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I would look up a selection of Renaissance poetry on the internet (chances are they'll give you some well known poems in your test) and get to know 5 or so poems from famous Renaissance poets, and understand their general themes and language. Have a go at analysing them yourself in terms of language, structure etc. Also, have a read up of the world at this time in history, and that will probably help you find themes etc. in the poems.

If you still get stuck (Renaissance poetry is hard!) just do your best. Your mind can probably infer and work out some word/phrase meanings if you find the general meaning of the text difficult. Trust your gut! I would also try to develop a system of analysing a text (there are loads of weird acronyms if you search on the internet!) and then at least, you have something to fall back on if your brain freezes- and this will hopefully open it up to you more!

Good luck! :)

It's probably best for you to understand, as well as you can, the different types of poetry you're likely to come across. Can you recognize, for example, what a Shakespearean sonnet looks like? If you can, do you know what the conventions of them usually are? Or, if you get a poem from shortly after World War I, can you identify the general conventions of that era of poetry?

I think that too many learners treat poems as one-off things they have to study, and forget that poetry is this huge field of literature. Rather than understanding a poem, try understanding poetry.

So, once you can identify either the type of poem, or perhaps the culture of poetry it comes from, all of a sudden, rather than searching the poem for fragments of meaning, you go into it with a basic idea of what to expect, which speeds the whole process up.

In terms of the pieces that are not poetry, I presume we're talking prose. Here, I find it best, especially when under time constraints, to find answers to some really basic questions first: Who is in this scene? Where is it? What, broadly, is it about?

It's a bit of a rubbish way of analyzing texts, if you ask me, because the time limit means you have to take shortcuts, which sort of ruins the point of literature, doesn't it? Like you said, you get lost in the text and enjoy it, which is great, and ought to be encouraged. But, for the purpose of this test, I'd say you'd be best finding shortcuts and little things like I've suggested, in order for you to save some time.

Good luck!

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