Study Tips and Prep

Study Prep

Lesson Plan: Close Reading for the Mid-term Exam Essay

For the mid-term exam, you will write an essay based upon your reading of Elie Wiesel’s essay, “How Can We Understand Their Hatred?” Use the study guide questions to prepare. In class, students are responsible for sharing their answers to assigned questions.

Study Guide:                                                

  1. Wiesel’s essay focuses on an extended definition of “fanatic,” or “fanaticism.” However, he also uses other terms in ways that make us think about our own assumptions and beliefs. As you read the essay, mark some of these other terms, and determine how Wiesel is using them.
  2. What are some of the ancient associations with the word, “fanatic”? Why do you think Wiesel mentions them?
  3. How is the term “fanaticism” used in today’s society, according to Wiesel?
  4. What does Wiesel identify as some of the results of extremism in previous centuries? In the twentieth century?
  5. How did Nazism and Communism “move fanaticism to unprecedented dimensions” (172)?
  6. What new example of fanaticism occurred early in the twenty-first century?
  7. To what experience is Wiesel referring when he says, “Early in my own life, I experienced the consequences of fanaticism” (173)?
  8. Why, according to Wiesel, does fanaticism appeal to people?
  9. What does Wiesel mean when he says “. . . we can never break out of the ‘self’” (173). What do you think of this notion?
  10. What kind of thinking characterizes the fanatic?
  11. What does Wiesel mean when he says that the fanatic “simplifies matters” (173)?  What you think about people who focus “. . . on the outcome – not the way leading there” (173)
  12. Explain Wiesel’s statement that the fanatic is “immune to doubt” (173). How do you view doubt? What role does doubt play in your life?
  13. How, according to Wiesel, does the fanatic view tolerance?
  14. How, according to Wiesel, does the fanatic view women?
  15. What does Wiesel mean by the term “human failure” (174)? Do you think that individuals can be “human failures”? Explain.
  16. What does Wiesel mean when he says that “only we ourselves” can defeat fanaticism (174)? Do you agree with him?
  17. What does Wiesel mean when he says that “indifference to evil is the enemy of good” (174)? Do you agree with Wiesel when he says that we can best diminish fanaticism through education and compassion?
  18. What is the role of memory in defeating fanaticism, according to Wiesel? Do you agree?
  19. Wiesel divides his essay into three parts. What does each part do? How well do the parts relate to each other?
  20. Are you fanatical about something, and, if so, what? Is fanaticism always bad? What connotations does it convey?




The strategies listed below will help you whenever you write an in-class essay, not only in this class but in your other classes and in any under-the-gun writing situation at work or in life.  Use these strategies whenever you have to write an in-class essay!

  1. Prepare for an in-class essay by anticipating possible prompts/questions.  PRACTICE BOWing FOR SAMPLE QUESTIONS.  Discuss possible prompts in study groups.  Look for clues to possible questions in:
    1. The assigned reading;
    2. The study guide, if one is provided;
    3. Your notes from class and group discussions;
    4. Themes your instructor gets excited about;
    5. Your class journal, if you keep one
    6. Trouble spots in the reading: Often the really difficult passages are the really important ones.
    7. Re-read the assigned essays or other readings carefully for tone as well as ideas and content. Be sure you understand – in all readings – if the speaker is always to be taken seriously, or if he or she is using humor, irony, or exaggeration to make a point.
  2. Make sure that you are answering the question!
  3. Take a BOW (p) in order to do the following (Brainstorm, Organize, Write, proofread):
  4. Get right to the main point. You do not have time for a introduction that is full of generalizations. Don’t waste time and words on an introduction that doesn’t propel the essay forward.
  5. Use the present tense when you refer to essays or works of literature: (Examples: “Gates writes . . . ” “The teacher in ‘From ‘Tis: A Memoir’ is McCourt himself. . .”)
  6. Develop your ideas as fully and as richly as you can. You have a time limitation, but you need to write a substantive essay in the time allotted.
  7. Come to a definite conclusion, and sum up. Don’t just stop writing.
  8. Pay attention to grammar as you write, and proofread!  In-class essays may be graded more leniently because of the time pressures associated with them. However, the individual who reads and grades an in-class essay is going to take points off for major errors such as run-on sentences, comma splices, sentence fragments, and agreement errors. The grader will also take points off if there are many minor errors such as mistakes in spelling, punctuation, or word choice. If errors in grammar and mechanics distract the reader or obscure your central idea or argument, then you can expect to receive a lower grade on your essay.
  9. Remember that in general, readers and graders of in-class essays will take point off if an essay:
    1. Fails to answer the question;
    2. Is vague;
    3. Is full of generalizations;
    4. Fails to take a position;
    5. Fails to use specific evidence to support that position;
    6. Presents an incomplete or incorrect reading of the assigned material.
  10. Write legibly. Cross out neatly if necessary. Allow time to proofread and correct your errors.