The AQA GCSE English Language Exam – Question Three

Question Three – ’The Facts’:

Yes, you’ve guessed it: Question Three is based on source 3 and you have 12 minutes to write your answer, in addition to three minutes needed for reading and annotating the source. For many students, this is the question that confuddles the bejeezus out of them. It is rather a vague sounding question and students tend to overcomplicate its simplicity. This question will ask you to focus on the specific thoughts and feelings of the writer and how this is conveyed through language. As it will ask you to explain the emotions of the writer, the source will often be based on a non-fiction text such as an autobiography or travel journal.

Just as questions one and two have asked of you, this question will examine your ability to retrieve information (quote) and interpret meaning from the text. Please note, it is not a language analysis question, and language techniques should only be included if they directly link to the question being asked. You should avoid writing about the effect the language has on the reader.

Just like Question One, you must ensure you refer to the entire text and like Question Two, you should write your answers in PEE format.

To add sophistication to your explanation of the thoughts and feelings of the writer, make sure you comment on their use of:
  • —Adjectives
  • —Adverbs
  • —Comparatives and Superlatives
  • —Sentence structure and length
  • —Punctuation for effect
  •  – NOT THE RED RASP and SOMP (unless it directly links to the question)

This is the easiest question as you simply need to use PEE to show you can infer how the author or subject was feeling or what they were thinking.

Handy Hints for Answering Question Three:

  • Read the extract carefully (Source 3) and identify the genre, audience and purpose.
  • Underline anywhere where you can guess what the writer’s thoughts or feelings are – it might be explicitly stated e.g. “I was feeling excited” but more usually, you have to infer this information. E.g. “My mouth was dry and my muscles tense” implies that the writer was very scared at this point.
  • Write an introductory sentence identifying the GAP and the overall thoughts and feelings of the writer – ‘This extract from Michael Caine’s autobiography is aimed to inform and entertain adult readers who would like to learn more about him. Overall, Caine appears anxious and hesitant regarding his stage performance and this using emotive language and hyperbolic anecdotes.
  • Now make 4-5 points, each time using PEE.
  • Make sure you synthesise the information and write each point in your own words. Avoid repeating yourself and sounding like an illiterate moron: Francis felt excited as it said “I allowed myself to become excited, which shows she was excited.  Far better: Francis’ spirits lifted and she “allowed” herself to “become excited” although her hopes were soon dashed when the wind began to rise again, “stronger than ever”, suggesting that this was an emotionally challenging period in the journey as she battled the elements.
  • Ensure that you constantly use a variety of short quotations to support your point. Quotes means prizes.
  • Avoid writing about the effect on the reader.

Question Three Exemplar:


Read Source 3, Everest The Hard Way, which is an extract from a non-fiction book.

Explain which parts of Pete Boardman’s story of the return to Camp 6 you find tense and exciting.

This extract from Pete Boardman’s autobiography aims to inform and entertain the reader about the perilous dangers of summiting Everest. Overall, Boardman’s use of short sentences and emotive language conveys how tense, dangerous and overwhelmed the writer is in relaying this event. From the opening sentences, the fact that a ‘decision’ had to be made and there was a time limit of ‘ten more minutes’ suggests that they were in a precarious position and builds tension and excitement, which ends in the declarative and frank statement that ‘time was up’.  Furthermore, the section where he questions whether they are going the right way and describing the all-encompassing and claustrophobic ‘powder-snow avalanche’ surrounding them, shows that they were up against nature and the relentlessly unforgiving elements in an extreme situation. That ‘there was no sign of Mick’ and the fact that they had to ‘fight for their lives’ suggests that something terrible had happened and that a similar fate could easily happen to them.

Boardman again uses short sentences when describing getting down the mountain, when Pertemba was ‘not used to moving without fixed ropes’ and is moving at a slow pace, which adds to the sense of risk and danger as we know their oxygen tanks were decreasing rapidly. The ‘avalanche coming, channelled, straight at [him], and the dependency on the rope and the ice axe shows the life or death hazards they endured and is exciting, yet terrifying. The ‘miracle’ of finding the rope and Boardman pulling ‘mercilessly’ to save Pertemba adds excitement to the end of the journey and suggests that they continuously faced many severe challenges.

Finally, the fact that Boardman, the strong, experienced conqueror of Everest ‘burst into tears’ at the end of the extract demonstrates just how tense the experience had been, how close they had come to death, and that he knows he will never see Mick again.

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?

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

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Always explain the thoughts and feelings of the writer and the basic language devices used to describe these.



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