Novel questions

In the second part of their oral test, students will get questions on their four to eight novels. This will take about ten minutes. Not all novels will be asked, though the questions could be on any of them (also from the comparison novels, though less). Students do not have to have all their novels with them during the assessment, but it could be helpful.

The answers to the questions should show that the student has (1) read the novels, (2) understood most of them and (3) formed a personal opinion on those novels. The student doesn’t need to like the read novels, though talking about novels you don’t like has the tendency to turn into nagging. Exaggerating a fondness of a novel will show and can cost points. Students should be sincere.

Ten minutes will be over in no time. Students shouldn’t beat around the bush, but get to the point. They can, of course, elaborate on an answer, but shouldn’t repeat themselves as this will take too much precious time. Time needed to score ‘points’ in answering other questions.

Questions could be on plot, reading experience, but also on theme, characters or setting. Students should be familiar with words like theme, setting, narrative perspective, style, flashback, foreshadowing, symbol, metaphor and characters (flat/round, dynamic/static).

Students won’t be asked questions like: “name a metaphor in this novel.” A question could be more like: “this can be seen as a metaphor in this novel. Explain.” Sometimes a passage is read out on which is asked a question. Other questions are more general. Questions could be:

  • Why is this character behaving in this way?
  • Why does this character choose A instead of B?
  • Why is this object in this novel important?
  • The object in this novel could be seen as a symbol for love. Explain.
  • What would be different if the story would be situated in America rather than Russia?
  • Why is this character static?

Roughly said, questions could be divided into four categories: text focus, context focus, reader focus and language focus. Language focus is used the least (reading the novel and having your assessment already entails language focus). The central features show the general topics per focus. The Dutch curriculum is what is expected by the Dutch government. The CEFR (in Dutch “ERK”) is a European standard. CAE is C1 level to give an indication. The can/do statements show the teacher’s expectations.

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