AQA · English · For Pupils · Language paper 1 · Reading skills · structure

Y11 – a reminder about Q3 structure (again…)

Structure is all about how the text is put together, why the writer has done it this way and the effects it has on the reader’s appreciation and understanding of the text.

  • The question wants you to analyse the effects of the writer’s use of structure.
  • You should refer to precise points in the text to support what you say.

Follow the bullet points in the question. They ask you to analyse:

  • what the writer focuses your attention on at the beginning
  • how and why the writer changes this focus as the source develops
  • any other structural features that interest you.

There is no need to analyse language techniques or ‘zoom in’ on particular words (unless you feel that the word has particular structural significance to the text). You will use quotations where it is necessary but also you might just use references that point to parts of the text.

  • Firstly, imagine you are watching a film and try to see how each part of the extract shifts from one ‘scene’ to another. Then ask yourself the questions: WHY has the focus shifted and WHAT is the effect?
  • Are the events sequenced in chronological or non-chronological order?
  • Who is telling the story? Is it a consistent viewpoint throughout? Does the narrative viewpoint change at all? Why do you think this is?

Now think about these points regarding how the text is structured/sequenced:

  • Look at the beginning of the extract and the end. How have things changed? Character/setting/mood/events? Was the ending FORESHADOWED at the beginning? Does the ending echo/repeat/reflect anything else that happened in the extract?
  • What are the pivotal moments in the extract? Why are these important? What do these tell us about character/situation etc. What is the effect of these moments on the reader?
  • Are there any time shifts? Switches in narrative perspective? Any dramatic turns of events? Has the writer introduced a new character? Has the text shifted its setting? Shifted mood? Think about why the writer has done these things and the effects they have (a) on the dynamics of the narrative and (b) on the reader.
  • Sentences: are there any key sentences that have structural importance? A sentence that shifts the focus or mood for example?

Once you’ve done this, decide on the three or four key moments in the passage you’re going to focus on. Make sure you draw your evidence from the beginning, middle and end. 

Key phrase: ‘At this point in the text’…  So, for example, an answer might follow this sort of structure (commit some of these phrases to memory – use them!): 

“The extract opens with …. At this point in the text, the writer wants to/the reader feels/the characters are…. The opening prepares the reader for the rest of the extract because …

The focus then shifts to ….. The effect of this is …. At this point in the text, the reader/writer/protagonist feels ….

Towards the end of the extract, the mood of the extract takes it most dramatic shift. This happens when … The writer has drawn our attention to … This is important because … There is a clear shift in viewpoint here which makes the reader think of …

Finally, the extract concludes with an emphasis on … This has clearly been signposted throughout the extract because … At this point in the text, the writer wants to make the reader feel that … However, the conclusion also makes me think that …”

Try this practice paper here and read here for some tips on how to answer it.

What is meant by subject terminology for the structure question. Here are some phrases and words you might use:

  • Opens with /at the beginning
  • The paragraph/sentence foreshadows
  • Establishes
  • Flashback/flash forward
  • Echoes/repeats
  • recurring image/motif
  • third person/first person/omniscient
  • Exterior perspective
  • Interior perspective
  • chronological / non-chronological
  • Viewpoint
  • Perspective
  • Focus on/focus shifts to /focus narrows to
  • In the second half of the text
  • At this point
  • These two paragraphs juxtapose/contrast/contradict each other
  • Zooms in / narrows to
  • Shifts / shifts focus to
  • pivotal moment
  • Concludes with
  • The ending reminds us of/sums up the idea that
  • Cyclical



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