I have an exam for English, and I will have to write an essay on Hamlet within about 42 minutes. How can I study effectively to be prepared for whatever question I may receive? 

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best way to prepare for an essay test on a book or play is to know the book or play well. You have taken the first step in coming to eNotes. On the eNotes Hamlet page there are summaries, character analyses, and discussions of the play. In order to immerse yourself in the play, you should read all of these carefully.

As part of this careful review of the play, make sure that you re-read the play itself. I suggest a systematic approach. We have act by act summaries here. Read a summary of the act, and then read the act (or vice versa). The eNotes version of the text, to which I have provided a link, has a side-by-side modern English translation. Reading both versions will give you a more nuanced understanding of the play.

The best way to really understand a play is to see a performance of it. If this is possible, do it. If not, try finding a video. Even if you just watch clips of speeches online, watching videos of actors performing scenes will help you understand the play.

Finally, the best way to prepare for an essay is to practice. There are sample essay outlines, sample essays, and sample essay topics here under the Critical Essays tab. I have provided a link. Even if you do not write an entire essay, practicing your thesis and points will be helpful.

Make sure you are familiar with key scenes and quotations. There is also a Quotes tab. Without knowing the essay prompt ahead of time, it can be helpful to understand key quotes so that you can use them to discuss whatever prompt is assigned to you.

You have a short period of time. Make sure that you write your thesis first, and check it against the prompt to ensure that it addresses it. A thesis should be clear and specific. Also be sure to leave a little room to proofread, because even though your teacher will not expect a perfect essay, you will want to make sure that it is readable, your thoughts are clear, and there are no glaring mistakes.

Read the study guide:
Hamlet

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