Friday, 5 June 2015

English Language Exam Tips -- Question 1 of Paper 2 (the "reading" paper)

Sometimes, students get worried that the CIE syllabus for Question 1 the Reading Paper (known as Paper 2) will test whether they can do magazine articles, interviews, reports, letters, and journals, but this isn't really what the exam is testing at all!

The exam board basically wants to know four things:

  1. Do you know what the Reading Insert selection is saying -- just the facts, the details, the basic idea?
  2. Do you know what the Reading Insert selection is implying -- what's between the lines, behind the details?
  3. Can you take the point of view and style of the Reading Insert selection, and modify it to a different point of view and style? For example, if Pete is shopping with Veronica at the garden centre and complains about it throughout the text, can you take on the point of view of Veronica, and write a journal entry about Pete's behaviour instead?
  4. Can you write this journal entry in competent English -- meaning good vocabulary, variety of sentence structures, decent spelling, and adequate punctuation?
Modify for new viewpoint is the key to Question 1

Yes, it will help your answer if you start out "Dear Diary", but that's not really going to push you up or down a band like assimilating the material from the passage into Veronica's own words will do.

So how can you revise something like this? Studying diary entries isn't as important as two things:
  • get your fact-finding stronger by narrating everything you read, that is, summarising it regardless the topic or subject;
  • practise changing viewpoints in news stories, current events, even literature, playing devil's advocate or just stepping into someone else's shoes.

For example, some of my literature students last year read Frankenstein. Those who took the additional writing extension were assigned a letter by a character named Justine who had been wrongly accused of killing a child. They had to take the details of the murder as given in the text of the book (solidifying the facts), then, extrapolating what Justine herself would know, they wrote letters from her with the right purpose, facts, and tone of voice.

It was harder than something in a GCSE paper because the facts were spread out over a larger portion of the book, but the basic premise is the same: everyone in the book says the details of the murder point to Justine, but what did Justine think?

Facts and viewpoints -- that's the point of Question 1.

Dr Kat Patrick teaches an annual crammer course for two weeks at Easter
and weekly writing tutorials as part of Dreaming Spires Home Learning

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