There was some outstanding work showing a great deal of engagement with and enjoyment of the texts studied and an understanding of not only their content but also of the writers’ purposes and techniques.
  • The distinguishing mark of a really good response is what is referred to in the Mark Scheme as ‘clear critical understanding’, i.e. a sense of why a writer chooses a particular word or image in order to create a particular effect. It was very pleasing to see how many candidates were able to look at language analytically and not only identify a particular technique or figure of speech but also comment on the effect created for the reader or audience.
  • Some clearly able and knowledgeable candidates failed to do themselves full justice as they did not explicitly refer to and engage with key words in the question such as 'memorably', 'dramatic', 'ironically', 'strikingly', during the course of their responses. The central consideration when assessing any answer must be relevance to the task. Words like ‘powerfully’ and ‘memorably’ are there for the purpose of eliciting a particular response and should not be ignored.

  • It was very pleasing to see so many excellent responses to the passage-based questions with real focus on the actual words.
  • The most successful answers tended to identify key points and then to develop theirarguments by reference to details from the extracts, rather than to trawl through the extracts in a line by line fashion. Sometimes when candidates took the latter approach, they ran out of time and did not deal with some key issues. (This was particularly evident in responses to Questions 7 and 13.) It is quite surprising,however, that some candidates do not quote freely form the extract when it is in front of them.
  • The risks of ignoring keywords were most marked with the poetry questions; a significant number of candidates were determined to give their particular interpretations while overlooking the slant indicated by the questions.
  • Digressions into writers’ biographical details (a particular problem with some responses to Hardy and Keats) generally have little bearing on the question. Examiners are looking for focus on the task and ‘informed personal response’, i.e. an opinion or direct response which is supportable from the text.

Several Examiners commented that some candidates ignore the fact that a play is designed to be performed. One reported: ‘I do not think I saw one candidate who used the word ‘audience’ (it was always ‘reader’)
  • The empathic questions were popular, though it was clear that some Centres had advised their candidates to avoid them.
  • The best examples were impressive, capturing the voice and the thoughts of a particular character in language which echoed the writer’s style very precisely.
  • Weaker answers often captured the characters’ thoughts and feeling but without sufficient detailed support. It is important to demonstrate knowledge of the text in these questions, not necessarily in great detail, but with enough to demonstrate that the answer is securely rooted in the text.
  • The least successful answers to these questions tended to be almost entirely narrative, however.