How to prepare for an English Communication Exam

Image from morguefile.com
Image from morguefile.com

What is a reflection / discussion exam?

Some year 12 (Final Year) English students, Mature Age or Adult Entry students may find themselves asked to sit a communication exam in which they have to write on a previously specified topic to prove their literacy and communication skills.

This can be very stressful because it tests the ability to write without a prior plan. The candidate can not rely on pre-studied facts and may have little formal english study experience.

Occasionally creative writing is an option for this module and you may be able to think up a story beforehand, but then need to link it to the actual topic. Usually the best thing you can do is study how to organise an argument and generate ways of expressing your core attitudes and values.

Common topics set refer to the areas of literature, art, or society (for example, war, peace, poverty, equality, crime and punishment, application of technology).

Picture courtesy Photos8.com
Picture courtesy Photos8.com

Approaching a reflection / discussion exam question

– scribble points straight away – don't judge self

- go with own feelings - develop points to defend self against criticism

- use diplomacy if you suspect you are disagreeing with the mainstream

- draw examples from everyday world, use your general knowledge, don't hunt for detailed facts when you don't have the time.

- organise your points into clusters that fit together.

- quote newspaper, TV anybody

- pull the quote apart and formulate a mini question based on each element in the quote or major question

- put your questions ideas into a logical order

- think ahead as you write, you don't get the chance to write a better copy so the first copy has to have relatively good sentence structure.

-practice brainstorming before the exam. It is impossible to study an exact area as you won't know the exact topic until the day

Sample written in about half an hour

Question: Discuss Tom Stoppard's statement that skill without imagination is craftsmanship rather than art

Beautiful hand-painted china represents art and carft mingled together. Photo by Allan.
Beautiful hand-painted china represents art and carft mingled together. Photo by Allan.

Introduction:

Reflect the question, summarise your main points & state argument

Many connoisseurs of the arts would agree with Tom Stoppard that skill without imagination is craftsmanship rather than art. However, a closer analysis of the relationship between art and craft reveals that the distinction between the two may not be so simple. Skill may be involved in the creation of artwork, and imagination may be involved in the creation of crafted items.

Fine detail on hand painted china, done using gold paint. Noritake era.
Fine detail on hand painted china, done using gold paint. Noritake era.

Discussion:

Body of your essay

Make your points and illustrate them with examples that come to mind

  • Traditionally an artist sweats and struggles to gain inspiration and create outstanding works of art. Traditionally an artist is poor and unappreciated in their own time, and in later times, their most applauded work is their most unusual.

  • On the other hand, it is assumed a craftsman learns their trade and then reproduces what they have learnt. They earn their living by selling products and run a business. Traditionally all of their productions are identical and considered imagination-less.

  • However, skill is involved in the creation of a work of art and artists may take classes to develop these skills. To say that Skill is not involved is also to insult the artist involved. Look in the Workers Education Association guide or newspaper to see such classes advertised. There are specialist dance, drama and visual art schools and even university degrees. Even in Renaissance times an artist would apprentice with another artist to learn their art. This is similar to a crafts-person undertaking an apprenticeship to learn their trade.

  • Imagination is also involved in design and decoration of everyday items eg. home furnishings, fine china, clothing, architecture, Xmas cards, advertisements etc... This area is often referred to as commercial or graphic art.

  • Some professions now considered trades were once as proud of their achievements as any artist, and trade secrets were guarded jealously. eg. Stonemasons, blacksmiths, coopers.

  • Artists may support themselves by commercialising their art eg. Leonardo da Vinci and many other top artists did portraits, Michelangelo had to persuade the Pope and the Medici family to purchase and fund his works. Shakespeare accepted commissions from King James I. Even today, poets try to get published or sponsored, and they exhibit and sell all art forms. Government grants available to modern artists also depend upon results.

Check your understanding

Add more points to expand your argument:

  • Pieces of art are traditionally unique, singular items. However potters may reproduce many similar items, and pottery is often considered an art. On the other hand, a trades-person may be commissioned to produce a "custom designed" product which fits a certain area or pleases a certain customer.

  • There are exceptions to every rule, for example, scientific investigation requires both skill and imagination, but is rarely considered art. Doctors must use intuition when applying information learnt for correct diagnosis. Challenging new areas such as film, mass media and computer animation are now gaining some recognition as forms of art. A photograph (or even sketch) may be used to document something, or may be creatively skewed to form art. Music may remain a form of art even when recorded onto a CD.

  • Moreover, tools are used to create both art and craft. eg. Paint brushes. Modern art may incorporate three dimensional objects and challenge all previous definitions and preconceived techniques, eg. may use welding, glue, saws etc. Needlecraft shown at Adelaide Show challenges the division between art and craft as it involves embroidery and a degree of complexity not required for everyday use.

  • Finally, it is necessary to consider the varying nature of aesthetic judgements. Something which may be high art to one person, may be repugnant to another.

Conclusion:

Summarise main points and argument again

On the surface it appears that skill is required to create an artifact, and inspired imagination is required to create a work of art. Tom Stoppard had a point, as the greatest works of art clearly show the influence of an inspired imagination. However, to argue this denies the amount of skill involved in the creation of a work of art and the degree of imagination employed in the design and invention of many objects designed for everyday use.

© Cecelia

Image from morguefile.com
Image from morguefile.com

Practice Questions

These questions are year 12 final or university level.

  1. Shakespeare wrote “all the world is a stage”. What does this imply regarding the nature of reality and art?

  1. Australian commercial television stations are required to broadcast a certain number of hours of Australian programs for children. In practice, they may fulfill this requirement by using a “magazine style format” in which an Australian presenter introduces a number of imported cartoons. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this practice.

  2. The basis of modern art is Bertold Brecht's belief that art should draw attention to the way it was created. Discuss with reference to theatre, painting and/or sculpture.

  3. Computers will replace people in the workplace. Do you agree?

  4. Wars are always caused by greed. Evaluate and discuss.

 

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