There is a purity about an unseen task. The text is like a pristine ice rink and the student is like an ice skater, poised to demonstrate the full range of their skills. In some ways this is daunting. The question, for example, can be so open that the range of possibilities overwhelms and you find it difficult to know where to start. Fear of misunderstanding can be paralysing. An instinct to play safe might mean you only demonstrate basic skills, or overconfidence might make you risk an unusual interpretation that goes spectacularly wrong. This article acknowledges such fears but also explodes the main myths about unseen texts, offering practical advice and an approach that can help you deliver a stunning performance in the exam.
This myth is seductive. Because you don’t know what’s going to come up, you might think you can’t revise. But you can revise and you should revise — in two ways. The first is to study a range of texts in the area from which the unseen text will be drawn. Many unseen texts are selected from a particular area of study. For example, for AQA (A) Paper 1 you study the literature of love and have to compare two unseen poems; for AQA (B) you might be studying crime; for OCR you might be studying the Gothic. Whatever it is, make sure you have read widely within your area of study.
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