29 May 2015

Notes for AQA GCSE Exam in English/English Language higher tier (1)

I hope that my short notes will help you, the reader, and me to keep this in mind during the exam.
Questions one and two in this post. The examples of candidate responses and commentaries here.

Key words for all questions: to have connotations of, to be evocative of, to attract the reader's attention, try to grab initial attention, intensifies the idea of, this mirroring of words is suggestive of, adds further details, has sudden impact on the reader, creates strong contrast, the juxtaposition of, directly involves the reader, is thought provoking, lodges the idea in the reader's mind, creates sympathy, adds informality, makes it seem authentic, gives validity, is persuasive because, makes it believable, the reader feels obliged to participate, the reader feels important etc

Emotive language
Dramatic language
Verbal imagery helps the reader to hear the sounds
Dramatic imagery
Visual imagery helps the reader to imagine, to see the scene depicted in more detail
Giving the visual effects / details of.... 
This adds / enhances the meaning 
The use of ... shows
This show / intensifies the idea of 
This carries the idea of 
This engages the reader's interest in
This has the impact on the reader's point of view about 
Puts the reader in the world of the story

Using senses verbs involves the reader's senses, and therefore, engages the reader who can change the reading the story into re-enacting it by himself.

Some words are neutral, some have strong emotional connotations. Something that is 'horrible' has connotations of being absolutely negative, dreadful. 

Some words (most of them, in fact) have more than one meaning, the writer will use them for creating a pun or hinting another interpretation. 

Remember about the weather when interpreting the text - as a pathetic fallacy (mood of the character) or foreshadowing the future events or even both, be smart :) 

You do not lose marks because of your own interpretation, even unusual (if backed with the quotes), but for the lack of it. Be brave and show off. 

Strong verbs and verbs appealing to our senses add details and create imagery language which helps the reader identify with the character. Persuasive and emotional language is used to persuade us into the writer's point of view. 

At the beginning of the exam read all the questions first, then read the insert. It is advisable to start from the end - from the questions which give the most marks. But it is alos helpful to start with something you feel confident, and during answering that question your confidence will grow, so you will be able to tackle the other questions. 


Question 1 (8 marks, 15 mins)

  1. Summarise the article in one sentence to show your understanding. It will also help you with the subject matter of the question.
  2. Choose 4-5 pieces of information based on the question.
  3. Write what you learn:
  • Give the POINT 
  • Support it with the EVIDENCE from the text
  • DEVELOP your comments on the meaning of the points from the reader's perspective (understanding the text, do NOT analyse the language)
  • If possible add the alternative interpretation starting with words like 'perhaps, probably, might, it may also'. 
Do not discuss the language devices. 
Useful vocabulary: this suggests / indicates / implies / means / shows / feels as if / as though

Question 2 (Keep in mind three questions: what, how and why) (8 marks, 15 mins)

  1. Summarise the article in one sentence to show your understanding. It will also help you with the subject matter of the question.
  2. Write about how the title is effective in terms of the reader's attention (why this makes the reader want to read it) and how it is linked to the text. Find a suitable quotation from the text to show it. Look for the language techniques, also its social, cultural or any other connotations.
  3. Do the same with the picture and the captions. 
  4. If possible add the alternative interpretation starting with words like 'perhaps, probably, might, it may also'. 
Do not discuss the text and the language devices apart from those used in the title or captions. 

Do discuss punctuation marks used in the title, but give the reason of their usage. Remember about ellipses, they are used in titles, too. 

Useful vocabulary: this highlights / underscores / accentuates / emphasise / reinforces / draws / graps the reader's attention, provokes, makes the reader question about, invite the reader to learn more about.

Text: large / bold / contrasting colours / pun (fun / hinting another meaning), font modern / elegant / sans / serif, alliteration, repeatition, smart and punchy, rhyme and rhythm, eye-catching, encapsulates, memorable.

The alliteration of the harsh plosive 't' and 'b' in the metaphor of a 'ticking time bomb' creates an urgent, insistent effect. The danger is hidden, and will come in time, but when it does it will explode with devastating results.  

Picture: in the background /  foreground, primary / muted colours, low / high angle camera shot, shallow / deep focus, contrast in size, this signifies, eye contact, inset, captions anchor the meaning, shock / cute factor, factual / provocative / draw the eye, captions used to inflict additional meaning on to the topic, this is the signifier of (like pink colour is associated with teenage girls), striking colours, blacked out person, a person adheres to the stereotypical image of, is used to appeal to (female / teenage) readers, focal point.

27 May 2015

GCSE English question 2 - past paper

Homes and crops wrecked, but relief sweeps Queensland in Yasi's wake

The headline concisely conveys the information about the events described in the article: the homes and crops were wrecked by the cyclone in Queensland, Australia. We learn from the text that the cyclone was given a name 'Yasi'.

The headline consists of two parts, divided by a comma accentuating two opposite feelings the people of Queensland have.
The first part is very dramatic. We learn about 'homes and crops wrecked' by the cyclone. The word 'wrecked' is very effective because it implies total destruction of places where people lived and crops which gave people income. This is linked to the text informing us that 'cost of damage is ... about A$3.5bn'.

The second part of the headline conveys the opposite feeling. The author informs us that 'relief sweeps Queensland'. The juxtaposition of the words 'wrecked' and 'relief' builds the dramatic effect and even deeper sign of relief when we learn that people of Queensland woke up 'with collective sense of relief' because no deaths were reported. This is also a relief for the reader.


The title also plays on the double meaning of the words 'wake' and 'sweep'. The residents of Queensland literary woke up to learn about the cyclone and to realise that the region will have to clear. This suggests that the survivors will have a great deal of work to do and will need a lot of money.
The picture shows the situation in the morning. It is dramatic and absolutely contributes to the people's feelings and information in the article. The house is damaged; it cannot even serve as a shelter. Debris is all over the place and this is the link to 'sweeping up' meaning from the title.

To the right, a mother and her son look very tense. They cling to each other; the boy’s face seems to be resentful, whereas the mother looks at the house, away from the camera, perhaps she is not keen on talking to media. It may also suggest that even though she is happy that they survived, she is, however, worried about the future. Many houses 'would be barely habitable' unless the wrecked 'was cleared', we read in the article. And that probably reflects the two feelings we find in the title.

6 May 2015

Writing about features


Writing about posters is similar to writing about the features of articles. I am going to write about a poster, using some useful vocabulary for that purpose.

The first thing 
that strikes me about the poster is an image in a shape of a droplet that connotates the water, indispensable to life.  But, the droplet is not blue, as we could expect. It is red, but not such bright red that symbolise a threat. Inside, there is a white shape of a mother with her little baby, and this forms the visual focal point of the poster that immediately attract attention.

When you look closely 
at the droplet then you realise that it is also a shape of a woman expecting a baby. 
The droplet with red and white colours implies the meanings that bring the connotations of life, motherhood and vitality. It instantly evokes positive reactions and very warm feelings. We are ready to explore the poster in detail to know its purpose. 

Our warm feelings are enhanced by the warm shade of red with its connotations of fire, warm and love: home. The image also resembles a decoration for a Christmas Tree, the time of exchanging gifts or gifts given by Santa Clause. 

The purpose of the poster with all these images and their connotations is explained in one sentence - on which symbolically - the droplet hangs. This is the visual message of this poster: someone's life could be in danger, and you may help. 

The writing addresses the reader directly by using a command: 'Give blood'; this is intended to make the poster personal and its message urgent. The purpose of the command is further explained in the line below: 'for those who give life'. This is directly relevant to the reader because everyone has a mother. The sentence sounds like a slogan or a short poem: Give blood // for those // who give life; it may be a haiku, with a very profound meaning and that is why it makes such a huge impact on everyone seeing the poster. 

Apart from this sentence, there is very little writing on the poster. There are two logos at the bottom of the poster, to the left the name of the event with an 0 replaced by the droplet from the poster, and to the right - the logo and name of the host of the event. 

The poster appeals to the audience through many symbols, a short sentence and the colours. It uses Serif font that is traditional, mature and formal, but it also uses short monosyllabic words, aiming at the general adult public. The tone of the poster is serious and honest, and the reason for that are the colours used in it and the simplicity of the design. 





4 May 2015

The Sun - presentation analysis

There is another part of my analysis of presentation devices for question 2 for GCSE exam. I think that I have learnt more about how to tackle this problem. In my opinion, the best is to start naturally - as if you are presented with a paper and try to figure out what it is all about. 

I would start with quick reading, so you understand the subject, then I would write it this order:
  • the picture (the big picture always attracts us first)
  • the caption - it anchors the meaning
  • the title (if really big we may change the order)
  • the subheading
  • all other features of the text (layout, bullet points, colours, subtitles, everything apart from the language in the text itself)
  • brif summary of the context - do the features link to the text and how (still not sure about 'how')
I am not very disciplined but I suggest that keeping PEE in mind would help.
Point: The headline is written in sans type of font (evidence on the paper - no evidence in this situation). Explanation: That kind of font looks modern, informal and is usually used in articles in tabloids or aiming the young audience. 


At first glance, the picture seems to be the realistic shot from some pupular event, and that is lodged in the reader's mind from the beginning. It attracts the reader's attention to examine the other features. Two young men are looking directly into the reader's eyes, and they look like celebrities, so the young reader want to know more about them and the event. Embracing in a hug, they are not very similar, there is a contrast in their appearance.

The man on the left is slightly bent, and that is why his eyes look bigger, so the reader has an impression that he is an honest, nice lad. The second man is a little in the back, with his arm on the other man's shoulder - he looks like a winner, and the reader has the impression that he took an advantage of the situation somehow. He shows his thumb up and that further indicate his superiority at that moment. Aditionally, he wears some sort of sport gear that suggest that he belongs to the team of the fighter who won the fight. In the background there is the crowd of people and journalists, creating the contrast betweet two man and them. Behind the man on the right, there is the spotlight, what may suggest that he has stolen fame from someone else. On the left, a man with the shades suggests strong security measures taken during the event. But the man is not looking at the lads, did they get over with something?

The answer is in the caption: a man who pose with a celebrity is called a blagger. Short and very informative text confirms the reader suspicious, and the title adds more information. First we see 'Exclusive' - a big word in red, so the reader is informed that nowhere else he can learn about this event. It is calling to excusivity, and the audience is flattered and eager to read more.

The headline uses sans font, is short and monosyllabic and quite a riddle*, this type of titles enhance the young audience interest by indicating that there is something for the young generation and not serious or formal. The headline and subheadline with the line of exclusive add a bit to the riddle - two average lads from Essex used the trick to illigally watch the match, which tickets were sold for lots of money. How did they do that? Now time to read the whole article.

As the article is not free on line to read, I cannot write how all these features are link to the text.

* After some consultations, I now knew that the headline is a pun based on the soap opera:
The Only Way is Essex. Real-life soap focusing on a group of Essex characters.

Therefore, the headline uses a pun to make the title funny, indicating that the story is funny and the lads quite clever, also indicates the heros: May(weather) as a winner of the match and Essex as the home of the man, who in fact won the media attraction. Well done, lads, and others may learn their tricks. :)

3 May 2015

GCSE English Language: presentational devices

The more I learn how to discuss presentational devices, the more I realise how little I know about it. Most teachers give some vague advice about the importance of answering the question 'Why is this device used and how does it affect the reader?' Not many people can professionally answer that, it involves the knowledge (usually learn at any media course) and, what is also important, the vocabulary. Below, this is a video and so far the best help for any GCSE English student. 45 minutes from a specialist - worth watching many times and learning vocabulary from it. It is fast paced, but wonderful. I will try to build up this post with the set of vocabulary to use. We need to be prepared for the question 2, as well as it is possible. Ann Marie, I hope that you will find this post helpful. :)

2 May 2015

Analyzing the headline and picture 2

Here is another article, this time from The Independent.

1. How is the headline effective?
The headline does not dominate the page but it uses statistic what make the text seem informative, authoritative and scary; it uses two key word: 'alleged' and 'on the beat'. It informs us that the policemen are not find guilty so far, but accused of brutality towards the public. 'On the beat' makes a kind of pun because of the multiple meanings of the word 'beat'. Here, the members of the Police are still on duty, and if they are barbaric, they still can beat innocent people.

2. How is the picture effective?
The picture dominates the page. It shows the police forces in full gear during rioting; there is the fire in the background. The policemen look very powerful, the army of men trained to fight with those who are dangerous to the public life and property. In the picture black colour dominates, what represents the police, but with the yellow and red blazes it makes the contrast, also indicating the colours of the skin of minorities. Black colour is gloomy and depressing.

(I could be more explicit and say that the picture looks like from the war zone or a civil war movie.)

3. How do they link to the text?
The author says that 'just 2 percent' 'of the officers under investigation' is 'suspended or put on restricted duties'. The text mentions the protests in Baltimore and Ferguson in the US which were driven by the brutality of the police towards ethnic minorities. Later on, the author presents the statistics about the British reality, saying that the Met and West Midland have the highest rate of the police assault investigations. The author concludes that even though 'British police have generally (...) a better reputation', 'there are concerns' that the police in some communities 'are losing trust' in the police. The biggest trust problems have the minorities: the Black and Asian people, what indicates that racism is the reason why some officers 'abuse their power'. In parts the article, looking like a report is not clear - the picture can be taken everywhere, and maybe this is the hidden message. We do not want to have here another Baltimore, so we should try to prevent it.

1 May 2015

PEED (Point, Example, Explan and Develop) in English essays

A very important skill for passing GCSE is being a master of PEED; it surely helps to organise thoughts and write in proper English.

Albeit the structure seems very easy, putting it into practise needs some time and attempts in writing using this model. English teachers love PEED and expect us to use this during exams and assessments; also this is their favourite paragraph structure with a slight difference that the last point - development should lead to the next idea, explained in the next paragraph. Therefore, a 'Develop' step should incorporate some words or structures showing the transition from one idea to another.

I think that during the pressure of the exam it would be useful to note down the ideas in the PEED order and then create interesting sentences, using structures like 'one reason', 'I think', 'because' etc. I will prepare a separate post to gather some of these words.

My English teacher advised us to read at least one article a day and to ask ourselves questions similar to those on the exam; answering them on the paper using PEED will make us masters of it. We have to remember, during the exam there is only 10 min for the whole task: reading the article and writing the answer. From the simple notes, it is much easier to write, for example:
'The Simpsons' show is very popular because it has strong characters. One of these characters is Mo, who is very funny and funny characters encourage people to watch the show.

Personally I do not like The Simpsons but it does not matter.

There is the first part (out of three) GCSE revision on PEED. Try to employ PEED and write every day a short answers about the titles, pictures as on exam papers.