I am delighted to have reached a point where I am having to deal with repeat questions – it must mean I’ve made it!

Anyway, this is just a quick place to record some key information or information that people keep asking about at any rate. If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please either comment or pop me a quick email and I should get back to you within a day or two!

About the site

Question: When will you get round to finishing this website?

Question: Is there any chance you can add notes on 'such and such a text'?

Question: If you're an English teacher, how come your work is littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors?

Exam Tips

Question: Could you give me any suggestion on how I can actually remember all the poems?

Question: Isn't it easier to answer the text based question since the text is already given?

Question: Is mentioning the structure, for example ABABB rhyme scheme, number of couplets/stanzas,etc. a requirement? Is it mandatory to mention those to achieve a mark of the highest band?

Are exam markers strict

Can we write down our own explanations of texts and still get marks? Or are the examiners looking for specific points to be made?

What is the accepted style for responding to examination questions?

What does the examiner look for?

76 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. If i plan on to revise 3 poems from each section perfectly, then what poems do u suggest should be read which have a variety of concepts and are comfortable to analyze?

    • Dear Anna,

      Apologies for the latest of my reply.

      I am not sure whether you are referring to GCSE, AS or A2 level here, but regardless I would say a three stop strategy is a bit risky. I would want you to have a good handle on poems across the range of themes within a selection and have familiarity with all the poems. This ensures that you are prepared for different types of questions. If you only look at three poems, you may find yourself hamstrung by a particularly nasty selection of questions that do not make it easy for you to focus on any one of them.

      I hope this helps and please let me know if you have any other questions (I promise I will respond quicker!)


      Mr Sir

  2. Hello Mr. Sir, I was wanting to use one of your articles as a sources for an English project. I was wanting to know what kind of degree in literature you have.

    • Hi Kevin,

      I actually don’t have a degree in literature! I studied History at university and then have an MA in Education with an English slant.


      Mr Sir

  3. Can anyone say which numbered parts of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” are included in this compilation?

  4. Hi. Can you tell me how I can cite your analysis of “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”? I am writing an explication of the poem.

  5. Hello, I’m writing an exam in 2 days ..I’m mainly focusing on Ted Hughes poetry..would you kindly help me on the key aspects needed when answering his poetry and just poems in general.

    • Hi Tanaka,

      Apologies, I am too late!

      As it is, your question is a bit general and I think the best thing to do is head over to this page:


      If you have more specific questions, by all means come back to me. I expect you will have finished your exam and never want to think about writing an essay again though!


      Mr Sir

  6. Hi Mr. Sir, my exam is in two days and since I have studied as a private candidate with no previous experience in CIE Literature, I am really nervous. Could you give me a few pointers as to the length of my answers? How different should the comparison answer be from the evaluation one? Which one would you recommend I go for if I’m not feeling sure about my preparation?

  7. Hello! I wanted to thank you for sharing your analyses online. It has been a huge help!
    In your analysis of “To the Evening star”, you have mentioned a few points with “physical” context. (my comment is not going through if I use the term) Although I agree with these points and see why you have linked them, would it be appropriate for me to talk about these in the exam? If so, is there a particular way that I incorporate them into my answer? I would have posted this question on the poem’s analysis page, but I can’t see any comments section there.

    • Hi VV,

      You can definitely mention them, but make sure you do so in a mature manner. Phrases like ‘physical intimacy’ and ‘sensual suggestion’ sounds a bit more appropriate than ‘getting jiggy with it’ or even ‘making the beast with two backs’ (who knew Shakespeare was so raunchy!).

      Glad the site has helped you out.


      Mr Sir

  8. Salaam,
    What does the ‘rosy garland’ in the poem ‘To Sleep’ symbolize? It’s not mentioned in the analysis.

    • Oh, it’s been awhile since I wrote the analysis. Hmmm…

      A ‘rosy garland’ would literally be a chain of roses made into a sort of crown. A prickly crown, with all the thorns, and this could reflect some inner turmoil that he is hoping sleep will help soothe.

      Check out Shmoop and their ideas.

  9. As a private candidate studying for my first AS level literature examination, I would like to ask you for some sample questions and answers for the set poems in Songs of ourselves 2. I am unsure of how my answers should be presented.

    • Hi Mehar,

      Check out the essay tab and you will find a guide to the perfect essay. That would be a good starting point. Further than that, I don’t really have the time to help people individually.


      Mr Sir

    • Hi Sue,

      It is quite possibly the wrong one as I know a few of his poems are known simple as ‘Song’ on the web. However, I am reasonably confident this is the right one as I was corrected once before by someone who was using the book itself. Very difficult to check, so I am relying on others in the know.

      I appreciate my answer isn’t all that helpful, but maybe you can do some digging.


      Mr Sir

      • Greetings Mr sir,
        First of all,thank you for giving your assistance to make my answers up to standard. I just refer to the poem techniques when our teacher gave us homework. It was very significant to me .
        Sir i need to know the answers for this questions about the poem ‘THE LOST WOMAN’;

        1.How does Patricia Beer’s attitude towards death make her poem ‘The Lost Woman’ intense?
        2.. Patricia Beer lost her mother when she was fourteen years old. How does the poetess take her readers into a fairy-tale land?

        Sir, if you have a free time can you give me a (standard) answer to this question. i just wrote the answer not very sure about it.
        Thank you,
        Sehantha Gunawardena

      • Hi Sehantha,

        Unfortunately I am so busy at the moment that I can’t help out with a full essay answer to these questions. However, I will give you some quick ideas that might help:

        1) Attitude to death = intense – focus on the sense of regret and sacrifice in her mother’s life and the associated feelings of guilt.
        2) Fairy-tale land – a fictional image of the life her mother could have led without the self-sacrifice required by family.

        Sorry, I can’t go into more detail, but hopefully the above comments and my analysis will give you a decent starting point.


        Mr Sir

  10. Hi Mr Sir!

    In my school (and others as well?) we are analysing selected poems, all by Ted Hughes. There are 30 poems so I was wondering if you will you be putting analyses of those poems on your website? This is for AS Level English Literature by the way.

    Thanks! 🙂 And by the way your analyses for GCSE Love and Family poems really helped me out!!

    • Hi Sim,

      Unfortunately not, my next focus will be on Andrew Marvel and the next GCSE selection.

      Glad the site helped you out before though.


      Mr Sir

  11. Hi Mr. Sir, I love your stuff and it’s probably the only reason I’m scoring well in Literature. I’d just like to say thank you so much for all the info 🙂

    Just one suggestion though – in the future, could you also include some justification of the title of a poem? That’d be great. Thanks!

    • Hi Aaryaman,

      Thanks for the kind words and I will bear in mind including a bit of discussion about titles (I do this from time to time).


      Mr Sir

  12. Hi Mr. Sir,

    I have written a comparison based essay on the two poems, Stabat Mater and Coming Home, exploring the inevitable passage of time. It would be great if I could get some feedback on it from you.

    Thanks a ton.

    • Hi Nitish,

      Apologies for the late reply and for having to let you down. I am really snowed under with life at the moment and don’t have enough time to offer feedback on essays.


      Mr Sir

      • No worries. I had my IGCSE today, fairly satisfied with my responses – thanks to you.


  13. Hey, I happened to stumble upon your site and found it incredibly helpful! Embarrassingly enough, I just wanted to ask you how and where I can submit one of my essays? Currently, I’m doing IGCSE and will be giving my Board Examinations in the coming year of 2017. I’d like to send in one of my Poetry Analysis and seek to receive review on it and provide help (of course).
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi Muskan,

      Good to hear that the site has been some help.

      However, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me at the moment so I can’t accept anymore. However, if you click on the essay tab at the top, you might find some of the posts helpful.


      Mr Sir

      • Hi sir, i didnt know how to get in touch with you, but i was wondering if you’d be able to help me with how write AS level essay. I’m currently not getting anywhere near 19 and 20 out of 25.

      • Hi Marie,

        That is a pretty big question. If you want to ask me for specific tips then I am happy to give my advice, but just a general question I would refer to my posts about how to write the perfect essay (look at the example essay link on the menu).


        Mr Sir

  14. Hello, commenting again because I have a request.
    Could you stack all the analysis of each poem in a word document so we can download all them in one single file, please ?
    Thanks !

    • Hi Karishma,

      I am planning on releasing some Ebooks doing exactly this at some point in the not so distant future. However, I’ll be adding a bit of a charge as I really need the site to make me a bit of money now to justify me spending so much time on it.


      Mr Sir

      • No, the notes will all still be available, but for anyone that wants the info in a more convenient package or to donate to the site can do so by buying an ebook.

        This is still a little bit off though, as I really have so little time these days.


        Mr Sir

  15. Hi, I have been told that scripts marked by examiners for past exams in AS literature can be found online which are quite useful, however I cant seem to find them anywhere? Do you possibly know of an appropriate website, or have scripts of any kind which you could donate kindly for me to use ?
    Currently doing Wilfred Owen Poerty / Namesake/ Antony and Cleopatra/Absurd Person Singular
    examples on any would be immensely appreciated. Thank you – Harry

    • I would search through XtremePapers website, which is brilliant for stuff like that. However, it can take a bit of looking and occasionally the site goes offline, but it is otherwise brilliant.


      Mr Sir

    • Hi Karishma,

      Thanks for commenting. It is quite tricky to find model answers, but if you head to the example essay page there is a big booklet of them from a few years ago.

      Hope this helps,

      Mr Sir

  16. Hello, I saw a post saying powerpoint presentation for “Procession of the Seasons”, so I clicked on the link; but it was unclear to me how to access the presentation after doing so because the presentation did not start and I saw nor further links except for something that seemed to be an advertising box.
    Thank you,

    • Hi Robert,

      I’ve just checked and there isn’t a powerpoint about ‘Procession of the Seasons’, the one listed above it is actually for ‘Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind’. There is an example essay though, which is linked to below my analysis. The powerpoints aren’t showing as the plugin I used has been deleted from the site when the site had some problems. I am working on restoring them now though.


      Mr Sir

  17. Hello,

    I am struggling to memorize some of the poems and its difficult to apply different poems to different themes when I truly only know one. Are there any poems you recommend have a variety of literary devices that I should for sure memorize?

    Thank you so much! Your website has been extremely useful in understanding most of the poems.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Which selection of poems/set of exams are you doing? There is usually a work around so that you don’t need to memorise all the poems (and I would never suggest any of my students try to commit their selections to memory).

      Generally, I advise picking two poems relating to the main recurring themes in a selection and breaking them down into key quotations and ideas. This way you have a more manageable selection and clear ideas/quotations to refer to in your essays. In most exams you get a selection of questions and these will include one or two thematic choices (which you would be covered for) and one with a whole poem included with the question.

      Hope this helps, but please do get back to me with the specifics and I will see if I can help you a bit more clearly.


      Mr Sir

  18. Hi Mr sir,
    Todays the poetry and prose paper(more simply literature paper 1)
    Thanks so much for creating this website because this helped me out a lot in this subject and thanks again for answering my questions this is a pretty cool website as this gives a lot of useful points and all!

  19. sorry for constantly annoying you with all these questions but it would help out a lot of ‘IF’ YOU COULD give a sample answer to any poetry question of your choice because i am not that confident as on how to write an answer.
    thank you so much:)

  20. should we write down quotes when writing down the anSwer?can I know a way(if there is a way) to remember all these quotes cause we are not given an extract for the second question in drama which is compulsory and also the second question in prose which is optional?
    thank you…………..

    • It is a good idea to organise some key notes that relate to key themes and characters in each text. Also for poetry, when you’ve narrowed down the poems that you’d be happy answering about, you should also pick out some short simple quotations to remember. The trick is to keep them short (try not to go above 5 words in a quotation) and practice analysing them before you sit down for the exam.

  21. I have a lot of questions to be asked.
    can I know if the examiners in cambridge(literature)is very strict?can we write down our own explanation during the exam and still get marks if we prove it? what is the usual and accepted style in writing an answer for literature(more simply how do we write the answer)?
    what does the examiner usually look for in an answer?would they cut marks if we had all the points written down but not elaborated?

    • Okay, relatively easy answers to these.

      Are they strict? Well, yes and no. They are not seeking to find opportunities to deny you marks, but at the same time they are not going to let you off or give you the benefit of the doubt if you don’t demonstrate the requisite skills.

      Can we write down our own explanation and still get marks? Yes, but it has to be plausible and something that you justify well through probing analytical exploration of a poem, drama or novel. The examiner may or may not be intimately acquainted with the text you are answering a question (not sure on this point), but it shouldn’t matter. They are looking at your style and the quality of your analysis coupled with the expression and structure of your ideas.

      What is the accepted style for writing? I’m a bit unsure about what you mean here, as I think the answer is pretty obvious. You need to write essay responses to each question with clear intro and conclusion wrapping and well developed and connected response to the question.

      What does the examiner look for? They look for the quality of your expression and analysis. They are not interested in a checklist of points that need to be mentioned as each essay is open to the interpretation of each individual. Read the mark scheme to get some impression of how they assess responses.

      Hope this helps, some good questions that I will add to the page so others can quickly see them too.

      Mr Sir

  22. Hi,

    I have been teaching AS English Language and Literature since September (first time for me) and have enjoyed it so far, although very challenging…

    First of all, I have to thank you with all my heart because your website has helped me a lot in guiding my students through the poems and in planning my own lessons. Great work!

    Secondly, I would like to ask you something about the grading. I find it really difficult to grade my students essays. I have spent so much time online looking for marked papers and some suggestions but there is really nothing out there that could be useful and the CIE website is not helpful either. My students are worried especially now that the exam is getting closer and closer.

    My students’ English is solid but they still make some grammatical and spelling mistakes when writing. But they can manage to analyse the poems and write pretty successful essays. However, when following the marking scheme I never feel certain about my grading skills. Is there any resource out there that I’ve missed?

    I have checked a couple of your graded essays and would like to know whether the marks you’ve given to your students matched the actual CIE marks your students have received. And, if I send you one of my student’s essays, is there any chance for you to give me an evaluation (and you can also use it for a post on this blog for other teachers to see)?

    Thanks a lot for your efforts and the great website.

    • It is a difficult one. There isn’t a great deal out there, but I do have a big book of officially marked essays (I think from 2010 or earlier), which gives a pretty good indication of the kind of standard expected for each grade. (I’ll find this and email it to you direct)

      I’m fairly confident my marking is pretty accurate, results in exams seem to bear them out, but it is difficult to be exactly sure. I would suggest one good way to improve your confidence would be to sign up to be an examiner in the summer/winter. This way you’ll get the official line on things and be able to give pupils the benefit of an examiner’s eye. I’m thinking of doing this myself.

      Please feel free to send an essay or two and I will run an eye over it.


      Mr Sir

  23. I am very confused if I should do song of our selves or Wilfred Owen: Selected Poems or Ted Hughes: Selected Poems. Song of ourselves has around 45 poems where as others have 15-17. I don’t have much time I have to appear in May/June 2016 so I want to reduce my work load.
    Reply as soon as possible 🙂
    Thanks a lot.

    • Ah right. Where are you looking at this information? If you send me a link I can have a little look for you. I would agree that it makes more sense to do more analysis of fewer poems, but Ted Hughes poems can be a bit tricky. I’d be tempted by Wilfred Owen as I loved him when I was at school (although really I consider myself more of a Rupert Brooke man).

      Personal preference is the easiest answer I can give, but if you send me the options list I will give you my opinion.

  24. Dear Sir –

    I’ve been asked to support some kids through the IGCSE (tutor them, in other words) and I’m having a difficult time finding model scripts with examiner’s comments for the Lit paper. I know the syllabus has changed, but if I could get a picture of what they have been looking for to this point, it would help enormously. Can you direct me to a suitable website? Many thanks.

    • Hi Sandra,

      It’s a bit tough to find anything anywhere. However, I have an old document with example scripts and marks from a few years ago that I will try to dig up. I’ll email you directly and maybe I should put it up on the site too.

      Please bear with me though as I’ve moved to a new country and am having some horrendous issues with internet access. I’ll hopefully get it over by the end of today.


      Mr Sir

  25. Hello Sir,

    I am about to engage in teaching AS-Level Literature in English. I am at a loss as to how to format a lesson and establish a pacing. Could you provide a sample lesson plan and pacing for the lesson? Regarding the AS-level Poetry, the syllabus suggests three selections, how do I know which to select as a unit of study for my students? The syllabus for 2016 suggests the following: Song of Ourselves, Ted Hughes, and Wilfred Owen. Do I just attempt to address any of the poetry from Ted Hughes or Wilfred Owen if I begin the Poetry Unit with Song of Ourselves? Final question, do you offer any analysis on your website from Stories of Ourselves?

    Thank you for your prompt response.

    • Hi Linda,

      In terms of structuring lessons I have been pretty flexible depending on the poems we’re getting through. Based on the amount of material you have to get through you need to be thinking about 1-2 poems a lesson (it is up to you to see which poems can be taught together and which will need a little more time than half a lesson, but my thematic links on the comparison grid might be a good starting point). Usually I would start with an activity to get them to discuss ideas and emotions that the poems relate to – so, if we were doing something about ‘A Mind Content’ and ‘I Grieve, and Dare Not Show my Discontent’ then I might set up an activity where they have to consider what the most important thing in life is, this could just be a discussion, case studies or whatever, but something where you can basically get to the gist of the feeling/message contained within the poetry. I tend to give this about 10 minutes, not much longer, but it gets kids into the mindset of the poet and makes it easier to unlock whatever you’re putting in front of them.

      Then read, read, read; each time you need to be breaking down the poem in a number of different ways so that the whole class are happy with the overall meaning. You might want to create a powerpoint for some of the more complex imagery, so students can explore visual ideas, but I have generally found that you need to limit the resources you are creating because of the sheer amount of content. After you’ve gone through a poem, you want to give the kids something to consolidate their understanding – perhaps one poem they have to rewrite in plain language to demonstrate their understanding of emotional content/ideas behind imagery; another time you might just want them to write up their notes or create a poster detailing the main ideas within the poem. Remember this is AS, the emphasis is more on the kids and they should be leading a lot of the lessons and not be relying on you to do all the work for them. Depending on the size of the class, I would recommend giving them at least one poem each where they have to present their ideas to the rest of the class, before you do your bit of the lesson; in my experience they struggle with a few small ideas, but generally are able to get to the crux of the poem without too many problems. Maybe having two people presenting on a poem, but giving them different places to research could generate some good discussion and alternative interpretations.

      I hope this helps, it is difficult to give a general approach as each poem or group of related poems lends itself to different lesson structures and ideas.

      I’m not sure I understand your question about syllabus suggestion. When selecting units my rule is to basically go with something you’ll like (not always easy) as usually kids buzz off your enthusiasm. If this isn’t what you meant, please clarify and I will get right back to you (not tomorrow as I am at a wedding all day).

      Stories of Ourselves analysis is something I really should do as lots of people ask me about it and want help, but I’ve never read or studied it so can’t really be of help. I may have a look at it some point in the future, but my priority is the poetry and whatever I am teaching my students.

      Hope this helps,

      Mr Sir

    • I’m never sure myself. There should be a pop up that opens when you go to any of the full pages of analysis – current iGCSE, AS or A2 poetry. Other than that I think if you like it on Facebook or Twitter it should send you an automated message whenever I post. Sorry I can’t be more helpful, I am not a dab hand at this website thing.

    • Length has basically nothing to do with it. Two pages of golden analysis is better than four pages of nonsense. If you are a quick writer, take a bit of time to plan out the main points of the argument you will include in your essay – this helps fluency and control in your writing. I advise my kids to plan for 5 big paragraphs in each essay. Obviously you may have more to say, but this at least gives you order and focus in your writing. The worst thing you can do is just splurge everything you know and give your examiner a torrid time.

    • Yeah, sorry I keep promising it, don’t I! I’ve got a bit of spare time on my hands this week so will give it a bash. Don’t expect anything miraculous, it’s basically just going to be tactics + the poems I would group together and why.

      • hi
        i was wondering if i could email you a couple answers of mine
        that i needed guidance with. i just need to know whether what i have written makes sense, although they are about a Drama. King Henry v to be specific.

      • Hi Anon,

        Sorry, I am simply swamped at the moment and haven’t read Henry V for years and prefer to focus the site entirely on poetry for now.


        Mr Sir

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