Saturday, October 3, 2020

GCSE English Language: How to get High Marks on Paper 1 Question 2

If you are working towards your GCSE English Language (AQA paper) you will already know that Paper 1 Question 2 is the one where you are asked to read a tiny extract of a text (sometimes just six or seven lines) and then you have to comment on the writer’s use of language.  Often, reading through those lines, a student can feel a little like Oliver Twist begging for food in the Poor House – “Please Sir, can I have some more?”

Paraphrasing one of Dickens’ most popular characters probably isn’t going to do any good here – but if you got the inference that I just made then you are well on you way to doing very well on this questions.

Over on our VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) our section on this question is becoming more extensive.  As well as a number of lessons where we take you through the steps you need to take in order to answer this question successfully (left is a graphic from one of the lessons – you can see an answer in progress), we have quizzes, videos – and of course, the opportunity to earn a badge by being successful in your learning.

It’s easy to write this question off – it’s only worth 8 marks.  However, you must remember that there is another language question worth 12 marks in Paper 2.  That means altogether your knowledge of how to describe how language is used is worth 20/160 marks – in other words 1/8 of the entire exam  As this is easily the difference between one grade and another, the language questions must not be ignored.

Often, of course, students don’t ignore these questions – they spend far too much time on them meaning they have less time to answer the questions that are worth more marks.  Irony aside, our VLE also has advice on timing (well of course it would, wouldn’t it?).

The question itself can be rather stupefying – it is so long and has a bullet list of things that you can look out for (language features, sentences, words and phrases) that are meant as useful prompts but can translate in to a list of bewildering things to find in those few lines.  The hunt for language features, for example, can be an end in itself – what happens if you read through and there are none that you can spot?

Fear not – we can help you out there too.  Language features are not the be all and end all – in fact what often happens is that students find a simile – yippee!  They then spend the next ten minutes describing what a simile is instead of how that particular simile has been used to give the reader the impression of this, that or the other.  So, language features aren’t always as useful as they appear to be when you spot one in the exam!

On our VLE you will be able to prepare for the question and eventually submit an answer to a real English teacher (all of ours have years of experience delivering this qualification) who will mark it and give you feedback on your response.  Sounds good, eh?

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