The Cambridge literature is all about your insight and your skills, your insight which should help you understand the text in depth and your skill in expressing it logically and in the proper format.
The text that you need is given in your question paper, except for the essay questions in Drama and Short Story. This means out of the eight questions you have to answer, you are given the text for five questions. So, retelling the story or paraphrasing a poem is not demanded of you. Reading the lessons and researching about them on the Internet will give you enough insight. For the three questions for which you are not provided the text, learn a few quotation by heart which could be used for answering a wide variety of questions. Some such quotations will be provided in this site before the exam.
Once you develop a good insight, the only other thing to do is to be sure about format. There is no point in expressing your opinions or views without providing a proof for them. A proof is a citation or a quotation.
In assessing the quality of individual answers, the examiners keep the following questions firmly in theirr mind:
– how well does the candidate meet the specific demands of the question?
– how well does the candidate understand the passage/poem, and how far have any difficulties been confronted rather than avoided?
– how sensitive is the candidate to the language, the tone, and the distinctive literary qualities of the writing?
– how aware is the candidate of the narrative perspective or the writer’s point of view in the passage/poem?
– how clearly is a genuinely informed personal response to the passage/poem communicated through the candidate’s writing?
– how far does the candidate’s commentary illuminate the creative processes of the passage/poem?
Drama: candidates should always be given credit for exploring the specifi cally dramatic and/or theatrical qualities of a passage or scene (though specialist Theatre Studies skills or knowledge are not expected, and may indeed be unhelpful).
Poetry: although little credit should be given for simple or mechanical discussion of poetic form, candidates should always be rewarded for showing an awareness of the aptness and effectiveness of poetic forms and techniques in a given poem.
Prose: where appropriate, candidates should be given credit for showing an awareness of the character of the passage in relation to its genre (fiction, biography, essay, reportage etc.).
So, the format of the answer is:
A very short introduction which explores the question.
A statement at the beginning of each paragraph and its explanation in three or four sentences. This should be followed by a citation or a quotation.
A conclusion which should only be the introduction rephrased.
You may give at least five valid statements to answer each question.
The questions are completely predictable but the answers are not since the texts vary from exam to exam. But, do get familiar with the exam to sharpen your critical thinking skills.