31 May 2015

Notes on GCSE exam - Question 5

Question 5 (16 marks, 25 min, write about 300-350 words in 4-5 paragraphs.)

The question focuses on you ability to: inform, explain and describe. 
You will be given the topic to have to write about, therefore you will have to identify the subject, the purpose, the audience and the form. 

There could be two kinds of combined purposes:
  • to write to describe and inform
  • to write to inform and explain
Let's say that the question 5 is: write a brief article for Real Life magazine, describing a childhood memory and explaining why it is important to you. 

1. Read carefully the question and answer several further questions; write down notes after reading. 
  • Decide what the topic is. 
  • Decide what the purpose is.
  • Target the audience.
  • Choose the way to present your point of view depending on the question.

2. Preparations.
  • Draw a spider diagram with 3-4 childhood memories you can write about. 
  • This is for a magazine, so it will be for the general public.
  • The general public - people at different ages, backgrounds etc, therefore it should be standard English and not too difficult language or jargon.
  • The form is an article.
3. Choose one childhood memory and draw a spider diagram with ideas, feelings or experiences connected with this particular topic.

4. Write down your plan using your spider diagram. 

Plan: Summers with my grandparents
  • Setting up a scene - first paragraph.
  • Pristine place for a city girl away from my troubled parents, wonderful lake surrounded by forests with a clearing for a few caravans
  • Spartan accommodation: an old bus served as a camp kitchen, washing in the lake, washing up using the sand of the lake
  • Activities: First attempts to swim, Fishing with grandpa - morning finding trapped eels, preparing fish; Picking up mushrooms, preparing food, drying mushrooms
  • Explanation why it is important to me. 
5. Create a few similes and metaphors. 

It was like living on the nature and with nature. 
I took to swimming like a duck to the water.  
I felt like a nymph connected to both the nature and a few people around. 
An old bus was our home for a few weeks in the summers of my childhood. He was a friend, warm and intimate, waiting long time for our return. 
The lake and the forest fed us, like good Spirits taking care of our survival.  

6. Senses
Hear, Smell, Touch, Vision, Taste   

Write down a few sentences with two example of senses usage, do not use all senses:
Eyes: Earthen colours
Smell: water, campfire, freshness: The fresh fragrance of the mixture of water and pine trees - this kind of freshness we usually look for in air fresheners at the shops. The scent of damp earth at dawn while picking up mushrooms.
Hear: Birds singing in the morning, discussing at the lunch time and nesting in the trees in the evening. The sudden splash of water indicating frolicking fish nearby. The cry of a bird signalling some kind of danger to its family. 
Touch: Eels like slippery soup which was easy to drop to the water and someone had to fish it out. 

7. Choose three adjectives
pristine, spartan, smooth, 

8. Choose three strong, emotional verbs
frolicking fish, nesting birds, paddling in the shallow water of the lake

9. Note down some emotive language examples
enthralled, enchanted, fascinated
divine nymphs 

10. Create a phrase with alliteration, repetition, maybe juxtaposition etc 
fish frolicking in the fresh water 

11. Rhetorical question 
Surely they were singing for us to wake up and join the joy of another wonderful day?

12.The rule of three
picking up mushrooms, cleaning them to eat or dry for the winter

13. Opening sentence and the first paragraph. 
First, we are running to see the lake. It is still there, the shades of cornflower blue in the middle and emerald at the edges, where the trees use the lake as their mirror. Trees are a little vain and lean towards the water to have a better look, they even elbow each other with their hairy heads. Sometimes the fish, frolicking in the fresh water, sends the ripple, blurring the reflection. The trees whistle and sough and rustle to scare it away. Perching on the boughs, the birds start singing to placate them, and after a while the whole place get quiet. Enchanted, we are slowly changing from the little city girls into the divine nymphs. Free and happy, at last. 

14. Paragraphs.
There should be two-three more paragraphs describing the childhood memory and one more explaining why it is important to me. 
Each paragraph should have a topic sentence summarizing the ideas that follow. Paragraphs should be linked with the transitional words/phrases or the last sentence of the paragraph should serve a transition to the next one. Like the first sentence, the final one should do the same. Use your language tools prepared before and do not forget to vary your sentences and the sentences opener. Do not start all sentence with the subject. 

15. Edit and proofread the essay; every mistake will cost you one mark penalty. 


If the question asks you to inform and explain, you need facts and opinions, statistics and quotes of famous people. The structure of your essay changes: every paragraph should consist of two parts, the first informing and the second explaining why. Otherwise, the whole process stays the same. 

I am afraid that during the exam we will not have time for such a deep process of planning, but knowing how to do it should help. It is advisable to prepare some sample notes on a few topics. Especially on those, you do not like writing. Your notes can be used for different topics. For example, the childhood memory can be used for questions such as: travel, place, school trip, your favourite book or movie, all about the nature, best/worst day, experience and probably much more. 


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