How to Approach a Comparison Question

How to Approach a Comparison Question

A simple way to approach this type of question is to jot down a list of the similarities and differences before you start writing.

How to Approach a Comparison Question

The first question that you should ask yourself is: Why are you being asked to compare the two poems?

The following questions will help you answer this (so try to memorise these so that they come back to you immediately, even under exam pressure):

  • Are they being compared because of their styles, their contents or both?
  • Do you prefer one of the poems? What are their different merits?
  • Are the poems from different times? Don't write that one poem is "better because it is more modern", but explain why the poem is more successful.
  • Does one of the poems appear more accessible at first, but have less depth?

Open your essay with a clear introduction explaining the main focus, and give a brief outline of each poem.

It may sound obvious, but you must make sure you read the question carefully. Which aspects of the poetry are you supposed to be considering; for example, imagery, poetic voice, structure, ideas, mood?

Don't spend ages writing about an issue that isn't required in the question. However wonderful your ideas are, you won't get full marks unless they are relevant to the question.

Remember that, unless stated otherwise, you are supposed to write about each poem evenly. If your essay only focuses on one of the poems, the examiner has to reduce your mark. It may be tempting, but you shouldn't write about just the one you understand the most, with brief references to the other poem.

At the end of your essay, it is vital that you conclude your thoughts and sum up the main points of the comparison. This will help the examiner focus on your ideas. A strong conclusion can help your grade considerably.