WJEC GCSE H English Language Preparing for the Reading Section
In the first part of this guide you will learn how to get the best possible grade on Paper One, the reading section, of your English examination. To get started, let’s have a quick reminder of how many marks the reading section is worth.
GCSE English/English Language Written Paper Your examination is worth40% of your mark for GCSE English. Paper One makes up 20% of your GCSE. It is worth 40 marks and is onehour long. The paper tests your reading and understanding skills. Paper One is all about non-fiction texts. The exam board say: This unit will test through structured questions the reading of two non-fiction texts. Non-fiction texts may include: fact-sheets, leaflets, letters, extracts from autobiographies, biographies, diaries, advertisements, reports, articles and digital and multi-modal texts of various kinds from newspapers and magazines, brochures and the internet. Visual material will always be included in the material used.
We are now going to look in detail at Paper One. How can you maximise your chances of gaining a top grade in this section? Let’s take a look at what the exam board say you need to know....
Key skills for Paper One The examiners are looking for certain key skills. Can you do the following? Read and understand texts, select material appropriate to purpose, collate from different sources and make comparisons and cross-references as appropriate. In other words, can you understand what the text is about and be able to write about it clearly, in detail and with insight? Can you select parts of the text that support your ideas and compare two different texts with each other. Can you explain and evaluate how writers use linguistic, grammatical, structural and presentational features to achieve effects and engage and influence the reader, supporting their comments with detailed textual references? Put simply, this means can you explain why the author has used specific words and phrases. Can you explain how they affect the reader? Can you also analyse, in detail, the author’s use of presentation in a text?
What should I expect? • In the examination, you will be given two pieces of unseen writing to read. The writing will always be non – fiction / media and you will be asked four or five questions. • The texts could be about anything but they may possibly be linked by a common theme. • The type of texts you are asked to read could be any of the following: • Leaflets • Articles (newspaper and magazine) • Reports • Autobiography / biography • Travel writing • Advertisements • Web pages • Reviews
WJEC assessment objectives for Paper One The exam board give us the following information about the questions: Question 1 refers to text 1, and will be a straightforward test of the candidates’ ability to retrieve information and ideas from the text. Question 2 also refers to text 1 and tests reading and understanding text, and selecting material appropriate to purpose. It also tests how writers use linguistic, grammatical, structural and presentational features. Question 3 or 3 & 4 refers to text 2, and will test the candidates’ ability to read and understand texts, and select material appropriate to purpose, and develop and sustain interpretation of writers’ ideas and perspectives. Final Question refers to both texts. The question will test candidates’ ability to select material appropriate to purpose, to collate material from different sources and make comparisons and cross-references. Candidates should make close reference to, and quote from the sources to support their comments and analysis.
How long should I spend on each question? You are given 1 hour to complete the paper. This means 10 minutes to read the 2 texts and the question paper, 45 minutes to answer the questions and 5 minutes to check your work. For the reading paper spend slightly more than one minute per mark. For example spend a little over 5 minutes on a 5 mark question and a bit more than 10 minutes on a ten mark question. If you stick to this rough guideline you should get to the final question with around 15-20 minutes to go which is enough time to produce a strong final answer and will allow you to check your work carefully.
Good news!! Preparing for the reading section of the exam really helps you prepare for the writing section of the exam – many of the skills are identical.
Even more good news! You are not tested on spelling in this section. As long as the examiner can understand your meaning, your spelling doesn’t matter in the slightest which is great news for us who have trouble with speling......
Back to Basics Skimming and scanning techniques Skimming and scanning are ways of reading a text quickly. You will need these skills when you are looking for information in the texts. Skimming Skimming is when you very quickly read over a piece of text. You do not need to read every word, you are only finding out the main points or the gist of a text. Scanning Scanning is when you very quickly read over a piece of text, this time however, you are looking for a particular piece of information. For example, in the exam you could be asked to locate three reasons why smoking is on the increase for the under 16s. To do this you would scan the article looking for key words like ‘smoking’, ‘increase’ or ‘under 16s’.
Back to Basics When reading any type of non fiction text, try to find the PAF. PAF means PURPOSE, AUDIENCE, FORM PURPOSE The purpose of a text is most important. What is the text trying to do? Is it trying to make you buy something? Is it trying to give you advice? Is it trying to give you balanced information about an event? How do you know this? What gives it away? AUDIENCE Who do you think is the intended audience of this text? Is it a child? Is it a teenager? Is it an adult? How do you know? What gave it away? FORM What kind of non fiction text is this? Is it a letter, a newspaper article, a review? How do you know? What gives it away? Do you know the features of each kind of non fiction text type? This will be helpful for the writing section too.......
Try! Junk mail can be very annoying but it is now your new best friend. Grab as much of it as you can and try to identify the PAF. Look at the purpose – it is probably to sell you something. How do you know? Be detective like and track down clues. What words and phrases does it use to persuade you to try the product? Are there any pictures, colours, particular fonts, bullet points that are there to persuade you to buy? Look at the audience – who is it for – how do you know? Look at the text type, is it a letter, is it a leaflet – what effect does the text type have on the reader?
Question 1 - Information retrieval This is one of the easier skills you have to master for the exam. It is a basic comprehension skill. You will be asked to locate and write down information from Source 1. For example, you may be asked ‘why are there no closed prisons in Greenland?’. You would simply use your scanning techniques to find the information in text 1 and write down the answers. SIMPLE!
Question 2 – presentational devices Question 2 requires you to write about language and presentational devices. The presentational devices you are going to identify and comment on are obviously dependent on the texts you are given to read in the exam and the question asked. However, here are a selection of the most common to get you started........
Question 2 – presentational devices Picturesand illustrations. Most of the source materials in the exam will have pictures on them. Remember, you are looking at newspapers, magazines, web pages, charity leaflets etc – all of these will have carefully chosen pictures on them. Think about the purpose of your source material. If it is a charity leaflet for example, its purpose may be to persuade you to donate to that charity. You need to comment on how that picture in the leaflet helps persuade the reader to part with their money. Perhaps it could be for the RSPCA and the picture on the front is of a cute kitten with a broken paw. You would need to state how that picture a) gets your attention and b) persuades the readership to part with their money. There may be a picture of a smiling person holding up their dog who wants to thank all the lovely people who support the RSPCA. Why is this picture there? How would it persuade the reader to donate?
Question 2 – presentational devices Colour Colour is another key feature that you can comment on in your exam. If you are analysing the presentational features of an advert, try to think about the colours and why they have been chosen. For example, the colour red may be used to symbolise love or passion, white purity, green nature, blue the great outdoors. Use your imagination, there is no ‘set’ answer providing you can justify your point of view. Take care though. It is not enough just to identify a colour, you clearly have to analyse the intended effect on the reader.
Question 2 – presentational devices • After analysing the graphics, you may wish to look at how the words are presented on the page. For this I mean: • font size • any capital letters used • any bold type or italics or underlining • bullet points • the layout of the source material as a whole • Keep asking yourself, why has this device been used? What is the effect on the reader. Without making this analysis, you cannot gain the full marks for this question.
Questions 2 (and 3) – Language How to read between the lines One of the key skills you will need for this exam is to locate, retrieve and interpret information. This means to read between the lines – to look for clues as to how the writer really feels about something. Exam Tip! You can discuss both language and presentational features when writing about inference i.e. reading between the lines.
Reading between the lines Quite often a writer will give the reader clues to how they feel about a particular topic without actually saying the words ‘I like this’ or ‘I don’t like that’. On the following slide are some examples for you to look out for. These are only suggestions. Try finding your own ways to spot the writer’s feelings on the topic they are writing about.
Reading between the lines Humour / sarcasm. A writer might poke fun at a topic or mock it to show that they disagree with it. Exaggeration. A writer might go over the top about the topic. This implies that they like or don’t like something. Repetition. A writer could repeat a statistic or a phrase to show they do or don’t like something. Rhetorical questions. This is a technique often used in writing an argument and its function is to get the reader to agree with what the writer thinks. Positive and negative language. Words often carry positive and negative meanings. It might be nice to be called ‘curvy’ but not so nice to be ‘fat’. Emotive language. This is language that stirs up the emotions. If the writer uses language like ‘unimaginable cruelty’ when discussing animal experiments, they are probably not in favour of them.
Top tips for analysing language For Questions 2 and 3, you need to know how to analyse language effectively. This is often the skill that students find most difficult. So what is so difficult? Sometimes students are simply finding the correct information and copying down the text without analysing the intended impact of the language upon the reader. So, do not copy out chunks of text, use quotations carefully and always explain the effect of a word or phrase on the reader. On the following slides are some top tricks that writers use to influence their readers.
Analysing language - Tone When analysing the language in a piece of text, think about the tone. An easy way to remember about the tone is to ask yourself, what tone of voice would be used to read out the text? Would it be persuasive, informative, argumentative, light hearted and so on. Once you have established what the tone is, work out how you know it is a persuasive or light hearted tone. What words and phrases are used to set this tone? Think also about the purpose of the text – is it to sell you something? Does the tone match the purpose? It would be very odd to read a text whose purpose was to inform you about global warming but was using a light hearted, feel good tone!
Questions 2 & 3 continued Look for any imagery in the text. Imagery is where the writer tries to paint a picture in the reader’s mind to help them relate to what is being described. Imagery is often used in poetry and fiction but you also find it in non fiction texts. Look out for: Similes – compares one thing to another using the words like or as (flat as a pancake) Metaphor – describes one thing as if it were another (you are a tower of strength) Remember, it is not enough just to identify imagery. You need to explain clearly, in detail and in your own words what effect this imagery has upon the reader.
Questions 2 and 3 continued Another technique to look out for in your text is sensational or emotive language. Emotive language is often used by writers when they want to manipulate the reader’s feelings. Quite often emotive language will be found in adverts, charity leaflets or a text where the reader passionately believes in or hates something they are writing about. Examples could be: the animals used are often cold, lonely and starving. Remember – it’s not enough to identify emotive language. You have to clearly explain the effect it has on the reader.
Questions 2 & 3 continued A common language technique to spot and comment on is the use of the personal pronoun ‘you’ or ‘us’. This technique is commonly used by the writer to make the text feel more personal to the reader, as if it is aimed directly at them personally. Quite often, rhetorical questions will be used for added emphasis, such as ‘Do you think it’s right that.......’ or ‘Would you like that for your children?’ Sometimes, colloquial language is used. This is the kind of chatty, informal language that you would use with your friends. Remember – it’s not enough to identify the personal pronouns – you have to explain in detail the effect on the reader.
Questions 2 & 3 continued Repetition is a very common technique and often (although not exclusively) used in sales. The word or phrase is repeated throughout the text to make it stick in the reader’s mind. It could be the name of the company, or it could be the word ‘bargain’ or words like ‘best ever’. It is not enough to simply identify examples of repetition – you have to explain in detail the effect on the reader. Something similar is the use of three. You will know all about this from writing to argue or persuade. The technique to spot is where the writer uses a list of three to emphasise a particular point – ‘it is wrong, disgraceful and we shouldn’t stand for it’. Remember – it’s not enough to identify the repetition – you have to explain in detail the effect on the reader.
Questions 2 and 3 continued Quotations, statistics and anecdotes are used often in newspapers and magazines and sometimes in sales texts. They are used to add interest and credibility to a text. For example, a charity leaflet might highlight the fact that ‘156 more people were helped last year through the generous donations made by people like you.’ They might go on to say that Prince Charles supports the charity and feels ‘This charity holds a special place in my heart’. They may also choose to have a few lines about how the charity has helped a particular person. ‘Robert, 16, was struck down by this terrible illness during his GCSEs.’ Remember – it is not enough to identify quotation, statistics and anecdotes – you need to explain in detail the effect upon the reader.
Questions 2 and 3 continued Humour and or sarcasm is an easy technique to identify and comment on in an exam. Think about the purpose of the humour – is it there simply to entertain and make the writing more lively? Or, is it there to manipulate the reader into thinking in a particular way. For example, if you were reading an article about the justice system in the UK and the judge in a case was mocked as being ‘old as the hills’ and ‘doddery as a dodo’, you might be prejudiced about what he said. Remember, it is not enough to simply identify humour and sarcasm in the exam – you need to explain in detail the effect upon the reader.
Questions 2 and 3 – last bit Look out for and comment on the following techniques – they tend to impress the examiner........ Sentences and paragraphs Short sentences suggest tension and speed. Short paragraphs are often used in tabloid newspapers making them easier to read. Very short paragraphs attract the reader’s attention. Long sentences are mainly used for description and are full of detail. This is the same with long paragraphs. These are often used in broadsheet newspapers. Punctuation Look for question and exclamation marks. Question try to draw a response from the reader while exclamations often stand out and attract attention. Use of imperatives Commands often appear in advice leaflets, ‘try this tip at home’ but can also be used in persuasive texts ‘ Give money now’. Try to link the language to the audience You might wish to comment on more sophisticated language for an educated audience and a more colloquial vocabulary to a teenage audience etc.
The Final Question - Comparison The final question will always be a comparison of the two texts. The key to answering this question is to a) make sure you are analysing the presentational devices and the language and b) ensure you are answering the question in depth and writing about both texts. An example question might be: Compare and contrast what Simon Bateson and Sarah Lord say about the use of capital punishment. (10 marks) So, how do you compare the texts?
Comparing texts In the final question you will always be asked to compare the 2 texts. There is no set format for answering this question. Perhaps the easiest way is to analyse Text 1 and then compare it to Text 2 saying in what ways they are similar but different. On the higher paper there are not usually bullet points to help you structure your answer. You must therefore structure and plan yourself. Make sure you use a wide range of connectives when comparing the texts. Remember to look for the PAFs of each source and write about how well each text succeeds in its chosen purpose.
What else should I look for? It is likely (although not certain) that one of the source materials on your exam paper could be either a newspaper or magazine article. For this reason, it is a good idea to get to know the main terminology used in this industry. Broadsheet – a newspaper like the Times or the Guardian. Usually tackles more serious stories. Smaller headlines and more serious tone. Tabloid – a less serious newspaper like the Sun which does contain news but also celebrity gossip and scandal. It will have a less serious tone and a more limited vocabulary. Headline – the title of the main story on the front page. Strapline – the introductory smaller ‘headline’ located just underneath the main headline. Byline – the journalist’s name who wrote the story Sub-headings – you will find these breaking up columns of text. They make the story easier to read and you can find out the main points of the story by scanning these.
Media terms continued Lead story – as its name suggests, it is the main story on the front page. Feature article – a feature is a topic the journalist believes will be interesting to the readers. S/he will cover the topic in some detail. Human interest story – this type of article is often a personal or funny story, e.g. at Christmas a 100 year old letter addressed to Santa Claus is found up a chimney etc. Editorial – this is where the editor (the person in charge of a newspaper) writes his / her opinion on a particular subject or news story. This is sometimes quite controversial.
What else? Practice really does make perfect. For best results keep your junk mail and continue to find the PAF. Go one step further by analysing both the language and the presentational features and getting vital practice for questions 2 and 3. Soon you will be able to do this in your sleep!! For practice see your teacher who will be delighted to give you millions of past papers.
Finally!! Top tips for exam success........ Prepare for your exam now. Start saving that junk mail ..... you know what to do! Start asking for those past papers. Time yourself. You have 1 hour to complete 4/5 questions. Can you do it? Read every non fiction title you can manage. Start to look at different types of newspapers and magazines, web pages, travel writing etc. Start to look for particular styles – know what to expect. Get a good night’s sleep before your exam – you’ll need it! Pack at least two pens in black or blue. Plan your journey. Do you really want to be late? In the exam room, listen carefully to all instructions Read the questions before you read the texts. This will help you as you already know what you are looking for when you read the texts. Read the questions carefully. Use the bullet points to help structure your answer. Remember that you get most marks for questions 4 and 5. Take a deep breath and relax. You can do it!!
WJEC Eng Language H Unit 2 Preparing for the Writing Section
All about writing Your guide to getting the best grade on Paper Two
Paper Two of your English exam will assess your WRITING SKILLS • You will be asked to complete: • Two non fiction writing tasks – both are worth 20 marks • You will have an hour to complete this section, and must answer both questions • You should aim to spend around 30 minutes on each writing task. This should include 5 minutes to check your work once you have completed each task
The tasks The writing tasks will ask you to produce a non fiction text, for example, a letter or an email. It is likely to be a functional task, such as writing to inform or explain. The exam board say: ‘This unit will test transactional and discursive writing through two equally weighted tasks (20 marks each). Across the two tasks candidates will be offered opportunities to write for a range of audiences and purposes, adapting style to form and real-life context in, for example, letters, articles, leaflets, reviews etc.’ Both tasks require you to produce a non fiction text in which you have the chance to develop your ideas in detail, for example, an article for a magazine or newspaper. This might involve writing to argue or persuade. You will be given a clear form, purpose and audience for each task. Usually the audience of the text will be mentioned in the task, for example, ‘write an email to a friend to let them know about…’. If an audience is not given, you will be writing for an examiner. There may be a link between the tasks you are asked to complete on Paper Two and texts you read on Paper One. The following slide will show you an example
Answer Question 1 and Question 2. In this unit you will be assessed for your writing skills, including the presentation of your work. Take special care with handwriting, spelling and punctuation. Think about the purpose, audience and, where appropriate, the format for your writing. A guide to the amount you should write is given at the end of each question. • A company that runs play-schemes for children in the 3-10 age range is looking to recruit part-time staff for the school summer holidays. You decide to apply. Write your letter of application. The quality of your writing is more important than its length. You should write about one to two pages in your answer book. • You have to give a talk to your class with the title ‘Mobile Phones: a blessing or a curse?’ Write what you would say. The quality of your writing is more important than its length. You should write about one to two pages in your answer book.
REMINDER When an examiner marks your work, they will look at the following Assessment Objectives for writing: That you can communicate clearly, effectively and imaginatively, using and adapting forms and selecting vocabulary appropriate to task and purpose in ways which engage the reader. Organise information and ideas into structured and sequenced sentences, paragraphs and whole texts, using a variety of linguistic and structural features to support cohesion and overall coherence. Use a range of sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate punctuation and spelling.
YOU MUST PLAN YOUR WRITING • Timing: • Ideally, you want to spend around 30 minutes on each task, including around 5 minutes to plan and check your work. • The examiner will expect your writing to be around 4 – 5 paragraphs which is approximately one and a half totwo sides if you have average sized handwriting.
Stage 1: P.A.F The first thing that you should do in an exam is read the question carefully. When you are sure that you understand what you are being asked to do, look for the PAF. P = PURPOSE A = AUDIENCE F = FORM The purpose is the most important. It makes you think about why you are writing . Are you trying to persuade someone to abolish school uniform? Are you trying to advise someone about internet safety? What are you trying to do? Audience – who are you writing for? Are you writing for your Head teacher or are you writing for your classmates? Form – this asks you to think about the type of writing. Are you writing a letter or an email? A magazine article or a report?
TRY: Find the PAF in the following examination questions. Write a letter to your school magazine which argues for or against homework being set at Key Stage 4. Write a review for a teen website about a film or TV programme you have seen recently. Write a report for your local newspaper which offers advice on how to provide more facilities for teenagers. Write an article for a teen magazine persuading young people to stop smoking.
Stage 2: Spider diagram After writing your PAF, the next stage is to put down all of your thoughts on a given topic. Think about the shorter question from Jan 2011: Write a letter to your head teacher explaining how to improve your school or college. Remember to: Write a letter Explain the things that would make your school or college better. Your P = to explain the things that would make your school or college better Your A = your head teacher Your F = a letter
Your next step should be to design a spider diagram to get down as many thoughts as possible about the question. New sports equipment New buildings Longer school day Improve school New computers Better food New playing fields New uniform New school rules More teachers More text books
Stage 3: Developing your ideas The next step is to develop your ideas by adding more detail to your plan and to note down what you will include in each paragraph. Look at how this plan, based upon the previous spider diagram, would help you write your essay. Intro – Formal – Dear Mr or Ms …… state briefly why you are writing to them, that you feel school needs to change. State that you have a number of suggestions. Para 1 – If school needs to change something fundamental like uniform and school rules explain how to change and the impact on school. Para 2 – Explain improvements to sporting facilities and equipment. Why important. Para 3 – Explain improvements you would like to see to canteen food. Why important. Para 4 – Explain improvements to lessons. More text books, better computers, more teachers, more interesting lessons? Explain what you’d like to see and why. Conclusion – Summarise your main points and thank your head teacher for reading. Can you think of a final sentence to push him or her into understanding why your changes are so important?