A sample response to Question 3 on AQA English Language Paper 1 Higher Tier

Following on from last week’s post about Question 3 on Paper 1H, I’m going to share with you my own response for one of the papers.

I always start with a really good read, highlighting everything I think I might use. Then I read again and narrow down. This is a response to reading question, so the more carefully I read, the better my answer should be – in theory!

I’m going with the November 2014 paper and I’ve included a printed version of the source text which has my initial quote selection, so you can see how I start with a very wide selection of quotes, underlining everything that might be relevant, then I narrow down to the specifics I want to use. Believe it or not, I’m going to have about 25 – 30 brief quotes I want to use, some 6-8 per paragraph, and I’m aiming to write 3 – 4 paragraphs in about 10 minutes. 12 minutes tops.

The question, as always is:

Explain some of the thoughts and feelings the writer has as…

And in this case the precision is “as she cycles home.”

To get top band marks, I’m looking at doing three things:

  1. Having appropriate quotations that support my ideas
  2. Explaining and interpreting the thoughts and feelings
  3. Engaging in detail

I’m also bearing in mind the Chief Examiners’ Report which reminds me that I am not being assessed on writing about linguistic choices or language features.

With those things in mind, I started my first read-through.

GCSE sample annotation.jpg

Then I planned out my answer briefly:

  1. Invincibility: “had to”, “the wind threatened,” “I was impressive”, “I’d beaten everyone”, “I felt unassailable”
  2. Contrast with her feelings of pleasure about school dinner-time and “no-one knowing” about her free school dinners and the liveliness of the lunch-hall.
  3. She feels above playing and her friends, she’s “a grammar school girl”

I can start to pick out key feelings: pride, shame, invincibility. These will form my introductory sentence and a conclusion too.

Finally, I’m ready to write. I’m typing this and my typing is less fast than my writing, so I’m going to give myself 15 minutes to type it.

From the moment Jane sets off from school, the ride home becomes “a race” as she “beats” a number of competitors, “though they didn’t know it.”. From the “Northgate Boys” to the “Northgate girls” and the “vespa” scooter, she “overtook them easily”. It’s like this is her moment of proof, where she can be better than anyone else, thinking that she is being “watched admiringly” by the “people on the pavement”. This is her victory ride, where she can triumph, and she seems to hugely enjoy it, the speed and exhilaration of seeing the world as it “flew by” and seeing off competitor after competitor. When she says that she felt “unassailable”, we really see that she feels invincible, like nothing can beat her. She is unstoppable. It seems to give her a huge rush, swelling her ego and making her think that she “was impressive”, that she stands out from the crowds. This is her moment of glory and when she says that she was “sure” she was being watched, it seems to reveal her desire to be recognised, to be admired. 

This is in contrast to the loose daydream she has in the fourth paragraph about school dinners, where she seems glad that “no one knew” that she had free school dinners. Here, she is glad to fade into the background and happy that her poorer background in these “grand” and exotic settings isn’t something that is known. She says that “no one knew” once she was in the canteen that her name went into the “separate” book each morning, that she is once again anonymous, as she is on the bike ride. In contrast, on the bike ride, she is “admired” and recognised, what she seems to enjoy about the canteen is that she is anonymous. She seems to be ashamed of the fact she has free school dinners and that this is not known when she is in the canteen. Like the bike ride, the canteen is pleasurable: “I liked it”. 

The canteen and the ride home seem to be the highlights of her day: she gets home and has a great pleasure in having homework to do as it “impressed” her. Her former life, “the shed” seems to be a world that she has cast off now, and she is incredulous that she spent such a long time playing there, in the “dark, musty space” with Margaret Whitman and Margaret Hayward, which also seems rather embarrassing for her, something that she is ashamed of. She is intensely proud of being “a grammar school girl” and how grown up it is with homework. It’s no longer in keeping with playing in dusty sheds with her childhood friends: she seems to think that she is above all of these childish things now. Ironically the pleasures she now gets are from the thrill of the bike ride home and the exotic world of “school doughnuts”, “jam sponge with coconut” which are “unlike anything Gran ever made”. She mentions when she talks about the sixth form and prefects that they seemed “grand and remote” to her, and it seems to be this grandeur that is appealing to her too. The bike ride, however, shows that she still appreciates the simple things in life, she feels for the first moment in her day perhaps that she is worth watching and she wants to stand out from the crowd. 

With these three paragraphs, I’ve covered the whole text, although I wanted to spend a little longer on the final two paragraphs. That’s always something that happens. People focus too much on the beginning and run out of time and steam by the final paragraphs. It’s just something to bear in mind. Looking back at the markscheme, I hope I have managed to achieve those three aspects, with appropriate supportive quotation, detailed engagement with the passage, explaining and interpreting her thoughts and feelings.

If you are struggling with any aspect of AQA Paper 1, please send me an email and get in touch. Skype sessions start from £15 for one hour. You can have as many sessions as you feel like you need.



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