Examiner's Notes on Paper 1 Question 4 for the AQA English Language Exam

Question four is the nightmare question where students who usually score band three or four struggle to escape the clutches of band 2 (D-E grade). Some score almost no marks just because they don't do what the question is asking...

Find out more in this video (feeling a bit laid back when I made this one!)

What goes wrong?
Often, students write about content, or presentational devices, or structure/punctuation and don't even mention the effects of the language. Do not write about punctuation! You will not get any marks for it.
Do I need to Quote?
If you don't quote you might as well go home now.  You must quote! Short quotations are best: one word is often the best of all as it shows you've zoomed in tight on the key words.

The most upsetting scripts I saw were where the student had clearly put a lot of effort into explaining the purpose, audience and genre of the text. All I can say is: don't. You will make me cry because I will hardly be able to award any marks.

You must mention language techniques (e.g. similes, metaphors, plosives, sibilants, alliteration, rule of three) if you're even going to get into Band 1 - which isn't even a pass grade in the higher tier. 

So if I spot Techniques, is that Enough?
No. You must also explain the effects. The comment I put on most scripts was: 'generalised effects of selected language.'
This is Band 2 (D-E) grade. *Sobs*

Here are some phrases that I never want to see again as long as I live:
'the writer uses a range of language features to create effects for the reader'
'the rule of three has been used to good effect to add detail and flair'
'this will make the reader think about the different factors in the text'
'the writer uses a lot of good imagery which creates a good effect'
'this will make the readers intrigued'
'this will make the reader want to read on'
These comments could literally have been written about any piece of writing that has ever been written, anywhere, ever. This is why they are 'generalised effect' and this is why they are make me want to run away screaming.

Top Tips

1. Underline
Go through the text you are supposed to be writing about. Underline any interesting words and language effects. Now think - why did the writer choose these words? What is their effect?

Band 1 (roughly F-G)

the writer uses descriptive language such as ‘paradise’

Band 2 (roughly D-E)

the writer uses descriptive anguage such as ‘paradise’ to show how beautiful the valley is. this is better, but the student has still included no context.

Band 3 (roughly B-C)
the writer uses descriptive language such as ‘paradise’ to show how beautiful the valley is. The words suggests that after walking for so long in the frozen snow, the characters have stumbled on a place that makes them feel confident they’ll be rescued.
Band 4 (roughly equivalent to A-A*)
the writer uses descriptive language such as ‘paradise’ to show how beautiful the valley is. The words suggests that after walking for so long in the frozen snow, the characters have stumbled on a place that feels like heaven which makes them feel confident they’ll be rescued. The religious metaphor is continued with the words ‘blessed valley’ and ‘garden of eden’ the writer’s choice of language is almost suggesting a miracle has happened: the hand of god or some form of higher being has led them to this divine place and salvation. 
2. Answer on the correct text(s).
Spend more time writing about the named text. Usually this is the one with the most language to discuss. Then pick the factual article with the most emotive language - because what you really want to do is pick out how both writers use mood-words.

3. Make Links
Rather than say 'both writers use metaphors', say - both writers use language to create a sense or urgency or danger. You could then say that the first writer does this with the rule of three using plosives that create a sharp violent effect. If the writer uses a word like 'belched' = say this suggests something disgusting, foul and contrasts with the more peaceful mood in words like 'quote'.

Yet More Phrases Not to Use
This makes the reader be able to picture what is happening.
This lets the reader picture themselves there.
This makes it more memorable for the reader
This gives more information. 
This lets the reader understand what is happening. This proves that the writer knows what they are saying. This gives good description. 

The author, , is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher and of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post. She offers private tuition in the Haywards Heath area, West Sussex.