The ability to compare and contrast is one of the most important and challenging skills to master for the 9 to 1 English Language and English Literature. Previously compare and contrast techniques was tested only by Controlled Assessment in one of the four units of English Literature: now it reaches across both specifications as detailed below. It takes on much greater significance because some reading passages in English Language and English Literature are unseen.
Where Compare and Contrast Fits
With the 9 to 1 specifications it makes sense to start with the original DfE curriculum order.
English Language GCSE: Bullets 2 & 4
‘synthesise’: combine elements into a whole
‘compare’/ ‘contrast’: estimate the similarity/ dissimilarity of two things
In practice bullet 2 is represented as part of AO1 and bullet 4 is wholly represented as AO3.
AQA, Edexcel, Eduqas, OCR: the objectives are expressed in exactly the same words:
AO1 - Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas. Select and synthesise evidence from different texts
AO3 - Compare writers’ ideas and perspectives, as well as how these are conveyed, across two or more texts
However, they appear in different ways in each Board’s Specifications.
Select and synthesise evidence from two or more texts.
This is essentially to do with the location and reorganisation of information across two texts by way of recognizing common and/or contrasting facts.
OCR Paper 1, question 1 b.
Compare writers’ ideas and perspectives, as well as how these are conveyed, across two or more texts.
This is essentially is a comparison and/ or contrast of topic, theme and style across the two texts.
OCR: Papers 1 & 2, question 4 (which also tests AO4)
English Literature: ‘reading comprehension and reading critically’
Paper 2 Section A. Compare a set poem with a poem of your own choice, both from the anthology.
What is and is Not Wanted: A Variety of Styles
To repeat what is stated above, this is a difficult skill to undertake at the best of times, let alone in the stressful environment of a terminal examination.
Regular and graduated practice is needed in order that students can discover and develop the style of comparison and contrast that works best for them. This is an essential part of the preparation.
The strongest candidates use comparison and contrast as a part of the process of analysis in the course of talking and writing about what they have read, so for some, this is a developed, or, at any rate, a developing skill. However, there will be many students for whom this is a new skill to master.
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