Category: English B

CSEC English B 2018-2023 Sample Questions- Section A

For each question in Sections A, B, and C, in addition to the 25 marks indicated for content and argument, 10 marks is allocated for language, organization and competence in the mechanics of writing.


Answer ONE question in this section.

 THE TEMPEST — William Shakespeare


1. “The Tempest is an exploration of different types of relationships.” Write an essay in which you describe TWO different types of relationships in the play. In this essay, you must also discuss ONE theme that is portrayed in any ONE of the relationships described, and examine ONE dramatic technique Shakespeare uses to present relationships in the play as a whole.
Total 35 marks



2. “A dominant theme in Ti Jean and His Brothers is good versus evil.” Write an essay in which you describe TWO incidents in which the conflict between good and evil is presented. In this essay, you must also discuss how the MAIN characters are affected in ONE of the incidents, and examine ONE technique that Walcott uses to present the theme of good versus evil in the play.

 Total 35 marks


Analysis of God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The first four lines of the octave (the first eight-line stanza of an Italian sonnet) describe a natural world through which God’s presence runs like an electrical current, becoming momentarily visible in flashes like the refracted glinting of light produced by metal foil when rumpled or quickly moved.

Alternatively, God’s presence is a rich oil, a kind of sap that wells up “to a greatness” when tapped with a certain kind of patient pressure. Given these clear, strong proofs of God’s presence in the world, the poet asks how it is that humans fail to heed (“reck”) His divine authority (“his rod”).

The second quatrain within the octave describes the state of contemporary human life—the blind repetitiveness of human labor, and the sordidness and stain of “toil” and “trade.” The landscape in its natural state reflects God as its creator; but industry and the prioritization of the economic over the spiritual have transformed the landscape, and robbed humans of their sensitivity to the those few beauties of nature still left. The shoes people wear sever the physical connection between our feet and the earth they walk on, symbolizing an ever-increasing spiritual alienation from nature.

The sestet (the final six lines of the sonnet, enacting a turn or shift in argument) asserts that, in spite of the fallenness of Hopkins’s contemporary Victorian world, nature does not cease offering up its spiritual indices. Permeating the world is a deep “freshness” that testifies to the continual renewing power of God’s creation. This power of renewal is seen in the way morning always waits on the other side of dark night.

The source of this constant regeneration is the grace of a God who “broods” over a seemingly lifeless world with the patient nurture of a mother hen. This final image is one of God guarding the potential of the world and containing within Himself the power and promise of rebirth. With the final exclamation (“ah! bright wings”) Hopkins suggests both an awed intuition of the beauty of God’s grace, and the joyful suddenness of a hatchling bird emerging out of God’s loving incubation.


This poem is an Italian sonnet—it contains fourteen lines divided into an octave and a sestet, which are separated by a shift in the argumentative direction of the poem. The meter here is not the “sprung rhythm” for which Hopkins is so famous, but it does vary somewhat from the iambic pentameter lines of the conventional sonnet.

For example, Hopkins follows stressed syllable with stressed syllable in the fourth line of the poem, bolstering the urgency of his question: “Why do men then now not reck his rod?”

Similarly, in the next line, the heavy, falling rhythm of “have trod, have trod, have trod,” coming after the quick lilt of “generations,” recreates the sound of plodding footsteps in striking onomatopoeia.


The poem begins with the surprising metaphor of God’s grandeur as an electric force. The figure suggests an undercurrent that is not always seen, but which builds up a tension or pressure that occasionally flashes out in ways that can be both brilliant and dangerous. The optical effect of “shook foil” is one example of this brilliancy. The image of the oil being pressed out of an olive represents another kind of richness, where saturation and built-up pressure eventually culminate in a salubrious overflow.

The image of electricity makes a subtle return in the fourth line, where the “rod” of God’s punishing power calls to mind the lightning rod in which excess electricity in the atmosphere will occasionally “flame out.” Hopkins carefully chooses this complex of images to link the secular and scientific to mystery, divinity, and religious tradition. Electricity was an area of much scientific interest during Hopkins’s day, and is an example of a phenomenon that had long been taken as an indication of divine power but which was now explained in naturalistic, rational terms. Hopkins is defiantly affirmative in his assertion that God’s work is still to be seen in nature, if men will only concern themselves to look.

Refusing to ignore the discoveries of modern science, he takes them as further evidence of God’s grandeur rather than a challenge to it. Hopkins’s awe at the optical effects of a piece of foil attributes regulatory power to a man-made object; gold-leaf foil had also been used in recent influential scientific experiments. The olive oil, on the other hand, is an ancient sacramental substance, used for centuries for food, medicine, lamplight, and religious purposes. This oil thus traditionally appears in all aspects of life, much as God suffuses all branches of the created universe. Moreover, the slowness of its oozing contrasts with the quick electric flash; the method of its extraction implies such spiritual qualities as patience and faith. (By including this description Hopkins may have been implicitly criticizing the violence and rapaciousness with which his contemporaries drilled petroleum oil to fuel industry.)

Thus both the images of the foil and the olive oil bespeak an all-permeating divine presence that reveals itself in intermittent flashes or droplets of brilliance. Hopkins’s question in the fourth line focuses his readers on the present historical moment; in considering why men are no longer God-fearing, the emphasis is on “now.” The answer is a complex one. The second quatrain contains an indictment of the way a culture’s neglect of God translates into a neglect of the environment. But it also suggests that the abuses of previous generations are partly to blame; they have soiled and “seared” our world, further hindering our ability to access the holy.

Yet the sestet affirms that, in spite of the interdependent deterioration of human beings and the earth, God has not withdrawn from either. He possesses an infinite power of renewal, to which the regenerative natural cycles testify. The poem reflects Hopkins’s conviction that the physical world is like a book written by God, in which the attentive person can always detect signs of a benevolent authorship, and which can help mediate human beings’ contemplation of this Author.


Outline of the CSEC English B 2018-2023 Exam

The English B examination is offered at the General Proficiency level. The Assessment comprises three papers, Paper 01, Paper 02, and Paper 031 or Paper 032.

Papers 01 and 02 are assessed externally. Paper 031 is the School-Based Assessment (SBA) and is assessed internally by the teacher and moderated by CXC.

Paper 032 is an alternative to the SBA and is intended for candidates registered as private candidates.

The CSEC examination, also known as CXC, is a Caribbean based assessment that includes a wide range of subjects, including English Language and Literature. The syllabus starts in grade 10 and ends in the third term of grade 11, with examinations across the Caribbean islands. The information that is seen below pertains to the 2018 – 2023 syllabus. For more information, go to

ENGLISH B (English Literature)

Paper 01: The duration of the exam is 1 hr, 45 minutes (changed from 1 hr, 30 minutes)

  • It is worth 29% of the total assessment (changed from 36%)
  • All questions are compulsory
  • It consists of 3 comprehensions
  • Possible types of comprehensions are: drama / poetry / prose
  • There are 5-7 questions on each comprehension
  • Each comprehension is worth 20 marks
  • Total = 60 marks




The duration of the exam is 2 hrs: 10 minutes (10 minutes added)

It is worth 50% of the total assessment (changed from 64%)



  • Section 1 examines 1 Shakespearean drama and one modern drama
  • This section contains 2 questions (changed from 4 questions)
  • 1 question from the Shakespearean text and 1 from the modern drama
  • Answer 1 question
  • Type of Question- Type A (meaning a single text is used to answer the questions)


Each question is worth 35 marks


  • Section 2 examines poems (from the selection of 20 poems)
  • This section has 2 questions
  • 1 question is generic, or based on poems of the students choice (from the selection)
  • 1 question names the two poems that are to be compared
  • Answer 1 question
  • Type of Question- Type B (meaning a comparison question- compare two poems)


Each question is worth 35 marks



  • The student is asked to compare a West Indian text with other novels in English OR  to compare West Indian short stories with other short stories in English
  • This section contains 4 questions (changed from 6 questions)
  • 1 question is type A, meaning a single text is used to answer the questions
  • 1 question is from each prescribed novel, equaling 2 questions
  • Next is 2 type B questions, meaning a comparison
  • 1 question is generic, or based on stories of the students choice from the prescribed list
  • 1 question based on two named short stories from the prescribed list
  • Answer 1 question
  • Types of Question- Type A & B


Each question is worth 35 marks  

A Stone’s Throw (Poem)

A Reading of the Poem

Overview of the Poem
         A crowd has caught a woman (Line 2: ‘We’ve got her! Here she is’). The persona implies to the reader that the woman is not decent (Line 6: ‘A decent-looking woman, you’d have said,’// Lines 11-14: And not the first time//By any means//She’d felt men’s hands//Greedy over her body’).  The persona states that the woman has experienced men’s hands on her body before, but this crowd’s hands were virtuous (Lines 15-16: ‘But ours were virtuous,//Of course’).
          He also makes a proviso that if this crowd bruises her, it cannot be compared to what she has experienced before. The persona also speaks about a last assault and battery to come. He justifies this last assault by calling it justice, and it is justice that feels not only right, but good. The crowd’s ‘justice’ is placed on hold by the interruption of a preacher, who stops to talk to the lady. 
          He squats on the ground and writes something that the crowd cannot see. Essentially, the preacher judges them, thereby allowing the lady to also judge the crowd, leading to the crowd inevitably judging itself. The crowd walks away from the lady, still holding stones [which can be seen as a metaphor for judgments that can be thrown another day.
Literary Devices
          The persona is making the point that the lady was in fact NOT decent looking.
         This device is particularly effective because the word ‘kisses’ is used. Kiss implies something pleasant, but it is actually utilized to emphasize something painful that has happened to the lady; she was stoned.
 PUN :
Title: The title of the poem is itself a pun on two levels. A stone’s throw is used by many people in the Caribbean to describe a close distance. eg. “She lives a stone’s throw away”. The other use of the title is to highlight the content of the poem. It is a figurative stoning, or judging, of a woman.
 ALLUSION (biblical) The content of the poem alludes to the story of Mary Magdalene in the Christian Bible. See John 8 v 5-7.
Lines 13-15: These lines show that the men who were ‘holding stones’ believe they are more morally upright than the other men with whom the woman associates.  
One would think that men with ‘virtuous’ hands would have only pure thoughts, but these men intend to stone the woman , who  seems utterly defenseless. Also, images of cruelty are used, such as ‘bruised’, ‘kisses of stone’, ‘battery’ and ‘frigid rape’. 
         The tone of the poem is mixed. At times it is almost braggadocious, then it becomes sarcastic, moving to scornful.


Additional Analysis

This poem is a very closely and cleverly crafted dramatisation. It illustrates the way poetry uses implicit dramatisation to reveal and comment on issues. This is done without any specific reference, without explanations. It shows something without telling it. There are no explicit details, but the dramatic nature of the narrative in the poem directs the minds, the thinking, of the readers to the issues the poem wants to focus. There is a speaking voice – a man who narrates an event in his own words, providing details of the incident while unintentionally revealing much about himself and his companions.

A group of men caught a woman who seems to have committed some serious offence or violation punishable by stoning to death. The poem does not tell us what it is, but the several lines and references suggest it is something of a sexual nature and the men are about to carry out their judgment. They are, however, interrupted by a stranger who causes them to take a good look at themselves, have doubts and abort their mission. The final stanza suggests that, though prevented on this occasion, the men have not changed or repented and are prepared to do the same thing again.

While the poem does not tell explicitly what was happening we are not really left guessing, because the poem is obviously using a biblical allusion. It retells a story from the Bible (John 8; 3 – 11), well known even to many who might not be Christians or who might not know the Bible. A woman was caught in adultery, punishable at that time, according to the law, by stoning to death. She was taken to Jesus, who was urged to pronounce the expected sentence of death. But Jesus spoke quietly to her while writing in the dust on the ground and, instead, challenged her accusers, uttering the oft quoted words “let him that is without sin cast the first stone.” This effectively halted them and the woman was spared.

The poet uses the technique of narrative point-of-view. A great deal is gained by having the story told in the poem by one of the men eager to stone the woman. Several lines in the poem tell us about him and his companions who take a very perverse, greedy, sexual pleasure out of their mission – “we roughed her up”; “men’s hands/Greedy over her body”; “our fingers bruised/Her shuddering skin”; “it tastes so good”, and “Given the urge”. The poem uses several ironies. The men are self-righteous, ready to condemn others while they themselves are guilty. They describe their own greedy hands as “ours were virtuous, /Of course”; their violation of the woman as being “of right”, claiming “Justice must be done.”

Another important technique used by Mitchell is the central metaphor or central imagery of the poem, which has to do with sex and violence. The woman is roughed up, indecently handled by her captors who are about to stone her; note the startling chilling crude imagery (typical of Mitchell) of sexual violence in the fourth stanza especially, but running through the poem. Note also the other sexual innuendos elsewhere. Note as well the use of almost throw-away understatements, such as those remarks in brackets which come from the dramatisation – the conversational tone of the narrative which reveals the speaker’s thoughts and biased, prejudicial, judgmental attitudes.

Then in stanza six the poet pinpoints that people are quick to pass judgment upon others but hardly ever look at themselves. Probably for the first time these men are forced to do that and are quite uncomfortable and wrong-footed. The final stanza, though, shows that they are unrepentant, unchanged. This brings to mind a powerful statement of the poem – that even in modern times, long after biblical days our society has not changed because men behave the same way.

The poem’s title is significant in this respect. The poem is about the throwing of stones, but it also refers to the troubling issue of violence against women; the occasional cases of women condemned to death by stoning in extreme Islamist states according to Sharia law. What took place in the Bible all those years ago is still with us. It is only “a stone’s throw” away.

reference site:

  • Discrimination-  The poor treatment the persona receives by the men in the poem as a result of her profession. 
  • Religion
  • Appearance vs Reality
  • Hypocrisy 
  • Oppression
  • Power and Powerlessness