Like symbolism, theme depends on some repetition or recurrence.

3. Don’t ignore tricky bits of passages or poems;  make a stab at what you think that bit might mean or what role it plays.  It’s quite permissible to say ‘it seems’ or ‘perhaps’ or ‘apparently.’  Better to propose something than avoid the difficult elements.

4. Have some respect for your own ideas, for what you as an individual are ‘hearing’ but stay focused on the passage or poem, reading carefully.  Speak in your own voice as far as you can, in a formal way.  This is ‘school,’ after all.

5. Pay attention to the quality of your pen.  Scanning makes things less easy to read, so you want to make your writing as easy to decipher as possible so the examiner can access your ideas and reward them.