29 Apr 2013

GCSE Language Exam: AQA Paper 1 Writing Section

What are examiners looking for in the GCSE Language Exam Writing Section? This article is written specifically for AQA but it is relevant to OCR too, and to a lesser extent to WJEC.

The major difference with WJEC is that this board places a massive emphasis on writing in exactly the correct format. For instance, formal letters must be set out correctly, and if it's informal, will be marked down if it isn't chatty enough!

  1. Is it accurate in easy words? What are the easy words?
  2. Is it accurate in tricky words?
If your spelling is awful, you need to work on easy words first as these will seriously damage your grade. Learn five per day, and repeat test yourself till you've got them 100%. Then start on trickier words. Get tips for improving spelling which also work for dyslexics here. And here.

Punctuation is correct, and is used effectively.
  1. Simple punctuation is present and correct: capital letters, full stops and commas. Get help with this.
  2. Long (complex) and short (simple) sentences are used (correctly). Find out more here.
  3. Some fragments are used - always for effect, not by mistake
  4. Sentences start in different ways. Find out how to do this and get examples.
  5. Use semi colons
  6. Use dashes - and parentheses (-) and (- -)
  7. Use exclamation marks sparingly (not more than once)
  8. Use ellipsis correctly, and sparingly, also not more than once (...)
Ramp up your vocabulary by reading more and collecting new words to use. Try this list.

  1. Long and short paragraphs are used. In other words - one paragraph can be one, short, sentence long. Yes, honestly. It's easy to do - harder to do skilfully, so start practising now.
  2. Plan carefully.
  3. Make sure the first sentence of each paragraph gives a good clue as to what it will be about. This is sometimes called the 'topic sentence'.
  4. Make clear, general points, and give more than one example to prove them. Explain clearly. Use sensory or emotive language.
  5. If you can, make sure paragraphs flow into each other. How? Create a mini-cliffhanger or mystery or question at the end of a paragraph. Then answer or solve it in the next.

Use these well to connect and expand your ideas, showing cause and effect, relationship and sequence. Get simple connectives here. Or go here, for a super-thorough list of all more advanced connectives.

Use Clever Techniques
Get a complete, huge list of these here. You've studied how other writers use them (I hope). Now it's your turn.

Can I make up facts and statistics for a newspaper article?
Yes, as long as they're not ridiculous, are believable and you do it no more than twice. For example, rather than write '46.5 percent of the population are obese', write 'almost half the population are obese'; or 'two thirds', or write 'most people' or 'few'.

Can I make up direct quotations, anecdotes or 'interviews' for the language exam?
Yes, but do it very briefly. One sentence should be enough. Less is more.