Some generic feedback on the mock examinations in school. I will publish my papers in due course but do not wish to stop others using the material.
Following the recent English Language mock, I thought some comment and explanation might be helpful. I am not placing this material on my blog since I have given the paper to a number of other schools who may wish to use the material without the risk of students finding the assistance and the papers on line.
Reading time: 15 minutes is allowed for in the rubric. Use them. Read to annotate and understand the unseen and also to remind yourself of the prepared passage. Ensure that you focus and I would suggest finding the answers to the first 2 questions during this time, if possible.
This question will always be the ‘£100’ question from Millionaire. It requires you to find the relevant words or phrases and no more – there is no need to explain and no need to try to comment further.
My other wish was to see whether the tier 2 vocabulary ‘scattergun’ was recognised.
One key to this question is ‘In Your Own Words’. If you quote, you will not get full marks. Although Edexcel are a little vague in the mark scheme, I can see no reason for the wording if one is not to penalise those who fail to summarise the material. The other key is ‘explain’. You must be able to offer some rationale for your response which shows an understanding of the text.
This question allows you to quote and offer brief analytical comment. Ensure you focus on the question – in this case I asked about ‘emotions’. This means that other material relating to any other element from the passage should be deemed irrelevant. Keep focused.
Apart from ensuring that you focus on the specific question asked, you should be aware that a substantial response is required which uses the text and which offers analytical comment about the writer’s craft. This question is on the ‘prepared passage’ and should therefore be a rather deeper exploration of language choices that has been seen hitherto. 12 marks are on offer, around the same as the total offered for the previous questions combined. You should therefore plan quickly and engage with this question as a piece of analysis. You will have had reading time. You can allow 5 minutes of that time to remind yourself of the prepared passage.
The question stem includes the word ‘structure’. You should therefore use it in your response. Help the examiner to reward you by referencing the internal structure of the piece (maybe it moves from youth to adulthood) and/or referencing any use of interesting syntactical structures in the writing.
This question MUST be planned. It is worth 22 marks and carries a significant weight of the paper. There will be a focus in the question and you should note that the comparison requires close textual reference.
If the passages are well chosen there will be enough similarity between the passages to help you to plan. In the question on our mock, for example, the evident similarities between Zephaniah and Logan and their experiences at school should make this quite straightforward. We might explore their experiences when young and when adults; their experiences at the hands of teachers and their experiences as they try to come to terms with their condition. There is an interesting irony that one was forced into sport reluctantly and the other took up sport with relief as a means of escape. Plan to compare like with like and be sure to quote and analyse. You are allowed ot re-use material from earlier in the paper in this question.
The next issue is the formalised nature of the marks available for content:
You need to be able to convince the examiner of your ‘selective’ vocabulary and your deliberate choice of punctuation to create effect. If you cannot truthfully tell yourself that you have done this, the mark for this element will remain roofed at 11/18, even if your spelling and grammar are without reproach. This section MUST be planned and you must consider how you write, not just what you write.
I suggest 10 minutes to think and plan. Remember that you must know how you are going to finish before you start and that the structure needs to be explicit when read. Often I suggest using the Inform, explain, Describe triplet to organise paragraphs which move from clear, short sentences to a style altogether more complex and richer in terms of the language and sentence structure.
If you are not reading newspapers and seeing such writing regularly you will struggle with this section.
Little has altered in this paper with the shift to the new specification.
Q1: You will either get a poem or a short story and the time allowed means that both must be prepared thoroughly. The assessment will not reward contextual discussion so focus on the question and the writers’ craft when responding.
Structure is highlighted so look for internal structural ideas and make the structure relevant to the question. There is nothing to be gained from proving that you can count the number of lines in a stanza – consider the reason for the stanzas being broken up into this particular stanza. In Still I rise for example, there is a clear shift of structure at line 29 – consider the effect of this and discuss it, rather than simply saying it is there. IN the prose look for shifts from narrative to direct speech or shifts in narrative voice. Try to link your comments about punctuation from solely referring to what you see to referring to possible reasons – it is not ‘full of commas’, it is using ‘much subordination in the long sentences to show….’
Q2: As in paper 1, ensure that you are answering what is asked and focused on a well-planned and entertaining piece of writing. You must take care over your spelling and you should have planned to give yourself a clear structure.
When asked to write about a ‘time when…’ or a specific event, this is the whole focus of the piece. Don’t waste time on irrelevant and usually deeply tedious exposition about the breakfast on the day when… or the journey to the event.
Above all, show, don’t tell. Plan your description and think about the marks awarded for language which shows clear engagement with the need to develop your writing beyond the basic. Keep the writing within your own contexts and avoid the crass descriptions of shoot-outs in the school hall or anything obviously distasteful.
If you are not reading fiction, you will struggle with this section!