Friday, 4 May 2012
1. Read the question carefully
You have no choice of questions, so you have to have a go at what is there on the paper; sometimes students panic and think that they don't understand the question- maybe because of one particular word- but so long as you have prepared on all the concepts there will be something in the question that you recognise. Words like 'technology', 'convergence', 'distribution', 'marketing', 'digital' come up and you should see them as your 'hook' into the question. Even if the overall wording seems to be baffling, look for the terms that are there in the question and see them as the springboard for your answer.
2. Don't spend ages on an introduction
You only have 45 minutes to answer the question, so there isn't time to waffle! A quick sentence which sets out what you are going to do and which media area or industry you are going to use will suffice. You can prepare a lot of this in your head in advance, so something like: In this essay, I shall write about (concept) in relation to the (film, music, radio, etc) industry, drawing on (examples) as my case studies.
3. Know your examples
Whichever industry you are writing about, you will need examples to support your points. I would always advocate having some contrasting examples so that you can look at all angles; for example, you might have a mainstream high budget film from the USA to contrast with a low budget independent Uk film, or a major record label to contrast with a little UK indie label. That way, you can talk about the different ways in which the industry might operate in different circumstances. You need not know absolutely eveything about just two examples, however. It could be that you know about the funding of a particular low budget film, but don't know about its marketing; in which case find another example of something similar where you can find out about its marketing. The important thing is to get a good grasp of the ways in which the concepts apply rather than every tiny detail of a specific case study example. What you do need is to make sure you understand the general principles well and can back up your points accurately.
4. Try to be systematic
Don't jump about between points; spend a bit of time at the start of the exam planning the structure of your answer and working out the main points and examples for each paragraph. this will ensure that the rest of your time is spent fruitfully as well. Know what key point you will make in each paragraph, what examples you will refer to and how you want to make a case from it all. Use similarity and difference as starting points for organising an argument; there will be differences between mainstream and indie which you might use as your way through, for example.
5. Make it all legible
Remember, examiners may be old and may have poor eyesight. Well at least that applies to me! Most students do not have great handwriting, so make it easier for the examiner to find the strengths in what you have written. Keep your paragraphs relatively short- half a page at most. Leave a clear line between each paragraph. There is nothing in the rules to say that you can't use a highlighter pen to emphasise your key examples or terms. Don't overdo this, but it does sometimes help to draw the reader's attention to points which ought to pick you up marks.
Prepare well and you should do well. Answers to Q.2 often look shorter than those for Q.1, but if you know your stuff and have revised properly, they shouldn't be. Good luck!
Monday, 23 April 2012
1. Practice a bit of writing on TV Drama and particularly in organising your notes. You'll find a whole presentation of tips on that part of the exam in my presentation from an earlier post on Feb 29. There I suggest that you go into the exam knowing how you will organise your notes, so that you have a structure to look out for things and to ensure that you maximise the note-taking time. After the first screening, if you draw a grid in the answer booklet, like this:
When revising for the exam, fill out a grid like this with the points you are going to be looking for on the day, then regardless of the extract, you will have things to look for. You won't be able to take one in to the actual exam, but you will have fewer things to memorise to cover!
So, under mise-en-scene, you might be looking for key examples of setting, costume, props, colours, makeup, hairstyle, lighting, posture, gesture. For camerawork you want to make points about angles, shot distances, camera movements, framing and focus. For continuity editing you want examples of the 180 degree rule, match on action, shot reverse shot, eyeline match, insert shots. For sound you will want examples of music, dialogue, sound effects, use of foley, counterpoint, sound bridges. If you have lists like this that you can then remember, that gives you plenty to look for.
Once you have watched the extract through, during the second screening you can very quickly note down your grid and start to put in examples to support your points and then as you watch it a third and fourth time, you can start to relate the examples you find back to the question, by asking what they contribute to the representation under scrutiny. So, for instance, how is the setting being used, how are camera angles being used, how are features of continuity editing used to help establish differences between characters. You'll have 30 minutes in total for the note-taking, so make the most of it!
Remember, the more you do in preparation for the note-taking, the better your chances in the essay itself. A well-organised answer in the 45 minutes for writing, supporting points with examples, will go a long way towards getting you a good mark!