The English Language Exam Revision PowerPoint

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The AQA GCSE English Language Exam – Question Six

Question Six – ’The Facts’:

The first thing that you should know about Question 6 is that it is the question on which you should spend the most time. With a massive 24 marks on offer, the exam paper itself suggests that you spend 35 minutes planning and writing the task. As it sits within Part B of the exam, we know that this question is going to assess your writing skills, specifically your ability to argue or persuade.

However, first thing’s first. As with any writing question, you need to put yourself into the mind of an author with a commission. The question here is just that; a brief for you, the author, to produce a particular piece of writing. The question, or brief, will dictate the way in which you approach this writing.

Firstly, we need to work out the GAP for the brief. In this example, I will be responding to the following question from the January 2011 exam paper:

“Your school or college is inviting entries for a writing competition. The topic is “Dangerous sports activities and pastimes are selfish, often put others at risk and should be discouraged.”

Write your entry arguing for or against this view.”

From the question, the Audience is made clear from the mention of ‘school or college’; this will be an article for your peers, other teenagers. The Purpose, based on the final sentence, is to argue for or against the topic. The Genre here is a little more ambiguous, although this is not a huge problem. Whilst the question specifies that this is a ‘writing competition’, it does not state a clear genre such as newspaper article or blog, meaning that in this case, I will not need to include any genre conventions such as headlines, hyperlinks or spaces for images.

With the GAP clear in my mind, I can now begin to make the three basic writer’s decisions. I need to work out whether this article will be:

Formal or Informal?

Personal or Impersonal?

Chronological or Non-Chronological?

As this is will be an article designed to argue, or persuade, ideally, I will need to adopt a Formal register. This will give me the authority to put forward my argument in a convincing manner, and make the reader more likely to agree with me. If I were to begin my article, “Yo, dangerous sports are well bad bruv,” then the reader would (rightly) be against me from the offset, and probably give up reading promptly.

This will be a piece of writing centred around my point of view, thus I am more likely to write from a Personal rather than impersonal perspective; after all, these are my opinions, not those of anybody else.

Finally, and most simply, this is not a story, so there is no need to write a chronological (time ordered) narrative, rather a Non-Chronological series of well-voiced opinions.

There is, of course, one more decision to be made. Am I for or against the proposition made in the question? This is largely down to your discretion, however in this case I have chosen to argue against the banning of dangerous sports, as I can see an opportunity to include irony and satire in my response (more of this later).

With these choices made, I can now move onto planning my article. A fantastic and very simple way of doing this is to simply mind-map as many ideas to back up my argument and potential counter arguments as possible.

I have come up with the following:

–          Health and safety gone made – dangerous tiddlywinks?

–          Personal choice – your decision

–          Potential risks – don’t be a coward

–          Ultimate thrill – we don’t get that with football

These are now going to form my paragraphs for the answer.

There is a lot of debate about the differences between arguing and persuading, however, I see them as largely the same. Both of these skills use the same basic language toolkit, with which frequent viewers of this marvellous blog will already be familiar; the rhetorical devices. Whilst in Question 4, we are looking for examples of these and the effect that they have on the reader, Question 6 is our chance to show off exactly how well we can use these in order to impress the examiner.

Name of   rhetorical device Definition Teacher’s   example
Rhetorical   question A question   asked for effect that does not expect or require an answer Would you   like to be abandoned by your parents?
Imperatives A form of a   verb that   expresses a command; a ‘bossy word’ Get out now   and do something about this appalling practice.
Rule of   three A list of   three things. Smoking is   antisocial, unhealthy and disgusting.
Hyperbole Over   exaggerating in   order to make a point Teachers will   tell you a million times to tuck your shirt in.
Emotive   language Words which   are designed to create an emotional response in the reader Children as   young as eight are abandoned  and forgotten by their parents.
Alliteration A group of   words which start with the same letter  or sound Smoking   seriously sucks.
Repetition Repeating a   word in order to make it stick in the   reader’s brain. Smoking is   foul, smoking makes you smell, smoking   will kill you.
Flattery Saying nice   things to somebody in order to make them more likely to agree with you. As an   extremely intelligent person, you must agree   with me.
Personal   pronouns Words like   “you”, “us”, “we” – designed to make the reader feel included in the writing. You are the   only one who can save us from this   horrible fate.
Facts and   statistics Things which   are true, used to convince the reader. 85% of all   parents would send their children to   private school.
Counter   argument Giving the   other side of the debate in order to   make your argument look stronger. It might be   cool to wear skinny trousers, but they are against school rules.

Obviously, the examiner doesn’t want to open a script to be faced with the right hand column of this table, so we need to use these devices effectively and with some degree of subtlety. Imagine these devices as my favourite condiment; a small smear of wholegrain mustard will really set off the flavour of a sausage sandwich, but spreading it as thickly as marmalade will keep you sneezing until Christmas.

You will have had some practice at using these devices throughout your school career as, whisper it, the writing section of this exam is undoubtedly the most logical and worthwhile part. Just remember not to have every sentence ending in a tricolon, or every new paragraph beginning with a rhetorical question and you will be fine.

For top band answers, the exam board like to see flair and originality, specifying in the mark scheme that a great shortcut to this is through the use of satire and irony. Put simply, verbal irony is (no, Alanis, just stop) the art of saying one thing whilst subtly implying the other. This differs to sarcasm, in that it is largely used to flatter the reader rather than insult them, relying on their ability to differentiate between what you are saying and what you actually mean. See if you can spot my use of irony in the exemplar.

Handy Hints for Answering Question 6

  • Work out the GAP by underlining the key words in the question, and decide, as above, how that will influence your writing. Obviously, a blog for teenagers is going to be very different from an article for a national newspaper.
  • If you don’t know anything about the topic you are asked to write about, don’t panic: just make it up. There are no marks allocated for telling the truth in Section B, and 73% of all students make up statistics in their responses. Like that one.
  • Failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s a horrid phrase, but sketching out a quick paragraph by paragraph plan will help you to keep on track in your writing and ensure that you maintain a structure in your response.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar are marked in this question, but don’t let that stifle your creativity. Examiners are more likely to reward a valiant attempt at a sophisticated word, misspelt, than a simple and banal substitution.
  • Try to begin your writing with a drop paragraph. I have included an example of this below, but basically, it means beginning your writing in an abstract and interesting way, leaving the reader unsure of the focus of the piece and eager to read on to find out.
  • Link each paragraph to the previous one using discourse markers. These are handy linking words, such as: However, Also, On the other hand, Additionally, etc. This will give your writing a sense of fluidity, and stop it from looking like a bunch of disparate paragraphs jammed together at random.
  • Be creative. An examiner will mark hundreds of scripts in a sitting, so you need to try and make yours stand out. If you have an idea that you think is a little on the odd side, use it, as it will grab the reader/examiner’s attention and as you are rewarded for creativity, persuade them to give you better marks.
  • Don’t just let your answer fizzle out. If you find you’re running out of time, conclude your answer with a snappy parting blow. Relating this to the introduction is also a great way to show the examiner that you have considered the structure of your piece.

Question 6 Exemplar:

Your school or college is inviting entries for a writing competition. The topic is “Dangerous sports activities and pastimes are selfish, often put others at risk and should be discouraged.”

Write your entry arguing for or against this view.

Outside the hall, the St John’s Ambulance staff wait anxiously, alert and ready for the inevitable call from inside. At the table, the competitors face each other in a tense silence. Gazing through the bars of their American football style helmets, they eye each other cautiously. A referee blows a whistle, and the game is afoot. Gloved hands, clad in the latest bulletproof fabric, move swiftly down to the apparatus below. The crowd step back, anxiously. At the last match between these two titans of the sport, fourteen spectators were hospitalised, with one left permanently blinded in one eye as the result of a stray shot. This time, though, all will be well, with the athletes encased by a clear plexiglass dome to prevent any similar accidents. And then, almost as quickly as the game started, it’s all over. A single plastic counter ricochets into a small pot. The crowd roars.

A new World Tiddlywinks Champion has been crowned.

Thankfully, this is fiction. But it is only a small step away from reality. More and more often, the sports which have been keeping the youth of this fair nation energised, healthy and victorious for decades have been categorised as ‘dangerous’ and a risk to our health and safety.

You’ll break your arm playing rugby, they say.

You’ll scrape your knee skateboarding, they whine.

You might break a fingernail playing tiddlywinks, they (probably) smirk.

You’re in danger of having fun, they cackle from their health and safety Kremlin.

It’s a disgusting state of affairs. ‘Dangerous’ sports are what makes this nation great, and it is precisely this attitude that makes them even more appealing. Teenagers have always enjoyed doing things that others disapprove of, almost as much as they like making their own decisions. So if I want to break my arm playing rugby, or dislocate my collarbone on a skateboard, why shouldn’t I? I might be off school for a couple of days or perhaps, the unthinkable, be unable to write during my exciting English exam. It might mean that my parents have to take me to hospital or (worst case scenario) pour soup down a tube to feed me, but it’s a small price for them to pay in order to have a son who is as daring, adventurous and downright awesome as I am.

And it’s exactly this risk of danger that makes dangerous and extreme sports so enticing.

Think about all of your heroes. How many of them would you classify as cowards? Exactly. Life is short, so if I’m not allowed to mangle myself on a muddy pitch, have my block knocked off in a mixed martial arts hexagon or jump out of an aeroplane with only a flimsy and incredibly well designed and thoroughly tested piece of fabric to save me, I should be applauded. The people who are complaining about these dangerous sports are currently sat at home, writing their eight thousandth letter to David Cameron in order to outlaw fun, whilst I, the future, am… Sat a desk taking an exam. But later on, I’m going abseiling. Off an 8,000m high cliff. Without a harness.

Of course, abseiling and base jumping make fairly poor spectator sports. But has any footballer ever experienced the adrenaline rush of the ground rushing up to meet you, intent on breaking every bone in your body, including a few that you didn’t even know existed? No. But they have experienced the drunken chanting of thousands of adoring fans, several million pounds a year in their bank accounts and a beautiful wife. Is this fair? No. But I would gladly trade any amount of money, any beautiful woman or legion of screaming followers to experience the pure rush of indulging in one of my favourite pastimes.

So, health and safety gremlins, leave my sports alone. Or else before you know it, we’ll all be playing tiddlywinks wearing mittens.

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?

Success Criteria for A*:

Communication

  • writes in a way which shows clarity of thought and communicates in a convincing / compelling way
  • engages the reader with detailed, succinct argument, a range and variety of persuasive ideas, abstract concepts, vivid detail, e.g. makes a moral appeal, invokes finer feelings
  • makes and sustains the purpose, intention and objective of the writing, e.g. by specifying outcomes, considering implications
  • writes in a formal way employing a tone which is appropriately serious but also manipulative and subtle, uses e.g. assertion, reason, sophistication
  • uses linguistic devices such as the rhetorical question, hyperbole, irony, satire in an effective and appropriate way
  • shows control of extensive vocabulary with appropriately used discursive markers e.g. ‘ Surely it is reasonable to expect….’, ‘Taking the global view…’, ‘One alternative position might be..’ etc.

Organisation of Ideas

  • writes a whole text in continuous prose
  • employs paragraphs effectively to enhance meaning including, e.g. one sentence paragraphs
  • uses a variety of structural features, e.g. different paragraph lengths, indented sections, dialogue, bullet points, as appropriate
  • presents complex ideas in a coherent way

Written Accuracy

  • uses complex grammatical structures and punctuation with success
  • organises writing using sentence demarcation accurately
  • employs a variety of sentence forms to good effect including short sentences
  • shows accuracy in the spelling of words from an ambitious vocabulary
  • uses standard English consistently

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

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Mr Fothergill

The AQA GCSE English Language Exam – Question Five

Describe. Inform. Explain.

Question Five – ’The Facts’:

Hooray! Congratulations on getting through the analytic reading section of the exam and welcome to the creative questions.

Question Five is the first question of Section B, the writing section of the exam, requiring you to write a long answer either describing, informing or explaining – or a combination of two of these writing purposes. You are recommended to spend around 25 minutes on question 5 and can achieve a maximum of 16 marks. It is really important to note that 6 marks are awarded for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar, so you are not only assessed on your creativity but the quality of your written expression.

Remember that this is a non-fiction exam; although you can make up the information, it still needs to be believable and authoritative. No writing about wizards or battle royale, unfortunately.

This question will ask you to write in a specific genre, for a specific audience and a particular purpose.

For example,

A website (genre) called The Best and the Worst is asking for contributions.

Write an entry for it which describes (purpose) the best meal you ever had and the worst. Explain (purpose) the reasons for your choices. (As the Audience has not been specified, write for a wide-ranging audience, blending a mixture of formal and informal language to suit a variety of ages and social backgrounds)

Writing for Different Purposes:

Writing to describe: paint a picture for the reader

  • Use plenty of well-chosen, descriptive vocabulary – ambitious adjectives, verbs and adverbs.
  • Deliberately include simile, onomatopoeia, metaphor, personification (SOMP)
  • Use sensory language by describing what you can see, smell, taste, hear and feel
  • Use a variety of short and long sentences for effect
  • Use ambitious punctuation

Example: On the wall behind the counter were row upon row of sweetie jars, their lids so round and wide the assistant would barely get her hand around them. There were sweets of vermilion and rose, saffron and lemon, and twists of amber and green. Pear shapes, lozenges and elegant little comfits, wine gums with ‘port’ and ‘brandy’ embossed upon them, and black and white humbugs as shiny as a marble floor. Some shone emerald and deepest ruby like the precious gems, others pale and delicate in old-lady shades of violet and lavender. Fairy drops and barley sugars, chocolate toffees and midget gems, fruit jellies, glacier fruits and sugared almonds, all imprisoned in glass jars so large it took two hands to upend their contents into the weighing scales. Dazzled and confused, I would ask for the little chocolate buttons covered with gritty multi-coloured sugar dots called rainbow drops, or perhaps some Parkinson’s fruit thins, which were rather like glacier fruits but with sharper, more distinct flavours.

Writing to explain:

  • Use clear, simple, factual sentences;
  • Use technical language (if appropriate)
  • Gives reasons for your point.

Example: What made the sweets so special was the way the beautiful colours transferred onto your tongue and lasted on your taste buds for hours.

Writing to inform:

  • Should be FACTUAL
  • Written in the PRESENT TENSE
  • Use SHORT, CLEAR, SENTENCES
  • May use TECHNICAL TERMS
  • Addresses the reader as YOU
  • It is clear, unbiased and informative.

The table below shows which genres and purposes have come up so far on the exam papers

HIGHER

Date Purpose Genre of text
Jan 2011 ‘Tell’ & explain * Article for a website
Jun 2011 Describe & explain Newspaper article
Jan 2012 Inform & explain Letter to newspaper
Jun 2012 Describe & explain Blog Entry
Nov 2012 Describe & explain Letter to newspaper travel editor
Jan 2013 Describe & explain Blog entry
Jun 2013 Describe & explain Website article

Writing for Different Genres:

Letters:  Follow the correct format for a letter – if a personal letter, then your address on top-right corner and the salutation Dear [name of who you are writing to] and a formal sign-off (yours sincerely if you know their name, yours faithfully, if it’s just to Dear Sir or Madam)

Magazine or newspaper articles: Do NOT write in columns. You get NO extra marks for this. However you SHOULD aim to keep paragraphs fairly short and avoid heavy blocks of text. If writing to inform or explain, consider using bullet points to give some facts.

Blogs: These will consist of a headline and a date. They also have short, concise paragraphs and the typical structure is to present the first paragraph and then invite the reader to “Click here to read more”. You would then write the rest of your article beneath that….as if the reader had then clicked to expand the page.  You should read various blogs to get a feel for the style – well done, you’re already doing it! The writing is far more informal than newspaper or magazine articles and often written in the first person (“I”). There may be hyperlinks where the reader could click on a word or phrase to be taken to another webpage so to imitate that, you would underline certain words.

Writing for Different Audiences:

For Section B, you have to think very carefully about the audience you have been asked to write for. The first thing to consider is: how formal does my writing have to be; and what is the tone of my writing? For example, if you have asked to write to your Head Teacher, you would write with a formal and polite tone, whereas there would be room for a more relaxed tone when writing to ‘young readers’ of a school newspaper. You must always consider the type of person reading your text and how you should use language effectively to achieve your purpose.

Handy Hints for Answering Question Five:

  • Read the question carefully and understand the GAP by underlining the key words in the question.
  • Make sure you write an effective plan before starting your opening sentence. Mind-map your topic with at least 5-6 points, which can then be turned into paragraphs.
  • List all the techniques needed for the purpose of your writing: SOMP, sensory language, short sentences, etc.
  • Try to begin and end your writing in a creative way; think about including as many techniques as possible.
  • Remember to make it sound factual and believable, but make everything up if you haven’t got a Scooby-Doo about the topic of the question.
  • Make sure you proof-read your work, checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar (but don’t force you to settle for an easier word than an ambitious one)
  • A* answers need to be original and have flair. Try to be as creative and interesting as possible – make sure your work stands out.

Question Five Student Exemplar:

Write a brief article for a website of your choice telling your readers about an interesting or unusual journey or travel experience you have had. Explain why it was memorable.

Speeding down the River Dart

“The route is simple.” The man at the rental told us. “Just enjoy.”

My family and I were on holiday in Dartmouth and this was the one thing I had been looking forward to. Renting out a boat. The day was perfect. Fluffy clouds floated lazily across the bright blue sky. The sun beaming down on the deep blue sparkling river. Little ripples splashing against the side of the pier as a beauty of a sailing boat glided past. We were renting a small motor boat to go up the river and see some of the most beautiful sights in the area: the viaduct arches, the Royal Navy College and the many wildlife supposed to be found on the shores.

We were all on the boat safely and dad started up the engine. Immediately the boat roared to life as we turned then sped across the water. The cool breeze blowing our hair off our faces, the spray whipping up behind us. The refreshing smell of salt water wafted up our noses.

As we left the boat rental behind the Royal Naval College come into view. It sat majestically on a hill peeping over the tops of the luscious green trees.

“Here’s a clearing” called Dad you can see it better from here.” And you could. The Union Jack blew in the wind from the roof, there were huge black + gold gates with the wording on. The building itself was a Royal reddy-orange colour, with concrete supports. There was complete silence as we moved just past the clearing each of us staring back at it. Then just like that, it was gone. Hidden amongst a dense forest of green broccoli trees. “Wow” I whispered “It’s all so beautiful.” Again we remained silent, just the noise of the engine working gently in the background.

We come to a place full of reeds were a family of ducks were resting. I spotted something. A brown creature sat poking his whiskers at the reeds.

As quick as a flash he turned and dived beneath the surface. I mimed to everyone to be quiet as dad turned off the engine. We sat their for a few moments before … Yes! The otter popped his head up cautiously. We didn’t dare move a muscle. And then it swam swiftly, past the front of the boat before climbing out of the water shaking itself and leaping off between the trees! My mouth hung open. What great luck. The man had told us that otters were rare at this time of year, and we had seen one.

Unfortunately, it was time to head back as the town came into view again we noticed some sea cadets training in miniature wooden boats with sails. We waved at them. They waved back.

We were travelling faster now and we made it back to the port, just in time.

The trip was the most memorable experience of the holiday. The sheer beauty of the place and seeing the rare otter had left us stunned with amazement.

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?

Success Criteria for A*:

Communication

  • writes in a way which shows clarity of thought and communicates in a convincing and/or compelling way
  • engages the reader with detailed and developed ideas, perhaps abstract concepts
  • makes and sustains the purpose, intention and objective of writing the article, e.g. by affecting the reader, evoking response
  • writes a formal article, the tone of which is appropriately serious but also subtle, employs e.g. reason, some sophistication
  • uses linguistic devices such as the rhetorical question, hyperbole, irony, in an effective and appropriate way
  • shows control of extensive vocabulary with appropriately used discursive markers

Organisation of Ideas

  • writes a whole text in continuous prose
  • employs paragraphs effectively to enhance meaning including, e.g. the one sentence paragraph
  • uses a variety of structural features, e.g. different paragraph lengths, indented sections, dialogue, bullet points, as appropriate
  • presents complex ideas in a coherent way

Written Accuracy

  • uses complex grammatical structures and punctuation with success
  • organises writing using sentence demarcation accurately
  • employs a variety of sentence forms to good effect including short sentences
  • shows accuracy in the spelling of words from an ambitious vocabulary
  • uses standard English consistently

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

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Sir

The AQA GCSE English Language Exam – Question Four

Compare the similarities and differences.

Questions Four is by far the most difficult question of Section A and you should aim to spend roughly 25 minutes answering this question; it is with 16 marks altogether. This first task for you complete, is to decide which source you are going to compare with source 3. You will then be asked to compare how the writers use language for effect in the two texts. This makes it the trickiest question and requires you to write a very detailed and analytic answer, explaining the similarities and differences of the two texts and the effect the language has on the reader.

Many students turn this question into quite the hullaballoo, especially when asked to comment on how ‘language is effective in the two texts’.  The easiest way to prepare for this question is to understand the language techniques used by writers to make their writing interesting. At SWA, you may know this tool-kit of techniques as either SOMP, THE RED RASP, DAFORREST, the counting elephants one, or may have even created a mnemonic of your own to remember them. Please see below for some of the language techniques and their definitions.

Name of rhetorical device

Definition

Teacher’s example

Rhetorical question A question asked for effect that does not expect or require an answer Would you like to be abandoned by your   parents?
Imperatives A form of a verb that   expresses a command; a ‘bossy word’ Get out now and do something about this   appalling practice.
Rule of three A list of three things. Smoking is antisocial, unhealthy and   disgusting.
Hyperbole Over exaggerating in   order to make a point Teachers will tell you a million times to   tuck your shirt in.
Emotive language Words which are designed to create an emotional response in the reader Children as young as eight are abandoned   and forgotten by their parents.
Alliteration A group of words which start with the same letter   or sound Smoking seriously sucks.
Repetition Repeating a word in order to make it stick in the   reader’s brain. Smoking is foul, smoking makes you smell, smoking   will kill you.
Flattery Saying nice things to somebody in order to make   them more likely to agree with you. As an extremely intelligent person, you must agree   with me.
Personal pronouns Words like “you”, “us”, “we” – designed to make   the reader feel included in the writing. You are the only one who can save us from this   horrible fate.
Facts and statistics Things which are true, used to convince the   reader. 85% of all parents would send their children to   private school.
Counter argument Giving the other side of the debate in order to   make your argument look stronger. It might be cool to wear skinny trousers, but they   are against school rules.

The more confident you are with these techniques, the easier question four becomes, especially if you also memorise the generic effect these techniques have on the reader and how they link to the genre, audience and purpose. For example, a writer might use statistics in a newspaper article published in The Times; this makes the article appear more factual, authoritative and persuasive to the educated reader.

If you can remember these techniques like the lyrics to your favourite Justin Bieber song, then question four suddenly becomes rather ruddy easy. Just highlight the techniques in both sources and spot the similarities in their effect on the reader. You must show the examiner that you can discuss how the writers’ choices of words, phrases and language techniques are relevant to the genre, audience or purpose of the text and how they are similar or different between the two texts.

Handy Hints for Answering Question Four:

  • Underline the key words in the question.
  • Read source 3 carefully and underline any language devices you spot.
  • List of 3, pronouns (you/your; we/our/us), rhetorical questions, emotive language, alliteration, figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification etc), repetition – think about what the effect of these are: to emphasise a point, to make the reader feel involved, to make them feel sympathetic or outraged.
  • Now look for evidence of informal or formal style (slang/chatty tone vs elaborate vocabulary and serious tone) – how are these relevant to the audience or genre?
  • Look at specific words, particularly verbs (action words – e.g. pounded, thrusting, slithered), adjectives (words that describe things – e.g. elegant, delightful, violent) or adverbs (which tell you HOW an action was done – e.g. furiously, tentatively, patiently) – consider how these choices are more effective than more basic words – e.g. “the writer uses adverbs to give a more detailed picture to the reader, such as when he writes how he “tentatively opened the tent”, which demonstrates how nervous he was feeling at that moment. This makes the reader imagine themselves in his position more clearly.”
  • Do the same for your other chosen text.
  • Write introductory sentence identifying GAP of both texts.
  • Now begin writing your comparisons, ensuring you use PEE to organise each idea and using comparing or contrasting connectives. Look for where you have identified the same technique in both texts which may be used for the same effect (similarity) or for different effect (contrast) or where a similar effect is produced through a different technique. You CAN discuss complete differences between the texts i.e. methods or effects which are found only in one text and not the other as these are contrasts too
  • Aim to make about 6-8 points in total, that’s 3 or 4 pairs of comparison.
  • Use Comparing connectives: Similarly, Likewise, Also, In the same way, Equally
  • Use Contrasting connectives: Whereas, Alternatively, Unlike, On the other hand, In contrast, Conversely

Question Four Exemplar:

Now you need to refer to Source 3, Everest The Hard Way and either Source 1 or Source 2.

You are going to compare the two texts, one of which you have chosen. Compare the different ways in which language is used for effect in the two texts. Give some examples and analyse what the effects are.

In the third text, ‘Everest the Hard Way’, the first sentence sets the tone of the piece straight away; the serious, tense and dramatic tone makes the reader feel nervous and anxious throughout. Similarly, the opening sentence of the first text, ‘Rafting on the Grand Canyon’ also sets the tone: light-hearted, humorous and exciting. As guide Ed introduces the fact that he has ‘just two rules… stay in the boat… and stay in the boat’, it create a feel-good and comic effect due to the repetitive phrase. However, in source 3, the use of the short, declarative sentence of, ‘A decision was needed’, makes Boardman’s narrative tense and rapid from the beginning. The verb ‘needed’ evokes a sense of urgency in the reader, emphasising the traumatic depiction of Mick’s death.

Language is used for different effects in both sources as the audience differs greatly. Source one has been written for a more popular, mainstream reader who would be interested in travelogues or those interested in ‘once in a lifetime experiences’. This forces Hyde to use less formal lexis throughout her article so that a greater range of readers can find her writing more approachable and understandable. For example, the colloquial noun ‘gear’ to describe the technical rafting equipment on her ‘Disneyland-like experience’ would appeal to a wider audience, and not just rafting enthusiasts. In contrast, source three uses many examples of field-specific lexis such as ‘the south col’ and the ‘runnels of ice’; this use of language is more appropriate to those educated readers who have an interest in extreme mountaineering, survival stories and outdoor adventurists.

Boardman uses a combination of hyperbole and emotive language to emphasise the risk of danger of his situation. The phrases ‘it was a miracle’ and ‘the axe had stayed in the ice’, makes the reader feel anxious and scared for Boardman’s survival, as it highlights the helplessness of his ordeal. However, Hyde describes her ‘white-knuckle… rollercoaster’ rafting experience as much more exciting and exhilarating. The connotations of ‘rollercoaster’ evoke feelings of a terrifying experience, but in a safe and controlled way. This appeals to the reader and the positive tone of the article makes them think that they might wish for a similar rafting experience one day; however Boardman’s pessimistic and disturbing account offers little to entice the reader to climb Everest.

Finally, the language is effective in both extracts for different reasons: the audience and the purpose. Hyde’s light-hearted and entertaining account of her rafting experience is designed for a less formal and varied reader, who is left wanting to book the next flight to Colorado. However, Boardman’s dramatic and serious account of his harrowing experience leaves the reader feeling relieved that he survived but still shocked and despondent that ‘Mick Burke is still on the summit…’

Review of this exemplar:

  • How many marks do you think this would achieve?
  • 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 compare how language is effective in source three and another text of your choice.

Sir

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:

q3

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.

Sir

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:

q2

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.

Sir

The AQA GCSE English Language Exam – Question One

moon-or-elephant

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.

Question One – ‘The Facts’: Question 1 is by far the easiest question on the paper and a lovely way to kick off this exciting 2 hour and 15 minute exam. Question 1 will always be based on source 1 and is worth 8 marks. You should spend roughly 12 minutes writing this answer, allowing three minutes to read and annotate the text beforehand. You are usually given a rather optimistic three pages to write your answer in the booklet provided, but should aim to fill two at these (by all means fill all three if you have the handwriting of an ogre). The question will ask you to read and understand the source. It is testing your ability to retrieve information from the text and infer meaning from the language used. To achieve the highest marks, you must synthesise the information into your own language and support your summary of the article with quotations. In a nutshell, you are being asked to summarise the text in your own words, pointing out the subtle meaning. Although this is a fairly easy question, there are still a number of banana skins to fool you. Firstly, don’t overcomplicate your answer by treating this question like Question 4 – a language analysis questions. You should not be focussing on the rhetorical devices or descriptive language used and the effect this has on the reader. Nor should you comment on the headline, subheading and picture. Just provide a summary of the article in your own words and look for the subtle meaning. Handy Hints for Answering Question One:

  • Summarise the whole article by making a variety of different points.
  • Always use short quotations to support your point.
  • Focus on the beginning, middle and end of the article and whether the tone remains the same throughout
  • Don’t just re-write the text; make sure you summarise the information in your own words.
  • Focus on any different perspectives in the article and explain which one the writer agrees with
  • Examine any inconsistencies and contradictions in the article
  • Focus on how the article develops; does the writer change their mind at any point?

Question One Exemplar: rafting Question One: ‘Rafting on the Grand Canyon’

What do we learn from Hyde article about where she has been and what she has been doing? From the article, written by Elizabeth Hyde, we learn that she went rafting on a ’13 day, 225-mile trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.’ In addition to this, she describes the trip as a ‘Disneyland’ like experience, emphasizing how she found it scary, yet ‘exhilarating’. On the trip, she was not only joined by her husband and three children, but 17 other strangers, who would be packed onto ‘6m rafts’ and squished in with ‘masses of gear’. Hyde describes how the group is eclectic, ranging from her teenage daughters to ‘a couple in their mid-70s’. We can infer from this that the trip would appeal to all ages, but only those looking for a once in a lifetime, ‘whit-knuckle’ experience. The fact she was with these strangers meant that she couldn’t be shy as they would be ‘eating, sleeping and bathing together’, thus a lack of privacy was one thing the group had to get used to. Despite this, the fact that they were on the water for ‘five to eight hours a day’ in ‘one of the most spectacular environments on earth’, we can infer that the group would share a range of fantastic memories ‘screaming with the thrill of the rafting experience’. Hyde also describes how helpful the ‘army of river guides were’ with regards to learning about the Grand Canyon. She describes the different geological features in detail with a comprehensive knowledge of the rock formation. Furthermore, she paints a picture in the reader’s mind of the ‘roller-coaster’ ride of the rapids where the passengers ‘perched on the side tubes’, adding a sense of danger. The article finally describes how she broke one of the charismatic and adventurous guide’s (Ed) rules: ‘to stay in the boat’. She explains how she was ‘ejected’ from the raft, ‘sucked down and spun around’ in the river before ‘being spat up towards the sunlight’. We can infer from the word ‘gasping’ that she was thrilled to be alive after such a terrifying experience. Overall, the experience of rafting down one of the ‘biggest rivers in North America’ is narrated with such passion and exhilaration, that the reader is left wanting to ‘run away and become a river guide’, just like Hyde.

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 q1 Feel free to attempt this same question and post it in the ‘comments’ section below.

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Keep it simple,

Sir

The AQA GCSE English Language Exam

As you should already be well aware, your English Language GCSE exam takes place on Tuesday 5th November. Please do not panic, as you will be thoroughly well prepared to succeed in this exam, due to the inspirational teaching of the English department and the countless hours of revision you have completed!

In a series of many short posts, please see below for a summary of what to expect in the exam and how to revise for it.

THE EXAM

This exam is a ruddy long one: 2 hours 15 minutes to be precise. Your paper is marked out of a total of 80 marks, with 40 marks available for section A (Reading) and 40 available for section B (Writing). Because this is an English Language exam, I’m afraid we can’t run away from the fact they will be assessing your ability to use English correctly. Therefore, in section B, around a third of the marks available are rewarded for spelling, punctuation and grammar. In section A, there are no marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar as it is testing your reading skills.

For the first part of the exam, you are required to read three non-fiction sources (these are usually a newspaper article, an except from an autobiography, a website, advert, etc.). I highly recommend that you spend at least 15 minutes reading these sources, after you have read what each question is asking you. This will give you a greater chance of identifying the necessary features for each question. In the higher tier especially, these texts will be quite lengthy and probably rather dull. However, you must make sure you read each text fully and annotate as you go along.

On the higher paper, section A is split into four questions. On both papers, it is imperative that you answer all the questions on the exam. Here’s a breakdown of the higher tier questions on the reading section:

  1. Retrieval of information and inferring meaning (what the text is about)
  2. Analysis of presentational devices
  3. Analysis of language techniques (what are the thoughts and feelings of the writer)
  4. Comparison of two sources and analysis of language devices

Section B follows the same style and format for both the Higher and Foundation tier.

As stated previously, Section B is the writing section of the exam, requiring you to write two long answers for the duration of an hour. As English teachers we always encounter the age-old question of ‘How long do I have to write for each question?’ Well young folk, here’s the magic answers: we recommend that you spend around 25 minutes on question 5 and 35 minutes on question 6. Remember, the key difference with regards to the marking of Section B is that you are assessed on you ability to use accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar, and how you use these to create a specific effect on the reader.

For Section B, it is imperative that you read the questions very carefully and work out the Genre, Audience and Purpose.

5.  Writing to inform, explain or describe

For this question, you will need to deploy the specific style and descriptive techniques used when writing for these purposes. These will be covered in a separate post later, but the main thing to remember is that you have just spent most of the last hour finding these techniques and analysing their effect on the reader. Therefore, you have three perfect exemplars of how to use language effectively under your nose if you happen to forget what day of the week it is. Here are a few examples of Question 5 from previous years:

‘Write a letter to your local newspaper informing readers about the local leisure facilities are available for young people in your area and explain how they can be improved’

‘Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper describing your favourite place and explaining why others would like it’

      6.  Writing to argue and persuade

For this question, you will need to use a range of rhetorical devices to suit the audience and purpose. Whether you have been taught THE RED RASP, DAFORREST or the elephant one, you will need to use as many of these techniques in your writing to achieve the highest band. Here are a few examples of Question 6 from previous years:

‘Write an article in your school newspaper persuading young people to donate to charities for the homeless’

‘Write a letter to your headmaster arguing why school uniform should be abolished’

To achieve an A* in this section, you must ensure think beyond just using some of the rhetorical devices you have been taught. Remember to use sophisticated language, ambitious punctuation and use a variety of different sentence types and starters. Show flair and originality by using satire and irony. Be creative; be impressive.

HOW TO REVISE

Many students think that you can’t revise for this exam. Many students who think this fail the exam, much to my amusement.

The easiest way to revise for this exam is to read, read and read some more non-fiction stuff. Choose a newspaper article, a blog, a website and identify and evaluate the different devices used for the different GAP. Brush up on your knowledge of presentational devices, descriptive language techniques and rhetorical devices – especially the more complex ones such as irony/satire/sophistry. Zoom in on specific words and explore the different connotations one can infer from the lexis used. Think about the different interpretations from different audiences.

Next, there are a variety of different websites out there to help you revise (far better than this one, of course). Here are a few I recommend: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english/, http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/english, and http://www.mrbruff.com/ – also, there are many helpful videos on YouTube (just type in ‘AQA English Language exam’)

Finally, attempt as many past papers as you possibly can in exam conditions. Make sure you are strict with your timings and have no distractions. All past papers can be found here on the AQA website: http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/english/gcse/english-language-4705/past-papers-and-mark-schemes (look under the ‘Unit 01’ tab). If you would like to receive feedback for your answers, please do not hesitate to waft it under your teacher’s nose – we really do like this!

Well that’s it for the content and summary of your exam. Watch this space over the next few weeks for different posts for each question and the style of the exam. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Enjoy revising!

Sir