Day 2 – Essay & English language
(AKA ‘The Breather’)
All I have to say about this day’s papers is, if there is going to be one positive highlight to the entire exam, then today would have to be it! That’s why I’ve called this day and section ‘The Breather’. But don’t get me wrong, you can still go wrong so you shouldn’t get lax.
Some of us do take our English language skills for granted. I admit fully that most of the time, I am not aware of what grammatical rules are at work in a sentence construction. The only reason I might be able to let’s say, ‘change the narrative’ or ‘correct the grammatical mistakes’ or ‘fill in the blanks’ is because of English practically being my first language – I just say the sentence aloud and see what sounds right. Not very scientific. So how to tackle the English paper then for those who are non-English speakers? There are countless grammar books and exercise books to help with this. There is one grammar book I remember having as a kid and it was incredibly useful growing up, the Wren and Martin English Grammar book. Even if I couldn’t understand the grammatical concept, this book had excellent examples so I could understand through that. Also, just immerse yourself in English language movies and shows. At least your ear will get use to hearing English.
I noticed with the Essay paper today and the long-answer question for the English paper, that the kind of questions given can be broadly based into two types -’factual’ and ‘creative’. Creative here does NOT mean actual creative writing but I use the word to mean that these type of questions require some independent thought and originality. Factual questions are ones which require some more technical facts to support your answers e.g. Discuss the creation of smaller states and it’s political and economic impact. The ‘creative’ type questions can be ones like ‘Does Indian cinema shape popular culture or reflect it?‘ (these were both actual questions on the essay paper). Go with your strengths. If you’re the type who does better with solid facts then you know what type of questions you’re better at. But if you like having to ‘think on your feet’ then you know which question to attempt. The Essay paper was for 200 marks and 3 hours long.
There were five questions in total (with many parts i.e. A, B, C etc.) for the English language paper for 300 marks. The first question is a semi-long answer question, to be answered in 300 words. Topics such as ‘Modern world’s concern over nuclear energy‘, ‘Invention creates necessity‘ (liked this one and how the old saying of necessity being the mother of all inventions had been turned the other way around) etc. Then there is passage comprehension which was straightforward and simple. Fill in the blanks was not bad either with questions coming in two forms: one, putting in the correct usage of a verb in the sentence e.g. (SEE) I remember _______ her when she was a little girl and two, questions on putting in the correct preposition e.g. I have no fondness ______ music, I have no doubts ______ your honesty etc. Changing the narrative dealt with questions like change the narrative of this sentence – He said to me, “What a strange man you are!”. There was a question also on using the correct conjunction; the question gave five coordinating conjunctions ‘when‘, ‘but‘, ‘and‘, ‘nor‘ & ‘for‘ and then 5 sentences were given and you had to select the correct conjunction to use e.g. He picked up his pen. He began to write. There was one question which I did find kind of tricky since it was a little open-ended. For me, unless I see it written specifically in the instructions then I am prone to making my own corrections. Here are some of the sentences that came for this question: ‘Saints desire nothing ____________the society‘, ‘I did nothing but laughed‘ etc. etc. Some were pretty clear, others I managed to confuse for myself :p
The precis I kept for last. It was a 611 word passage and you had to redo it in 204 words. The special sheet they use has individual boxes for every word, every line containing 5 boxes and on the margins are the number of words for every two lines. For precis, the only thing you can do is practice. Practice and practice. Overall, it was a good day compared to Day 1 and the General Studies papers. For English language, brush up on your school grammar i.e. tenses, parts of speech etc. There is not much more advice to give for these two papers.
So, how am I holding up after Day 2? The answer – I am thoroughly exhausted at the close of Day 2. Sleeping has gotten bad in the sense that every time I wake up, I keep thinking that I’m late for the exams regardless of day, date and time! I took a nap around 9pm last night and woke up around 1 am in the morning thinking I had missed yesterday’s exams and also thinking I had missed my upcoming exam on Friday! Time has ceased to exist! Sigh. It’s gotten ‘bad’ to the point that I do not have strength to walk properly….I now waddle happily in the street. It’s more about mentally being tired rather than physically. Also, as much I love and appreciate all the support and prayers of my parents, I get more tired having to field questions (in detail) about the exam i.e. type of questions, which did you answer, how many marks, can you estimate your expected marks etc. etc. etc. I realized that I’m halfway there now with just two more days of exams, four more papers then free…..to face one term paper, one research proposal and two assignments! Arghhhhhhhh!!!! It never ends!