Guide to 2016 Comparative Study

Exam centre: Comparative study

Comparative 2016KEY LINKS

For an introduction to the two modes you are studying, click here for general vision and viewpoint, and click here for literary genre

For a list of the characters from the three texts, click here

For a list of key quotations from the texts for general vision and viewpoint click here, and for literary genre, click here

For sample answers for previous Leaving Cert questions, click here for General Vision and viewpoint and here for Literary Genre



The Comparative Study                                                                                             General Guidelines

  1. Basics
  • For the purposes of the comparative section, films, novels and plays are all referred to as texts.
  • The texts that you will have studied for this year’s Leaving Cert are ‘Foster’’ by Claire Keegan, ‘Death of a Superhero’ (DOAS) directed by Ian Fitzgibbon and ‘A Doll’s House’ (ADH) by Henrik Ibsen.
  • The aim of this section of the course is to compare different films, novels and plays together under particular modes of comparison. All films, novels and plays are referred to as texts.
  • A mode of comparison is a way of looking at the text
  • There are three modes of comparison on the Leaving Cert 2016 course. These are General Vision and Viewpoint, Literary Genre and Cultural Context.
  • You will have studied two of the three modes: General Vision and Viewpoint and Literary Genre.
  • Only two of the three modes will appear on the exam paper.
  • Each mode that appears on the paper will have a choice of two
  • These questions take the format of single essay-type question for 70 marks or a question divided into (a) and (b) parts, with the (a) part requiring discussion of just one text for 30 marks and the (b) part requiring comparison of the two other texts for 40 marks.
  • The comparative section is worth 70 marks – the second most significant question after the essay.
  • For this reason, you will be aiming to write between 1200 – 1400 words in your answer (approx. 6-7 pages).
  • You will have to allocate around 70 minutes to answer this section.


  1. Exam Preparation
  • Watch again the opening and ending scenes of ‘Death of a Superhero’; reread the opening and ending of ‘Foster’ and ‘A Doll’s House.’
  • Watch/reread the key moments from each text; taking clear note of the aspects of each mode that the key moment highlights.
  • It is essential to have prepared a list of comparative vocabulary that you can draw on in the exam when comparing the different texts. Use words/phrases like: similarly; unlike in; which contrasts with; which is very similar to; likewise; whereas; in a different way; on the other hand; differs from; which contrasted sharply with; which reminded me of; which was very different to; the character of the girl in Foster contrasted sharply with that of Nora in ADH; the setting of DOAS had some parallels with that of Foster
  • Know the typical potential paragraph headings in advance (GV+V: Opening, ending, setting, central characters, themes, relationships etc./ Literary Genre: title, characterisation, setting, imagery, dialogue, narrative techniques, suspense etc.) It is likely that you will be able to use some of these as points/paragraphs in your answer – depending on the questions asked.
  • However, you need to be able to react to a ‘non-traditional’ question and develop paragraph headings of your own. The key here is the use your understanding of the modes, (GV + V and L.G.) combined with your knowledge of the texts you have studied, to come up with paragraph headings that work with the particular question asked.
  • It is essential when writing your answer to introduce these paragraph headings with a clear topic sentence at the start of each paragraph that link what you are about to discuss with the wording of the question.
  • Know the comparisons between the texts that you intend to make under each potential paragraph heading.
  • In general you should know a selection of quotations that you can insert into points/paragraphs to back up what you are staying. Make sure you are clear in advance as to what point the particular quotation makes.
  • Look back at any sample paragraphs that you have been given. Take a careful note of how the paragraph is constructed and particularly the way in which the texts are compared. Each paragraph should generally also contain a topic/link sentence that outlines the point being discussed; evidence (quotation or reference from each text) to back up the point being made; a connection (key word) to the question; and a little personal response (where possible).
  • Prepare in advance 2-3 key moments per text for each mode. They should be points in the text that really emphasise a particular aspect (GV: Opening/ending/setting/central characters/themes etc.; LG: Characterisation/dialogue/setting/narrative techniques/themes etc.) of the general vision or literary genre. Know these key moments in detail – including suitable quotations.
  • Have prepared opening paragraphs for both General Vision and Viewpoint, and Literary Genre. These paragraphs should articulately discuss each mode in a general sense. These prepared opening paragraphs can then be adapted to suit the particular questions asked.
  • Have prepared closing paragraphs for both General Vision and Viewpoint, and Cultural Context. These paragraphs should articulately reflect on the impact that engaging with the mode and the text had on you, as well as readdressing the wording of the question. These closing paragraphs can then be adapted to suit the particular questions asked.
  • Brainstorm roughly what your original reaction was to the texts – particularly the opening, the characters, their relationships, how the plot progressed, how the stories ended and what kind of society they were set in. Did you enjoy the texts? Did you appreciate the way the author told the story? Did you appreciate the ‘craft’ that was used in that particular genre? Did this appreciation make you enjoy the text more or less? Why? Why not? These answers will give you material that will be useful to include when answering a question; and will be of benefit when conveying your personal engagement with the texts.



 Exam technique

  • Remember you must introduce the names of the texts and their authors at the start of your answer. Give them capital letters and put the name of the text in inverted commas.
  • This is the only section of the course where it is acceptable to use acronyms for the titles of the texts. This is okay once you have introduced the acronyms at the beginning of your answer e.g. the texts that I have studied are ‘Death of a Superhero (HILN) directed by Ian Fitzgibbon etc.
  • A careful reading of the question is essential in order to pick up on what the question is requiring of you. Use the question key words as a source for the points/paragraph headings that you plan.
  • Use the main points/ headings that you have prepared to draw on when formulating a plan.
  • The planning process should leave you with a number of relevant and well-ordered points that will become paragraphs in your answer.
  • Once planning is complete, it is important to begin your answer with a well-constructed opening paragraph that discusses the mode in general but also – crucially – links in with the wording of the question.
  • It is essential to discuss only one point from your plan per paragraph. The point of the paragraph should be introduced with a topic or topic/link sentence at the start of the paragraph. The examiner will note the point of each paragraph on your exam paper.
  • The aim of the point/paragraph should be to compare the texts under that heading (point)
  • If the essay-type question asks you to discuss at least two texts; that obviously does not mean that you are limited to two. You may use a third text as much or as little as you like.
  • It may be that you only use two texts for a particular point/paragraph whereas using a third text might be relevant in a different point/paragraph.
  • Remember that it is the quality of the comparisons that is important rather than the quantity. However, because this is the comparative section, there is an expectation that a certain amount of comparisons will be made. One per point/paragraph is a basic requirement.
  • When comparing, pointing out similarities is as valid as pointing out differences.
  • Try to vary the comparative words and phrases that you use. This will improve your language (L) mark.
  • Aim to back up the points you make both with relevant reference and quotation.
  • Where possible, try to connect paragraphs using link sentences. This will be easier if planning has been done properly.
  • Try to include some personal responses where possible. Contrasting the settings – as well as the lifestyles and attitudes found in the text – with your own will often provide fertile ground for authentic personal responses. Feel free to dispute the more predictable interpretations of the texts. Be confident in expressing your opinion clearly.
  • Finish with a strong closing paragraph that not only links with the question asked and the key words but also outlines your personal response to the particular mode.
  • If you are coming to the end of your allocated time, quickly finish the point you are making and write a brief closing paragraph. It is essential to always include a closing paragraph that links back to the question asked.
  • If you are answering the (a) and (b) type question, you obviously do not need to compare in part (a) but instead discuss. Remember though that because you are answering a question that has 30 marks allocated to it, it is important to answer in enough detail to justify the marks (600 words +).
  • You can only compare the two remaining texts in part (b). Again because 40 marks are at stake, it is recommended that you aim to write approx. 700-800 words.
  • If answering questions that emphasise the use of key moments, discuss these as well as other references from the texts to back up the points you intend to make.
  • Depending on the question, usually the best strategy for dealing with a key moment style question is to describe a key moment from one text (after your introductory paragraph of course,) before going on to mention a particular aspect of GV or LG that the key moment highlights. Next you should compare how that same aspect is important in the other text(s). Then pick another aspect that the same key moment also highlighted, before comparing the importance of that aspect in the other two texts. The question may require you to repeat the process for a second or third text. Just describe the key moment and again compare whatever aspects are highlighted by it. Key moment questions can demand different things, so a careful reading (and underlining) of the question is essential.




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