Paper 1, Question 4: 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 4

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

The Assessment Objective being assessed here is AO4:

AO4: Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references.

You may be interested to know that…

The question structure is formulaic. The question will always give students a line number and it will always be in the second half of the text (‘…to the end’).

The phrase ‘A student said…’ is also fixed.

The 3 bullet points will broadly keep to the structure of:

  • your own impressions…
  • how the writer shows that…
  • support your response…

There is no need for pupils to give a counter argument. You can do away with ‘on one hand I agree with the student, however, it could be argued that…’. They can just decide whether or not they agree and stick to that argument.

@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’.

If you want my advice…

This question is asking students to make a judgement. So, I am teaching my students ways to express this coherently. Sentence openers for this are given at the end of the blog.

Students need to show off all of their reading skills: ‘from inference, through analysis to evaluation.'(AQA – 8700-SOV available online).

This question is asking students to consider the impact of a text and therefore they should consider the form and purpose. Remember, ‘structure’ is assessed in Q3 so keep form and structure distinct in your teaching of this. Students need to discuss “the extent to which the writer successfully draws the reader into the world of the text” (AQA – 8700-SOV available online).

Here are some sample responses for you to use:

I’m reluctant to write whole answers out here; there are many ways to structure the answer to this question and I don’t want people to panic because what I’ve produced looks different to the way you’ve taught something. I find starter sentences/key phrases/sample paragraphs useful when teaching GCSE pupils so I’ve produced some here.

I used an extract from ‘Stoner’ for this – you can access it here. A sample question is also on the sheet. extract-from-stoner-by-john-Williams

Each paragraph/section here is intended as a separate sample from different responses. They’re not meant to be perfect but it’s hard to ape a 16 year old’s writing!

I fully agree that William is feeling low – ‘For several minutes …he sat unmoving, staring out before him’ seems to indicate that he is not engaged with what is going on around him. It seems to be typical behaviour of somebody who is downhearted. Additionally, he thinks about ‘students he would never see or know’. This free indirect discourse (or simply ‘this’) gives a strong indication of loneliness, which a reader could reasonably associate with feeling low.

I do not fully agree that William is feeling low. Although there are some indications that he’s not particularly happy, this is not necessarily the same as feeling ‘low’. I believe that he is not interested in university life. He feels detached from the other students. For example, they ‘brushed against him’ – so he has physical contact with them but the writer makes it very clear to the reader that he does not have any emotional connection with them. Also, we are shown the inner confusion felt by William: ‘he felt very distant from them and very close to them’. This is disorientating for the reader because the phrase appears to contradict itself. The writer is drawing the reader into the feelings of the character, who may feel confused by being in such a busy place, yet not knowing anybody. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that he’s low, though.

The writer shows that William is bored by university and being bored all the time could make you feel low. For example, his professor is described as having a ‘droning voice’ and his learning is described as a ‘process of drudgery’. The writer shows that William may be bored with studying, bored with life and bored with other students. This could symbolise a desire to change, therefore going from a sense of feeling ‘low’ to something more positive.

I strongly disagree that…

The writer doesn’t give me the impression that William is low…

The ‘dry rasp of wood’ and ‘roughness’ felt by William may symbolise…

The writer clearly intends for the reader to feel sympathy for William in this part of the book. He uses the weather to indicate that this character is vulnerable – even a ‘thin chill’ can get to him – ‘the thin chill of the late fall day cut through his clothing’. The writer could also be using pathetic fallacy here to indicate that something negative will happen to this man. These could lead us to understand that he is not a happy character at this point in the novel.

That’s it for now. Please share this around and any questions, either ask below or tweet @ladybarkbark. Thanks!