How English Exams are Like Pokemon Battles

December 4, 2010

I have an English exam next week. Normally, I’d be feeling the nerves creep in and encircle my right eye, but this time around I have a secret weapon. A way of looking at the writing of this exam as still important, yet perhaps a little more manageable.

You see, I’ve discovered that writing an English exam is just like facing the Pokemon League in Pokemon.

Pokemon helped formed the backbone of my childhood (and beyond- I’ll dig out my old games fairly regularly), so perhaps this isn’t terribly surprising. For those not as well-versed in the games, when you got  to the Pokemon League, you faced the game’s five best trainers in a row, with only your six Pokemon, whatever items you could cram in your bag, and no chance to heal in between.

English exams here tend to follow an essay format. You walk in and face a blue and white booklet, and a single sheet of paper placed face-down on the desk. On the other side of that paper are three or four questions. In response to one of them, you craft an essay on the spot, referring to the works studied. More detail and concrete answers (so no generalizations) means higher grades.

The similarities start right from the get-go. With the Pokemon League and with exams, you have an inkling of what you’ll be facing. You know the types a specific trainer uses, or you know the themes a professor’s been harping on. But you can’t know exactly what you’ll be up against until it’s upon you.

Which makes preparation difficult. In my analogy, your texts are your Pokemon team. Depending on the syllabus, you probably can’t talk about all of them; you have to study the ones that are the most versatile, express the predicted themes best, and that you’re most comfortable with. And, just like you look at a Cyndaquil and think, “Ok, I can use this against grass, ice, and bug types, but not water” so too you have to consider your worksSome lend themselves to particular themes more effectively than others.

So, you’ve made educated guesses about what lies ahead, determined how to meet those challenges, and assembled your team. Next up is cramming that backpack full of useful items, and your brain full of useful quotations. Quotations are gold in exams like this- again, you need to choose good ones. Similarly, I always purchase copious amounts of Hyper Potions and Full Heals before facing the League. In situations like this, you don’t want to be wasting your time with Berries… or with quotations that are chosen at random and don’t really relate to anything.

Then the moment arrives. The battle music starts, the prof says, “Begin.” Your sweaty palms make it difficult to grip the pen or Gameboy, and you can already imagine how cramped your hands will be by the end.

That’s when relaxation is key. I scribble little outlines answering the essay and work from there. The topic of each body paragraph is a trainer I can dispatch with my well-trained Pokemon, adding in doses of quotations along the way. Unlike Pokemon, you won’t know how you’ve done until long after the fact, but you can guess. If you’ve answered the question, given specific examples, and not rambled too much, you’re probably ok.

So when you see students hard at work, hunched over their papers and writing feverishly… one of them may be singing the Pokemon theme in her head.




  1. LOL!!! Now I’m going to be doing that for my final essays this week! LOL!!! Great analogy!

  2. ehehehehe – that is an awesome analogy ^^ good luck with your battle/exam!

  3. Pokemon+IWI+Writing=awesome. You never cease to amaze me! Keep up the good work!

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