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GCSE English Language Paper 2

AQA GCSE English Language Paper 2: Viewpoints and Perspectives


  1. Street Life by Sophie Haycock (from AQA GCSE English Language paper Unit 1H – November 2012)
  2. Night Walks by Charles Dickens (nineteenth century non-fiction)

Both texts describe the experiences of a writer/journalist who deliberately spends some time on the streets to experience the life of a homeless person.

Here are a couple of sources that you could use with preparation for paper 2. The first is from the November 2012 AQA Unit 1H exam by Sophie Haycock describing a night she spent on the streets in aid of a homeless charity; the second is an account by Charles Dickens of his experiences as a ‘houseless’ person on the streets of London.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.23.34Source 2 – Charles Dickens: Night Walks (nineteenth century non-fiction)

The restlessness of a great city, and the way in which it tumbles and tosses before it can get to sleep, formed one of the first entertainments offered to the contemplation of us houseless people. It lasted about two hours. We lost a great deal of companionship when the late public-houses turned their lamps out, and when the potmen thrust the last brawling drunkards into the street; but stray vehicles and stray people were left us, after that. If we were very lucky, a policeman’s rattle sprang and a fray turned up; but, in general, surprisingly little of this diversion was provided. Except in the Haymarket, which is the worst kept part of London, and about Kent-street in the Borough, and along a portion of the line of the Old Kent-road, the peace was seldom violently broken. But, it was always the case that London, as if in imitation of individual citizens belonging to it, had expiring fits and starts of restlessness. After all seemed quiet, if one cab rattled by, half-a-dozen would surely follow; and Houselessness even observed that intoxicated people appeared to be magnetically attracted towards each other; so that we knew when we saw one drunken object staggering against the shutters of a shop, that another drunken object would stagger up before five minutes were out, to fraternise or fight with it. When we made a divergence from the regular species of drunkard, the thin-armed, puff-faced, leaden-lipped gin-drinker, and encountered a rarer specimen of a more decent appearance, fifty to one but that specimen was dressed in soiled mourning. As the street experience in the night, so the street experience in the day; the common folk who come unexpectedly into a little property, come unexpectedly into a deal of liquor.

At length these flickering sparks would die away, worn out–the last veritable sparks of waking life trailed from some late pieman or hot-potato man–and London would sink to rest. And then the yearning of the houseless mind would be for any sign of company, any lighted place, any movement, anything suggestive of any one being up–nay, even so much as awake, for the houseless eye looked out for lights in windows.

Walking the streets under the pattering rain, Houselessness would walk and walk and walk, seeing nothing but the interminable tangle of streets, save at a corner, here and there, two policemen in conversation, or the sergeant or inspector looking after his men. Now and then in the night–but rarely–Houselessness would become aware of a furtive head peering out of a doorway a few yards before him, and, coming up with the head, would find a man standing bolt upright to keep within the doorway’s shadow, and evidently intent upon no particular service to society. Under a kind of fascination, and in a ghostly silence suitable to the time, Houselessness and this gentleman would eye one another from head to foot, and so, without exchange of speech, part, mutually suspicious.

Houselessness: this is the term Dickens uses to describe one of the homeless people

Potmen: a person who works in a pub or restaurant (usually washing the pots and pans)



Reading Tasks

Question 1:

This is the question that contains the true/false statements. It’s not simply retrieval – there is a need for students to infer meaning from the text.

Sample Question: refer only to the first three paragraphs for this question

  1. Sophie Haycock has volunteered to be homeless for a night.
  2. She only stayed out until 4.30 in the morning.
  3. The writer is enjoying her experiences.
  4. Rain is the least of her worries.
  5. She is sleeping in a church.
  6. She realises how unpleasant it is to be homeless. 
  7. Homeless people are vulnerable. 
  8. Simon on the Streets is a national charity organisation. 

Question 2:

This is the first comparison question on the paper. However, AQA have deliberately left the concept of the writer out of this question to dissuade students from writing about methods. Consequently, this question addresses the ‘what’ of the texts.

  • What do the texts describe? How are they similar or different?
  • For this question, you don’t need to comment on writer’s methods; there is no need to zoom in on words.
  • It’s all about retrieval and inference.

Sample Question: Haycock and Dickens describe their experiences on the streets. 

Use details from both sources to write a summary of their different experiences.

Question 3:

Either source 1 or source 2 might be chosen for this language question – it depends on which text is more ‘language rich’. It asks candidates to focus on a particular section of the text.

This question assesses AO2: words, phrases, language features, language techniques, sentence forms.

Either of these texts can be used for language analysis. The first two paragraphs of Street Life are particularly effective. Likewise, the last two paragraphs of Dickens’ text present some effective description of the sense of isolation felt by ‘houselessness’.

Sample Question: You now need to refer only to source B, Dickens’ description of being homeless  (the last two paragraphs)

How does Dickens use language to describe the people and the places?

 Question 4:

This is the second comparison question and asks candidates to consider methodology. For this question, candidates are expected to consider:

  • The differences or similarities in their experiences
  • Differences/similarities in the writer’s tone and attitude; how this reflects their feelings towards the subject
  • Use of imagery to reinforce meaning, testimonies, foregrounding or emphasis, bias (what is present or omitted), level of selectivity of information etc.
  • Differences/similarities in the use of language to convey feelings

Sample question 4:

Compare how the writers have conveyed their different views and experiences of being homeless.

In your answer, you could:

  • Compare their different views and experiences
  • Compare the methods they use to convey those views and experiences
  • Support your ideas with references to both texts.


Writing Task

Question 5:

This will be a polemical piece of writing (AQA is using the phrase ‘language for impact’). It echoes some of the writing tasks in question 6 of the legacy specification. The AQA document Writing Task for Paper 2 specifies the following writing genres:

  • writing to explain
  • writing to instruct/advise
  • writing to argue
  • writing to persuade


“Whilst the writing types here have some continuity with legacy specification assessments, and similarity to so called “triplets”, we can now apply them more flexibly. Because of the identity and ethos of Paper 2, the task will always be essentially discursive in nature – providing students with opportunities to communicate their personal view(s).” (AQA)


Write to explain Write to argue Write to persuade Write to instruct/advise
Explain what you think about… Argue the case for or against the statement that… Persuade the writer of the statement that… Advise the reader of the best way to…

This question (from legacy spec November 2012 paper) is a perfect fit for the two resources used above:

A recent report states: ‘Homelessness in the UK is a crisis that is destroying the lives of people, especially young people.’ Write an article for your school or college newspaper persuading young people to support charities which help the homeless.


3 thoughts on “GCSE English Language Paper 2

  1. Hi! Any chance if you have this resource in a document. Would appreciate both the sources and questions. If you could mail them to me, that would be splendid


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