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Redhill Revision – here are the tips for paper 2 English Language

GCSE English Language: Some Exam Tips for Paper 2. I have put a PPT here – it’s the one we’re using in class

 In this paper, you are asked to read two extracts of non-fiction

  • ONE will be from the 19th century
  • ONE will be contemporary – either 20th or 21st century

 There are FOUR reading questions and ONE writing question

  • Q1 – true/false – 4 marks
  • Q2 –WHAT are the differences OR similarities between two sources (whole text) – 8 marks
  • Q3 – language analysis of a section of the text– 12 marks
  • Q4 – COMPARE VIEWPOINTS in the two sources (whole text) – 16 marks
  • Q5 – writing to express a viewpoint – 40 marks

Question 1 (thank you to 

 for these Q1 and Q3 tips) 

  • “On the source, put a highlighted box around the lines you are being asked to answer about 
  • Highlight ‘shade the circle in the boxes’.
  • When you read through the statements the first time, put a little dot next to the letter of the statements which you think are true.
  • Read the statements really carefully; question fully and cross reference with the text
  • When you’re happy you’ve selected the right four, shade the circles in the boxes.
  • Spend no more than 5 minutes answering this question and then move on.”

Question 2

 Question 2 asks you to write about the differences (or similarities) between the two given sources

  • The question will ask you to write about the differences from a given FOCUS
  • It’s a WHAT question – in other words, you identify CONTENT rather than writer’s techniques or viewpoints
  • Look for THREE things to say about each source
  • Use SQI (statement, quotation, inference) to structure your response
  • Use linking words such as ‘however’ or ‘similarly’
  • Use linking phrases such as ‘source b is different because’; ‘on the other hand’; ‘this is different to source a because’

Example from comparing Henry Mayhew’s visit to a prison (19th century) and Alex Cavendish’s visit to a prison (contemporary) – see attached. We used these in year 10. I’ve attached links to these at the end of this blog. Here’s an example question based on these texts:

Both sources are about different institutions and the people in them. Use details from both sources to write a summary of the differences.

In source A the prison contains “long corridors” and “long tunnels”, which makes the place seem like a never ending maze and makes it appear quite intimidating. It also has “narrow galleries” and “little mid-air bridges” to reinforce the sense of confinement and the prisoners inability to escape. The prison in source B also has rooms that “steadily get more and more enclosed”, which like the prison in source A suggests a feeling of claustrophobia. Whilst both texts show the prisons to be places of discipline, source B makes the prison feel more threatening with its “high fence topped with razor wire”, which feels more brutal and reminds us of its status as a prison.  

Both places are described as being functional and highly regulated but in different ways. In source A it appears the guards are more in control “watching the work” of the convicts, whilst other officers were “observing the movements of the prisoners.” However in source B the sense of control comes from the “CCTV” and the posters that warn about bullying and “smuggling contraband.” Therefore it is almost as if, in modern prisons, it is the minds of the prisoners rather than the bodies that are being controlled.

Notice how this example

  • Focuses on the content
  • Sticks to the question focus (in this case the differences between the institutions)
  • It infers about the differences
  • It does not waste time commenting on or analysing language devices

Question 3 (again, thank you to the learning profession blog for these tips)

  • “Put a highlighted box around the lines you are being asked to analyse
  • Remember: words and phrases; language features and techniques; sentence forms.
  • Highlight the focus of the question e.g. to describe the storm.
  • 3 is the magic number! Find three words or phrases that most grab your attention in relation to the question. What effects do these words/phrases have? Can you identify any techniques the writer has used in your selections
  1. Makes the reader want to read on
  2. Puts an image in the reader’s mind (OF WHAT!?!?!?)
  3. Makes it interesting/engaging
  4. Makes it flow
  • Say a lot about a little. Don’t select things you don’t think you can explore – that’s the danger of feature spotting rather than picking things that grab your attention.
  • Fully explore the effect of the language used by the writer – what does it make the reader think, feel or imagine?
  • Write 3 PEEZL paragraphs
  • Spend no more than 10 minutes answering this question and then move on.”

Question 4 

This question asks us to compare VIEWPOINTS/PERSPECTIVES. What do we mean by a VIEWPOINT?

  • What a writer feels about…
  • What a writer focuses on might give us a clue
  • The writer’s attitude towards…
  • Tone – how do they ‘come across’?

We need to identify WHAT the writer feels and HOW they get across these feelings – so you need to comment on and analyse METHODS

One way to structure your answer might be like this – see this PPT for a walk through paper 2:

  • Viewpoint source A: what is the writer’s viewpoint?
  • What method has the writer used to convey their viewpoint?
  • Where is the evidence for this viewpoint?
  • Zoom in on a word or phrase from the quotation. What does this tell us about the writer’s mood/feelings? Say a couple of things about your selected quotation
  • Viewpoint source B: what is the writer’s viewpoint? How is this different from the viewpoint in source A?
  • What method has the writer used to convey their viewpoint?
  • Where is the evidence for this viewpoint?
  • Zoom in on a word or phrase from the quotation. What does this tell us about the writer’s mood/feelings? Say a couple of things about your selected quotation

Try and write two to three paragraphs on each source. Identifying the different viewpoints.

Here’s an example from the two texts about prisons that we looked at in year 10

Although both writers seem to focus on the sense of order and discipline in the prisons they describe, Cavendish is able to convey a more convincing mood of institutionalisation perhaps because he can speak from experience. He captures the sense of increasing confinement as he is lead through the rooms which ‘steadily get smaller and more enclosed’; the comparatives used here (smaller, more enclosed) suggest a growing feeling of claustrophobia and threat, reinforced by the ‘high fence topped with razor-wire’ which adds to the harsh and seemingly inhuman atmosphere that Cavendish conjures up.

Mayhew too captures the increasing sense of confinement- the mention of the ‘long corridors’ which are repeated several times in the extract, and the ‘long tunnels’ all add to the sense of labyrinthine space that the writer conveys; however, rather than the impersonal an harshness of Cavendish’s experience, Mayhew seems to humanise the place with its sense of busyness – there is ‘stream’ of workers that operate with ‘military precision’ – the metaphor here symbolising not only the high levels of discipline but also a sense of cooperation. Mayhew observes the ‘bustle and life’ of the place which contrasts significantly with the pathetic souls that Cavendish describes – the ‘unwashed men’ who appear to have lost all dignity and self-respect.         

Notice how this example really drills down in to the writer’s attitudes and viewpoints, provides evidence and analyses in detail how that evidence works.

Question 5

This is the writing question.

There are 24 marks for AO5 which is content (ideas, range), structure (strong openings, endings, linked ideas), paragraphing, use of language (don’t forget to use some clever devices like metaphor, personification, etc), sentence structures (short ones for effect; lists; rhetorical questions)

There are 16 marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Some tips for question 5:

  • Spend 5/10 minutes planning – THIS IS NOT NEGOTIABLE.

“You don’t get marks for a plan, but a plan gets you marks”

  • Aim to write about two and a half sides.
  • Remember your acronyms if this helps: DAFOREST, IMAFOREST, etc (Direct address, Imperatives, Modal verbs, Alliteration, Facts (and statistics), Opinions, Rhetorical devices/questions, Similes (and metaphors, personification etc), Triplets

Use this checklist as you write

  • Does the writing make sense? Is there a consistency of tone, viewpoint?
  • Have you answered the question?
  • Is there a clear structure to the writing?
  • How varied and ambitious is your vocabulary?
  • How varied are the sentence lengths and sentence openings?
  • Could you have used more varied punctuation?
  • Have you used any techniques to engage the reader? These could be metaphors, similes; they could be at sentence level: repetition, anaphora etc. Could they have done more?
  • How varied are your paragraphs? Do your paragraphs link together? Have you used some varied linking phrases? (Furthermore; even though; although some people say; there is also; consequently etc)
  • Are there frequent mistakes in punctuation and spelling?
  • What is the quality of writing overall? Is it interesting and engaging for the reader to read?

Remember the importance of topic sentences. These are sentences which signal to your reader the content of the paragraph it heads up. Use these to build a convincing and detailed paragraph. In your planning, aim for about 4 or 5 separate ideas which you will in your writing. For each of these have a topic sentence.

Here’s a paper 2 question 5 type task:

‘Housework is women’s work; men fix cars!’

Write an article for a Lifestyle magazine arguing for or against the view that men and women still have stereotypical roles in today’s society.

Firstly, what’s your stance on this? Think:

  1. What do I believe?
  2. Where is my evidence?
  3. What will I say to support my views?
  4. What are the opposing arguments? How can I counter them?
  5. How will I say it?

Think of an angle you’re going to take. In the example below, the writer decides to explore the way stereotypes are presented, how they’re encouraged through the media and whether they are still relevant.

For your planning, think of five paragraphs you could write – here are some ideas:

  • Para 1: the media – “One of the main culprits as far as stereotyping is concerned…” – front pages of newspapers; magazines; ‘perfect bodies’; reality TV shows etc
  • Para 2: ordinary people – it’s not just the media that is to blame. “Gender stereotypes are worryingly out of date yet some people still insist on believing in them…” The behaviour of men towards women; sexist language etc
  • Para 3: Advertising for children – toys and games. Play kitchens and guns etc
  • Para 4: What are the improvements? Recently, there have been signs of progress (or have there?)
  • Para 5: conclusion – what do you believe?

Here are a couple of good paragraphs – look at how they use language to convey their views. What methods does the writer use?

So we live in a world of equality, where stereotypes are supposed to be old-fashioned and gender roles are no longer fixed. Those images of women being carers, house-keepers, good wives and mothers and men being, well, men with rolled up sleeves and their legs stuck out from beneath a Ford Anglia are as old-fashioned as the idea that the world is flat.

And yet, only recently, leading male tennis players suggested that if it wasn’t for men, then the women’s tennis game would be irrelevant. Who said the old ways are dead?

SO we’ve got some humour, lists, informal language combined with more formal ideas. We’ve also got some engaging sentence stems (we live in a world…; ‘And yet…’) Finally, the good old rhetorical question

Here’s another:

This Christmas, my sister bought her three year old daughter a plastic play kitchen and a crying doll, whilst her brother received a football and a book about motor racing. As they ran to me with their new gifts, their eyes glazed over with the magic of Christmas, what was I supposed to say to my family? Was I supposed to berate them for their misguided choices and the fact that they were perpetuating the gender stereotypes that thousands of men and women had fought hard to breakdown? Was I supposed to say to the children that they should throw away their toys, or even better swap them? Imagine the scene when these devastated young children ran to their parents to complain about their wicked uncle who had just become the biggest Grinch since, well, Grinch?

And we say that stereotypes are dead?

This example uses an anecdote. Sentences are varied and sophisticated with embedded clauses; vocab is also sophisticated (berate, perpetuating). Again there’s humour but it is controlled and doesn’t go too far. Also, the single sentence paragraph for impact.


NB The link to the prison sources is here for the Henry Mayhew (19th century text)

and here for the Alex Cavendish contemporary text

See here for a great blog on paper 1


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