Unseen Poetry Advice

Unseen guidance and tips

You have to read about two poems that you haven’t previously read. You will have copies of both poems in front of you and will have about 45 minutes to answer two questions:

For Questions 1, you will answer one question on one unseen poem. It is worth 24 marks and you should spend 30 minutes on this question.

For Question 2, you will compare this poem with a second unseen poem. It is worth 8 marks and you will need to spend 10 minutes on this question.


Question 1:

  • Requires you to write about content (what’s in the poem) and style (how the poem is written).

Exploring language:

  • Effective adjectives, verbs or imagery (metaphors, similes, personification)
  • Effective sound techniques (rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia)

Exploring form and structure:

  • Patterns (organisation of verses, repeated rhythm, rhyme or words)
  • Accumulation (something being built up – for example a list)
  • Balance (the juxtaposition of one idea, person, place or idea against another)
  • Contrasts (opposites of ideas, words, description)
  • Developments (big changes in focus or ideas (for example from one time, character, place or situation).

Question 2:

  • Requires you only to compare the style of the two poems – the choices the poets have made to express their ideas and how these affect the reader.
  • You will not have time to write down all of you points to ensure you select the points that are relevant to the question.
  • You will not gain any marks for comparing the content of the two poems, only for comparing the way they are written – their style.