The AQA GCSE English Language Exam – Question Two

Question Two – ‘The Facts’:

Huzaah! Question Two will ask you to explain and analyse part of a text, and thus all the badgering by your teacher to think about why the writer has included a device and the effect this has on the reader will finally come in handy.

Before we come to analysing linguistic features, this question focuses on how the writer has used presentational devices to interest the reader and how these link to the main body of the article. Question two will always refer to Source 2 and is worth 8 marks, meaning you should spend another 12 minutes answering this question after allowing three minutes to read and annotate the text. You are expected to analyse everything except the language in the main article, so you should focus on the images, pictures, headline, sub-heading, fonts, bullet points, bold writing, and any information presented in separate boxes.

This question will ask you to analyse specific presentational devices, comment on how they link to the main body of the article and their explore their effect on the reader. Therefore, you must explain why the writer has chosen to include every image, colour and font and how these represent the genre, audience and purpose of the text.

Example question: Explain how the headline and picture are effective and how they link to the text.

As you can see by my subtle hint, there are two parts to this question and you need to address both but not necessarily in equal depth: how are the presentational features effective, and how they link to the text.

In every past paper I have had the pleasure to teach, the question always refers to the text’s headline and picture but may also ask you to consider sub-headings and/or captions.

Here you are expected to make conscious links to the audience and/or purpose of the text and explicitly to the content of the story in the main body of the article.

How to analyse the Headline: consider the size of the headline and which font it is written in. Is the font serious or light-hearted? How does this link to the type of news article or style of newspaper it’s in, and therefore the type of person who would read it? Are certain words stressed or in a different font? If so, consider why. Is there pun in the headline to ‘hook’ the reader? If so, how does this link to the article? Headlines always give an insight into what the story is about. How do specific words used in the headline link to the content of the story?

How to analyse the Images and Photos: firstly, what is the picture of and how does it link to the text? Then, consider the size of the picture and how it is presented to the reader on the page; larger pictures which dominate the page suggest the visual message is more important than the written word and thus could perhaps reflect the target audience. Consider how colour has been used in the image/s and analyse the connotations of these. For example, darker colours often suggest negative connotations about a depressing story. Finally, explore the finer details of the picture: people’s expressions; focal point of the image (the bit your eyes go to first); background detail – how do these link to the text in the article?

How to analyse the Sub-headings: these are always used to give a quick summary of the content of the article or of particular paragraphs, while captions summarise what the images illustrate.

Handy Hints for Answering Question Two:

  • Underline the key words from the questions that refer to the specific presentational devices
  • Read the headline and examine the picture (and whatever other aspects you are asked to look at) – annotate anything that stands out, e.g. puns, colours etc.
  • Identify the genre, audience and purpose and highlight where this is represented in the source text. You will need to refer to this later.
  • Read whole article and underline any key quotes that make direct links to the headline and/or picture.
  • Write an introductory sentence in which you outline the GAP e.g. this news article from an online newspaper (G) aims to inform and entertain (P) its readers (A) about [summarise the topic].
  • Illustrate the device being used by the writer and explain why this has been used to suit the purpose of the text
  • Include very short quotations from the main body of the article that link to the device being analysed
  • Comment on the effect the device has on the reader
  • You should aim to write about 4-5 points.  If you are struggling, link your ideas to the audience or purpose wherever possible and make sure you use the key phrases from the question, such as “effective” and “links to the text”.

Question Two Exemplar:


Question Two: ‘Fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex Sue may have died of a sore throat’

Explain how the headline, sub-headline and picture are effective and how they link with the text?

This newspaper article aims to inform and entertain the more educated reader about the surprising new evidence that may explain the plight of Sue, the ‘prehistoric predator’. The headline and sub-headline are effective because they inform the reader that the violent and petrifying Tyrannosaurus rex may have died of a measly ‘sore throat’, which will both fascinate and intrigue the reader. The reader’s disbelief will attract them to read the article due to the juxtaposition between the ‘fearsome’ skeleton of the large dinosaur which dwarfs its onlookers, and the fact that it may have starved to death due to being unable to swallow properly. The fact that the headline names her as ‘Sue’ is effective because it’s both humorous and unexpected for the reader, who would probably not think of such a violent and threatening dinosaur as female or called by the friendly name of Sue. The word ‘fearsome’ connects with the picture which shows T Rex as immense, aggressive and terrifying; and also links to the main article where it also describes the ‘violent skirmishes’ she had, that she weighed a formidable ‘seven tonne’ and was a whopping 13 metres long.

The sub-headline is effective for readers who would be interested in natural history and science, because they will want to know more about the ‘sore throat’ theory and the fact that this may have been caused by harmless, everyday pigeons. Perhaps to emphasise this point further, the writer could have included an image of a typical cockney-pigeon, making it seem even more extraordinary and improbable. Furthermore, there is a hint of sibilance in the sub-heading, ‘study suggests’, which connotes a sense of danger due to the sound mimicking the hissing of a snake; this is also echoed later in the article where it states the wounds on Sue’s jaw have ‘striking similarities’ to modern birds with parasitic infections.

The picture is effective because the image of Sue represents a colossal, breath-taking skeleton which shows the dinosaur’s teeth in all their petrifying glory. The skeleton is almost like a monster which will have an impact on the reader and make them want to know more about how this animal didn’t meet its demise through ‘mortal combat’ but because of a tiny parasite. The picture certainly dominates the article and its head seems to leap out towards the reader. Furthermore, the image is very dramatic; the ‘fossil’ is a massive size compared to the people; the head is huge and makes the ‘pigeon parasite’ theory even more mysterious and engaging. Linking the beast with something that ‘causes mild infections in pigeons’ seems ironic and ridiculous so the reader would be drawn to the text where the explanation is to be found.

Review of this exemplar:

How many marks do you think this would achieve based on the criteria below?

How many of the ‘handy hints’ have they included?

How could they improve?

mark scheme q2

Feel free to attempt this same question and post it in the ‘comments’ section below.

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Always analyse how the headline and picture link to the text.



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