Of all the challenges in the English Language exam, question one fades into the background when compared to the complexities of question four, or the mental gymnastics for the analysis in questions two and three. Question one sits there. Unobtrusive. Inoffensive. Nonchalant. A little dream of a question, really. “Find four things…”. Can’t go wrong, right?
But get it wrong, they do. Again and again and again.
“Did you know when you go
It's the perfect ending
To the bad day I was just beginning
When you go all I know is
You're my favourite mistake”
Tell them to try…
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Just like in question two, question one requires students to focus on one section of the text. But unlike question two it isn’t copied out again for them. So instead I insist my students draw a box around the text they’re meant to read. Oh, and whilst you’re there, read it again. And then I make a threat about checking all their exam scripts to see if they’ve done it. They laugh, but I’m only half joking.
“Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you're acting like you're somebody else gets me frustrated”
2. The poor cherubs are about to analyse the bejesus out of this extract. They’re going to analyse language, structure, evaluate a statement using language and structural analysis to do so…and this is the one question where no analysis is needed. No inference. Literally just need to copy out four sentences.
And what do they do? Flipping analyse it and make it complicated.
Tell them to try…
If you have a student who is prone to analyse or infer, then instead of asking them to start with the noun (Rosabel is…or, The weather is…) then just pick four quotations instead.
My mama said, ‘you can't hurry love
No, you'll just have to wait’
She said, ‘love don't come easy
But it's a game of give and take’
3. Speed reading and nerves are the main causes for casualties in this section. Students will pick out points that are only there because they have misread the text in their haste to get onto question two. Reading comprehension is a skill that needs regular practice, and definitely improves over time.
Confident readers can still make mistakes here, because they have lapsed into careless reading or skimming the text. Making a reading comprehension mistake on question one doesn’t necessarily mean that the student cannot access the text, sometimes it just means they’ve missed the point of the sentence.
Tell them to try…
These are the sort of errors they can find themselves, and as a checklist at the end of the exam, students should be returning to question one, re reading the passage, and checking their answers at that point. After they’ve finished their story a fresh pair of eyes can find an error that occurred in the first fifteen minutes of panic.
Edusites English has excellent supportive and developmental Paper 1 CPD, sample papers, exemplar responses and clear support.
With thanks to Sheryl Crowe, Avril Lavigne, and The Supremes.
The language analysis in question two is a tricky little gem of a question. Most students feel pretty confident attacking this one, and usually even weaker students can pick up one or two marks. I’m going to split this into advice for those who are aiming for each separate ‘level’, because the advice I would give is quite different.
And now question three. You little tricky brute. It should be so simple! Teach structural devices, and how to analyse them, chuck in a couple of nice sounding technical terms to boost their confidence, and voila! Eight out of eight? NO.
What is the problem with question four? It should be as simple as teaching the difference between analysis and evaluation, point them in the right direction, and watch them go. But it isn’t.
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