AQA LIT GCSE PAPER 1: SHAKESPEARE AND THE 19th CENTURY NOVEL – A BRIEFISH OVERVIEW

First off: the thing about this paper is that it will always ask you to do two things in response to the question:

  • write about the extract, and
  • write about the rest of the play/novel.

Every question will be the same. This makes it a bit easier as you will be able to practise this approach with your two texts.

A QUICK LOOK AT THE ASSESSMENT OBJECTIVES

I don’t want to spend too long on these at the start as they don’t mean much in isolation from the questions. But I thought it might be useful to list them now, in such a way that they make sense and are useful. So, not in exam speak.

  1. The first Assessment Objective (AO) asks you to respond in a personal, informed way to the texts. It wants you to write in a suitably intelligent way and use quotations to support your points of view.
  2. The second AO asks you to focus on language, form and structure. In other words, how the writer uses certain language features (such as simile, metaphor etc.) and how they structure their writing (using sentence length, stanzas and so on).
  3. The third AO focuses on the relationship between texts, particularly the time in which they were written. So how two texts from different time periods deal with the same sort of theme.
  4. The fourth AO asks you to write well. Spelling, punctuation, paragraphs and so on.

It’s worth you knowing that in this paper the first two are way more important than the last two. The first two are worth 30 marks combined, and the last two only 10 marks combined.

And what are assessment objectives for? To be honest they are a tick list. They feed into the mark scheme and allow Jeff to go tick tick tick as he speeds through your paper. This is why they are important. Because if you cover them off in your answer, making sure every sentence shows one or more of them, you’re on a winner.

HOW JEFF WILL MARK YOUR PAPER

Jeff is given strict instructions as to how to mark your paper. I’m not giving any secrets away here as you can find this in the sample mark scheme on the website. Let’s take a moment to look at these instructions, as this will enable you truly to get inside his head.

  1. First off: he reads through your answer and assigns it to a certain level. He does this by checking your answer against the bullet points which link to those assessment objectives above. Here’s an example from level 4 (which would relate in the end to around a grade 4-5):
Level 4

Clear understanding

16–20 marks

AO1
  • Clear,explained response to task and whole text
  • Effective use of references to support explanation

 

AO2
  • Clear explanation of writer’s methods with appropriate use of relevant subject terminology
  • Understanding of effects of writer’s methods on reader
AO3
  • Clear understanding of ideas/perspectives/ contextual factors shown by specific links between context/text/task
  1. What he then does is consider where in this level you sit, and awards marks accordingly. Each of the above has a further level of detail that he can refer to when making up his mind:
How to arrive at a mark:
At the top of the level, a candidate’s response is likely to be clear, sustained and consistent. It takes a focused response to the full task which demonstrates clear understanding. It uses a range of references effectively to illustrate and justify explanation; there will be clear explanation of the effects of a range of writer’s methods supported by appropriate use of subject terminology. Clear understanding of ideas/perspectives/contextual factors.

At the bottom of the level, a candidate will have Level 3 and be starting to demonstrate elements of understanding and/or explanation of writer’s methods and/or contexts.

TOP TIP

Each of the different levels has key words attached to it. It’s worth looking at these now so that you can see the difference between the levels, because the AOs don’t change – just how you respond to them.

Level Key words
1 Simple comment
2 Supported response, some awareness
3 Some explained response, some understanding
4 Clear explained response, clear explanation, clear understanding
5 Thoughtful, developed response, examination of writer’s methods, thoughtful consideration of ideas
6 Critical, exploratory, analysis of writer’s methods, exploration of ideas

You can see here that each level expects more from you. To get those top grades (and this is why you’re reading this, let’s be honest), you need therefore to:

  • Show thought, care, and consideration for what the writer is trying to achieve;
  • Clearly examine how the writer uses techniques and the effects they have;
  • Get right under the surface of the text – remember that characters aren’t real people but rather are created to explore ideas, themes and so on (more on this later);
  • Show an exploratory approach using phrases such as ‘this suggests….’, ‘the writer shows us that..’, ‘we could say that…’. It is this more tentative language that actually shows greater thought and depth, as you are not afraid to test out ideas and assumptions.

Simple, eh?

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