Paper 1, Question 2: AQA English Language (8700)

I am going to write a series of posts, each one based on a different question in this exam. Each post will start with this introduction (you’re not going mad and reading the same thing twice). I’ll try to get them all out on this site before the end of the Christmas break (2016).

I need to stress at this point that I am not writing this on behalf of AQA, nor are my posts endorsed by them. I am not writing anything that is not already available in the public domain; I’m simply condensing what you can find on their website and in training materials into manageable chunks. I also include some details of what I am doing with this information – but it’s just that; advice from my own professional practice.

Paper 1, Question 2

This question is marked by ‘expert’ examiners (AQA have an explanation of this term here).

The Assessment Objective being assessed here is AO2. Now, it’s important that we look closely at this because not all of AO2 is being assessed:

AO2: Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views.

Question 2 is only assessing language analysis. It is in question 3 that the structure is assessed. Just a reminder that ‘language’ refers to:

  • Words
  • Phrases
  • Language features
  • Language techniques
  • Sentence forms

As you can see from this list, the new specification has a broader definition of language. Comments on the effects of words without specific reference to the terminology can still be credited for, well, commenting on the effect.

You may be interested to know that…

Each exam paper is marked on a question-by-question basis. That is, an examiner will sit down to mark X amount of one question. It is probable that all five questions from one script will  each be marked by a different examiner. This is good news – a pupil won’t get stuck with one ‘harsh’ marker; an examiner won’t develop prejudice against a candidate due to a poor response earlier in the paper and examiners won’t know the order in which your pupils did the questions.

There are no expectations on the number of analyses that pupils make; the level 4 responses we were shown ranged from 2 to 4 paragraphs.

@FKRitson has a wealth of resources on her blog for this question( Look under her index for 11. ‘Slave’ and 4. ‘Betcha by Golly Wow’.

The big ‘subject terminology’ debate

Within the @Team_English1 community, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not ‘use of subject terminology’ means that we should be teaching complex language features or whether or not something as simple as the word ‘word’ would count as subject terminology. There have been some who say that they’re not bothering with the subject terminology and others who have used words that, quite honestly, I’ve had to Google!

I’m afraid I don’t have a clear answer here, but here are my thoughts and understanding on this issue:

At the most recent training I attended, we were categorically told that the examiners would be told not to look for ‘feature spotting’ – the most weighting of the awarded marks lies in the comments on effect. We were told that candidates could still get a top band without (what an English teacher would consider to be) subject-specific language; that decent analysis of a metaphor is more important than using the word ‘metaphor.’

Related to this, something to come out of the training made me very pleased and reassured: ‘subject terminology’ includes written ‘academic’ language. The pupils might use words such as implies, reinforces, intends (these were examples given to us in the printed materials) and they would be credited for using subject terminology. This is far less tenuous than the assertion in the paragraph above and hopefully, with lots of practice, this style or approach can be developed with pupils – even those that struggle to identify language techniques.

Am I teaching my pupils subject terminology? Absolutely.

There are several reasons for this. First – the mark-scheme says it, so I’m going to do it. The mark-scheme, for me, is guaranteed. It’s in writing. There’s always the chance that you’ll end up with a maverick examiner who didn’t take the advice given at training and interprets the mark-scheme with a narrow view. So, yes, I’m hammering home the language techniques and features. Second – I think it’s important for the students to know these terms. It’s empowering to be able to use our language to good effect. It’s also good practice for the literature examinations too.

That’s all I have for this one, other than the bits you can already read on the specification and assessment materials. Do ask questions and I always welcome your feedback.