Paper 1, Question 3: 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 3

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 3 is only assessing analysis of how the writer has structured a text. It is in question 2 that language analysis is assessed. Just a reminder that ‘structure’ refers to:

  • Whole text: beginnings, endings, perspective shifts
  • Paragraph level: topic change/ aspects of cohesion (in old money – links within and between paragraphs)
  • Sentence level: how the sentence structure contributes to the whole structure.

‘That’s not structure!’ said everybody on Twitter.

There’s discussion over this one. It’s not that I’m not interested but that’s not what this post is for. The bullet points above are what we’ve been given, so this is what I need to focus on here.

Here is some further advice on what sort of things the students can look for:

  • Zooming in from something big to something much smaller (and vice versa).
  • Shifting between different times and places (they may notice this between paragraphs).
  • Sudden or gradual introduction of new characters at significant points.
  • Moving from inside to the wider world outside (and vice versa).
  • Combining external actions with internal thoughts.
  • Switching between different points of view.
  • Developing and reiterating (focusing on a point of view by expanding and repeating it)
  • Cyclical structure (returning at the end to what happened at the beginning)
  • Positioning of key sentences and their impact on the whole text.

You may be interested to know that…

The phrasing of question 3 will ALWAYS include information on the positioning of the extract within the whole text. For example, ‘This text is from the beginning of a novel’. This information has been included for a reason and I am encouraging my students to use it to inform their answers.

@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 more sense of the ‘whole text’ that students have, the higher up the mark-scheme they can go.

The bullet points in the question can be fulfilled in any order.

I thought it would help if I wrote a few example phrases and sentence starters –

I’ve used this opening (Treasure Island) as a basis, from the opening of the second paragraph, up to “And that was all we could learn of our guest.”

The text opens with a detailed description of the old seaman- ‘his hands ragged and scarred, with black, broken nails’. This is significant because the writer is establishing the characters and ensuring the reader focuses his/her attention on…

The writer repeats ‘I remember him’ in the opening. This use of anaphora serves to show us how important this character is, because…

As this text is from the beginning of a novel, it is clear that this is going to be an important character. The writer has immediately focused the reader’s attention on…

In the middle of the extract, the writer changes the focus from a physical description of the seaman, to examples of the way he spoke. This shifts the focus of the reader to…

The sentence ‘And that was all we could learn of our guest’ is structurally important because it gives the reader a strong sense of conclusion to the description of the seaman and creates a sense that the character was enigmatic or…

I hope this helps. Any questions, tweet or ask below.