Westmeath Independent

Published: Wednesday, 29th April, 2009 11:36am

English Examination Guide

Paper 1

This paper is divided into four sections with a total of 180 marks:

Section 1: Reading (40 marks)

Section 2: Personal Writing (70 marks)

Section 3: Functional Writing (30 marks)

Section 4: Media Studies (40 marks)

Students have to answer all four sections of the paper. The allocated time for paper one is two hours and 30 minutes, and the following is a guideline to allocate your time efficiently:

Section 1: Reading (30min)

Section 2: Personal Writing (60min)

Section 3: Functional Writing (30min)

Section 4: Media Studies (30min)

Section 1: Reading

In this section, you are assessed on your ability to understand. You are expected to analyse, evaluate and select what is relevant for your response to the passage. It is recommended that you always begin with this section of the paper as the tone of the passage will reflect the tone of the paper, which will aid you in the second section, Personal Writing.

Firstly read the questions, then read the passage once over; by reading the questions first you will be alert to key words and phrases you should highlight as you read. Re-read the questions and with a red pen underline the main elements of the question that you will focus your answer on.

It is important to avoid repeating parts of the passage in your answer. Instead you should show your ability to convey the information being asked in the question with clarity and accuracy.

A good answer will remain focused on the question and is supported by relevant quotes to back up the points you make. Always ensure that you don"t simply include a reference from the text for the sake of it but that you explain why it is relevant to the point you are making.

Often the questions will have different marks allocated for each part, it is important to take note of this and not to spend too much time on eg a five-mark question, time that you will need to spend on a 15-mark question.

Section 2: Personal Writing

This section of the paper carries the most marks and requires the most attention. As mentioned above, you should dedicate a full 60 minutes to this part of the paper. Included in this time is your essay plan, which is a vital foundation for a well structured essay.

In this section you are given the opportunity to write in any form, eg narrative, descriptive, short story, dramatic... Carefully look at the list of composition titles and select the title that suits you best.

First and foremost use a full page to brainstorm your ideas and to plan the structure of your essay. Once you have jotted down as many ideas as you can associate with the title, try to link these ideas and phrases. If you are writing a descriptive essay, use your senses, such as touch and sight to help you with your vocabulary. If you are writing a short story, ensure that you have a setting, character, conflict and resolution.

Once you have an array of phrases and ideas, you then decide the order they will follow in the overall structure of the essay. A clear, logical structure is required by all students, which begins with a strong introduction. Try to have a good opening line, eg a humorous quotation or an interesting statistic. The introduction is followed by the body of the composition, which should contain at least five paragraphs, with each paragraph developing one point.

Remember to continue a methodical structure with each point relevant to the next. Finally your closing paragraph should draw all your points together, and also briefly remind the reader about what you have said.

Lastly, always reread your work, making sure to correct any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

Section 3:

Functional Writing

This section of the paper will require you to recognise and write in a variety of styles. The purpose of this section is to show that you can organise and structure a piece of writing for the function that it is required, to show a sense of audience and an awareness of appropriate uses of language. For example you may be asked to write a letter, speech, diary entry or a report.

When you have decided on your writing type, you then have to consider your audience. Taking note of your audience is essential as it will determine the style and register of your writing. If you are writing a diary entry, your audience is one person and therefore your writing style will be intimate and personal, in contrast, if you are writing a newspaper report, your audience will be on a much larger scale and your writing style as a result would be far less personal and in general more serious.

To prepare for this section of the paper, familiarise yourself with the many different types of functional writing, taking note of the layout that is appropriate to each type.

Section 4: Media Studies

This last section of paper one provides with you with an opportunity to critically analyse, interpret and respond to a variety of media styles. You could be presented with questions based on advertising, newspapers, cartoons or photographs.

If you are answering a question based on an advertisement, look at the aspects that it contains which aim to persuade the reader. Ask yourself what techniques have been employed here? Has the advertiser used glamour, humour, colour or rhyme etc to persuade you? Once you have analysed the particular media style you must then support your opinions with examples and references.

In preparing for this section familiarise yourself with aspects of the media industry and the impact and role the industry has on our daily lives.

Paper 2

This paper is divided into three sections with a total of 180 marks:

Section 1: Drama (60 marks)

Section 2: Poetry (60 marks)

Section 3: Fiction (60 marks)

Students must answer all three sections of the paper. The allocated time for paper one is two hours and 30 minutes; the following is a guideline to efficiently allocate your time:

Section 1: Drama (45min)

Section 2: Poetry (45min)

Section 3: Fiction (45min)

Section 1: Drama

The first section of paper two is drama. This section is split into two parts, the Unseen Drama and the Studied Drama, both of which carry equal marks and both must be attempted.

The Unseen Drama section is split into A and B. A will be a question based on a Shakespearean Drama and B will be a question based on Other Drama. Read both of these extracts and then decide which suits you best.

Pay careful thought and consideration to the questions which follow the extract, underline any key words and phrases which will guide you in your answer. You may be asked to answer a question based on characters, language, stage-setting, genre or theme of the extract. As mentioned previously, always directly address the question and support your answer with references from the extract.

The Studied Drama section will also give you two options, you must choose question one or two, again read both and decide which question suits you best. Avoid summarising the main events of the play in your answer. Instead, revise the central character, themes and key moments and relationships. It is also important that you have learnt some quotations that will help support your answers. Incorporating a specific reference to a production of the drama you have studied will gain you extra marks in this section.

Section 2: Poetry

As in the drama section, this too is separated into two sections, the Unseen Poetry and the Studied Poetry, again both carry equal marks.

With the unseen poem you must firstly read it at least two or three times. Ask yourself what is the poem saying, what its theme is. Underline and highlight key words and images that will help you in your answer. Practice developing a personal response and identifying poetic techniques in preparation for this section of the paper.

In part two of this section you will be required to answer questions based on poetry you have explored in class. You have to cover a wide variety of poems in order to be able to answer the range of possible questions that may arise in this section. You should study a poem you like and a poem you dislike and be able to compare the two.

You should also know at least two poems by a poet of your choice. Familiarise yourself with the poetic techniques included in the poems, the themes, language and mood. As in the drama section, you should also have a good range of quotations learned before the exam which will support your answers. Remember to read the question carefully, ensuring that you are addressing exactly what is being asked of you.

Section 3: Fiction

As in the previous sections, the final section of this paper is also split into two parts, Unseen Fiction and Studied Fiction, both carrying equal marks. For the Unseen Fiction question, you will be given an extract from a short story or novel. It is important to read the questions, then read the extract, highlighting and underlining important aspects that will help you in your answers. Try to investigate the text in relation to the characters and their relationships. Always support the points you make in your answers with quotations from the extract. Practice questions from your exam papers, taking note of plot, characters and writing style.

For the Studied Fiction section, you will be expected to display an in-depth knowledge of the short story or novel you have studied. In preparation for this, make sure you are familiar with the central characters, setting, plot key moments, conflicts and resolution. Significant quotations that relate to these aspects should be learned in advance, which will help support your answer, as will references to key scenes. As always, ensure that you are addressing specifically what the question has asked of you and that you don"t give a summary of the short story or novel in your answer.

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