Friday, July 29, 2022

Natsume Sōseki and Mary Seacole extracts on our VLE

We’ve recently seen a flurry on the activity on the VLE and that means that new authors have been selected and included. Our two latest additions are Natsume Sōseki and Mary Seacole.

Soseki was born in 1967 a time when Japan was becoming both westernised and industrialised and his writing reflects these changes. As well as being a highly successful novelist he became the Professor of English Literature at Tokyo Imperial University. He remains immensely popular in Japan and there has been a global emergence of interest in his works in the 21st century.

Sōseki did spend some time in the UK. Arriving in 1900 he spent just over two years there on a government scholarship. Although this meant he could not afford to study at Cambridge, he went to UCL (University College London). Unfortunately, despite making some friends, he had a miserable time, writing later that “the two years I spent in London were the most unpleasant years in my life. Among English gentlemen I lived in misery, like a poor dog that had strayed among a pack of wolves”. Yet the years he spent in the UK helped him to consolidate his knowledge of English literature and to go on to acquire two prestigious roles teaching English Literature at Japanese universities.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Paper 2 Question 4 – The Neglected Question?

Is it me or is English Language Paper 2 Question 4 a little neglected when it comes to online resources (not to mention student interest)? There are the past papers, of course, but if I attempt to find resources by teachers or even educational companies, there seems to be fewer resources for this question than for any of the others. Not only that, when I ask other English teachers which one question they would like to improve on in terms of delivery, then it is invariably this one – and a lack of good resources is a reason often cited.

There could be a number of reasons for this, which I will discuss later. However, this question can not, should not, must not be overlooked. 16 marks are available for students to gain when answering this question. If I embed maths into this article in the same way I do in my GCSE English lessons (so, uhm, probably badly), then that represents ten percent of the overall qualification. There are 160 marks available over the two papers. Fortunately, 16/160 is an easy enough bit of maths for even my brain to understand.

Ten percent may seem like a lot – or maybe not. That will all depend on your perspective (and definitely more about perspectives later!). Yet to begin, let’s take a look at the most recent set of grade boundaries – for the November 2021 exam.

Students had to get 68 marks for a grade 4. To get a 5, they had to get 79, a difference of 11 marks.

It gets more interesting the higher the grades go.

To get a 5 it is 79 – to get a 6 it is 90. That’s 11 marks.

To get a 6 it is 90 – to get a 7 it is 101. That’s 11 marks too. Pattern?

Then between grades 7 and 8 – and 8 and 9 – there are 10 marks.

Here it is in the form of a chart.

So, none of the numerical differences between the “important” grade boundaries are larger than the number of marks available for Paper 2 Question 4.