AQA · AQA new specification · English · For Pupils · Teaching Ideas

Question 4 on paper 2

Question 4 on paper 2 is another comparison question – only this time you need to do more than compare content – you have to think about

a) the writer’s viewpoint and

b) how they convey this viewpoint

We’ve been looking at two texts about prisons – see here and now we have to compare for question 4 which looks like this:

For this question you need to refer to the whole of source A together with the whole of source B.

Compare how the writers have conveyed their different views and experiences of the institutions they describe. In your answer, you could:

  • compare their different views experiences
  • compare the methods they use to convey those views and experiences
  • support your ideas with quotations from both texts.

I’ve reduced this down to this:

  • What are the writers’ different views and perspectives about the subject?
  • How have they conveyed these views and perspectives?

I drew a table on the board – see below – with viewpoints, methods and how they are different across the top (not dissimilar to the table we used for q2).

Firstly, we tackled viewpoints. What are these? What do we mean by this? If you look at the image, down the left hand side I put some ‘viewpoint’ prompts:

what does the writer focus on; how do they feel about…; what is their attitude towards…; what’s the writer saying to make us feel ….; how does the writer come across… ?

IMG_2217And so, if you look at the viewpoints column, we decided that source A (Mayhew) focused on the prisoners and the work that they did; he tried to show how organised they were; we got a bit stuck on ‘attitude towards’ so I asked them why he would focus on the tight discipline and control of the prisoners? Why he wanted to show his readers how the prison seemed to reduce these prisoners to functional cogs in a machine. The students thought that there was almost a sense of admiration here, so we put this in the viewpoints column.We then did the same for source 2.

Before we looked at methods, I decided to ask the group to think about the end column – how the viewpoints are different – this is a sort of plenary, it enables the students to think about the relationships between the text. Coming up with two or three clear differences also makes us see that the question can be answered and gives us something to use as a basis for comparison later.

We then went back to the middle column to think about which methods the writer used to convey these viewpoints. As usual, there is that sense of confusion about what we mean by methods.

  • Words!
  • Focus on particular details
  • Adjectives, nouns, verbs (description of places and people)
  • Emotive language
  • Metaphors, similes, personification
  • Repetition
  • Lists


  • Semantic fields (words linked to a particular topic etc)
  • Sentences types
  • Facts, opinions

There is a bit of a hierarchy of simplicity here – if you can’t think of a method, then start with words; then think about what the writer is focussing on – details; then move in to the big hitters.

The completed grid then offers us a visual representation of the differences and covers the different elements of the question. I’ve set this for homework, but can you see the numbers across the top? The students wanted to start with viewpoints, move on to methods and then look at differences. I said no – use the end column (the differences) to structure your answer, then move on to columns 1 and 2. So a comparative paragraph might begin

Source A sees the prisoners as having a purpose and providing a function whereas source B sees the prisoners as lacking dignity…

Using this as a ‘coat-hanger statement’ (they can hang the rest of the analysis off it) helps them to build more effective comparisons. After this, they will explore the viewpoint in source A, follow it up with the method and analyse the method in the way they’ve been taught – hopefully! I’ll let you know…

For my students – remember the differences between a q2 and a q4 answer… The answer on the left is a typical q4 type answer.Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 17.58.49



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