AQA GCSE English Language Paper 2 Question 1 revision

If you’re revising for AQA GCSE English Language, you’re probably not spending much time on Question 1, although it’s definitely worth a quick look and a bit of revision.

You can find guidance on Paper 1 Question 1 here. They are different in some ways although they are assessing the same skill. If you ask me, Paper 1 Q1 is harder. Most people get three or four marks on both questions, though. They’re both designed to ease you into the paper and so they shouldn’t be too terrifying. Paper 1 Q1 can be a little bit harder because you’re not given the phrases, so there’s more potential to go wrong – to pick quotes or details from the wrong part of the passage or to make a poor inference – but Q1 on paper 2 presents challenges of its own.

Let’s look at a sample question, from June 2017.

First, you’re asked to look at a bigger section than Paper 1, so there is more reading to do. That means it can take you a little longer than you might expect.

Second, most of the problems on this question come from not following the guidance given you. It tells you to shade the circle if you think it’s true. If you make a mistake there are things you need to do, but shading a circle for the true statements is your first thing.

That looks like this:

It doesn’t really matter if you colour in the lines. It matters if you use black (you should) and that’s all you need to do.

But over 10% of June 2017 students did other things instead…

Like this:

Now AQA aren’t going to fail you for doing this (although SHADE THE CIRCLE is simple advice) but you can see the problem of this script – and I’ve chosen a font that is a bit indecipherable. For most people T or F are quite distinguishable, but if that horizontal line though the F is not very long or clear, then it could be a T. And this is an examiner headache. Examiners aren’t paid to peer at your scruffy handwriting and try to work out if you’ve done an F or a T. That’s why it says SHADE THE CIRCLE. That way, we don’t need courses in Advanced Graphology to decipher your hieroglyphics.

So shade the circle. Don’t. Do. Anything. Else. Just shade the circle.

That said, it looks like far fewer students made that mistake from June to November if you read the examiners’ reports (available online) but it’s worth remembering.

Now if you are anything like me, you are fraught with uncertainty and doubt. Does the statement mean exactly this? Is it a trick? Will I fail the whole paper if I get this wrong?

To help you more, there’s a rough sequence to the statements

It’s not like you have go hunting back and forward around the text. So if you are of an anxious disposition, you can always highlight the text as I have done.

You may also then want to write T or F IN PENCIL down next to the letters before you shade the circle in pen and rub out the T or F so as not to leave any doubt. If you’re not sure, you can always use a question mark.

So do this:

And this:

Before you do this:

Although that may take you a ridiculous amount of time for what is just a 4 mark question. 5 minutes max.

This is an easy question, but don’t be hasty. There are some inferences you’ll need to make. Some are straight deductions. Sometimes they swap a ‘has’ in the text for a ‘has not’ in the answer, or use loose antonyms like ‘quite hard’ and ‘easy’ in the text and answer booklet. Sometimes they’re just rephrased. But don’t overthink it. It’s not that tough, honest!

Next up, a look at Question 2 on Paper 2

GCSE English Language Writing: Organisation and Links

This post is part of a series about AQA GCSE English Language Paper 2, focusing specifically on Question 5. I’ve been taking you through aspects of the mark out of 24 for content and organisation, specifically looking at appropriate register and form.

When awarding a mark for content and organisation, we have a number of things to consider in order to arrive at a mark. In fact, you wouldn’t believe the intricacies of the things that are considered.

No wonder my head hurts when I’m marking… and no wonder students forget things.

As you can see, we’re making decisions about all the aspects here. I’ve spent the last few posts looking at things that help you create the right register, as well as ticking a few boxes for structural features too. I’ve also looked at development, and ways you can extend your ideas.

Next up is organisation and linking: how you can reach the top marks. I’m specifically looking at three things: paragraphs & cohesion, discourse markers and links between ideas

I’ve separated these strands out for you:

There is one about links and ideas: how well the ideas are linked to each other, ranging from ‘not at all’ at the bottom to ‘really well’ at the top.

Then there’s a strand about how coherent your paragraphs are, ranging from ‘no paragraphs’ to ‘fluently linked paragraphs’

These two strands are what I’ll roughly term ‘links within paragraphs’ and ‘links between paragraphs’. We used to call these things cohesion and coherence, but I’ve not seen those terms for a while, and those are kind of vague and confusing words anyway. They both kind of mean similar things.

Links within paragraphs (what I’d call coherence) is the way the parts of a thing fit together as a whole. That could be, of course, at a whole-text level, about your whole thing, but it can also be on a paragraph by paragraph basis.

There is a very nice definition here:

Coherence is the bridges between words, sentences and paragraphs

What I’d call the glue or mortar between the pieces or ‘bricks’ that make up the ‘wall’ of an essay. They’re the things you do when you write that connect your ideas together.

So when I get some writing, I look at it and I think ‘how is this idea connected to the next/last?’ – ‘why does it need to come in this order?’

It’s the things you do that make your writing connected and that make it ‘flow’, or make it fluent. You see things in the markscheme about it being fluent, about it being integrated, about it being seamless.

Basically, at the bottom, ideas in paragraphs aren’t joined. At the top, ideas are joined in so many interesting ways that you are amazed by the beauty of that glue when you get out your red pen and look at it carefully.

I’m going to show you both ends of the scale: what writing looks like without any links and what it looks like with very secure links. I’m going to take an adapted task from Writing Connections (Pearson) that I wrote some years ago.

A national TV channel is planning a new programme called ‘Britain’s Got Heroes’, asking the public to nominate their favourite famous hero. Write a letter to the programme organisers in which you give your nomination and explain why you think your hero should be included in the programme.

What I’m going to look at first is some writing where the links are less than clear. You’ll see what I mean straight away.

Dear Sir or Madam,

He was born in Switzerland and is a tennis player. I am a student in Manchester. I will definitely be watching your programme. I am writing to you to nominate my hero Roger Federer. My brother likes Roger Federer and we agree that he is a very good sportsman. He has four children. He got to the quarter finals of Wimbledon in 2001. I really like tennis and so do a lot of other people in England. Roger Federer has a lot of determination. Many people like to watch Wimbledon in the summer. He does a lot of work for charity and he is married to tennis player. He has won many prestigious awards for his tennis playing. He is a very resilient person. I think he should be nominated for your award because he sets a good example.

He has had a very long career and he has a charitable foundation. They would like to see a tennis player win. Roger Federer has had a number of illnesses and injuries. I think it is really admirable when people can remain cool under pressure.

His best tennis year was in 2006 where he won many awards. He supports a lot of charities in South Africa. Tennis is very popular. Roger Federer has been playing tennis professionally for almost twenty years. He did a lot of work after the earthquake in Haiti to help raise funds for the people there.

Thank you for considering my nomination,


I had to really, really try to make this bad. As you can see though, it is a jumbled mess. Let’s start with paragraphs. Well, this has paragraphs. Does this person (me!) know how to use paragraphs? Well, it doesn’t look like it!

I’ve attempted paragraphs, but they’re still random and accidental.

Let’s think about those first and then move into the smaller bits.

What do paragraphs do? A paragraph is more than a bit of space before and after a block of writing. It’s about what’s in that block of writing as well. Let’s look at one of those paragraphs and I’ll tell you why it’s ‘random’…

He has had a very long career and he has a charitable foundation. They would like to see a tennis player win. Roger Federer has had a number of illnesses and injuries. I think it is really admirable when people can remain cool under pressure.

So… the first sentence is about his career AND his charitable foundation. Not really two linked ideas, but let’s see if either of those is picked up in the second sentence?

No. The second sentence is about how popular a tennis player would be as a winner (of what?) and who knows who ‘they’ are?

Are they picked up perhaps in the third sentence?

No. That’s about illness and injuries, not about his long career or his charities, or about why tennis is popular.

What about the fourth?

No. That’s about what the writer finds admirable.

Four completely unlinked sentences. Those ideas have no business being in the same paragraph as each other.

What else is wrong with it?

First, there’s no sense of who ‘he’ is. It’s usual at the beginning of a paragraph to re-state the name or something to make it clear who or what is being talked about. Pronouns are best left for later in the paragraph. There are also connectives like ‘and’ but there is no reason to link the first idea and the second. Then there’s another pronoun, but it’s not clear who ‘they’ are, except it might be referring back to someone outside the paragraph maybe? Again, pronouns are best used when it’s clear who is being referred to – and if in doubt, make sure they’re in the same paragraph. It would be nice to see his name used before the third sentence.

So how could anyone put this right?

The first is by having a plan for your middle paragraphs, and deciding on the order.

Let’s say I go with ‘Who I am – Who I’m nominating’, then I go with ‘information about Roger Federer’s tennis career’, then ‘information about his charitable work’, then finally I have ‘my reasons to nominate him’.

As I’ve said in other posts, three to four main ideas that are then expanded into paragraphs or sections is a good number to ensure detail and development as well as a range of ideas.

My plan doesn’t need to be much more complicated than that.

I will also decide in my plan which ideas are going to come to best explain why I’ve nominated him. Is his charitable work actually more important than his tennis? Or do you need to know about his personality through his tennis record to understand his charitable work?

Thinking about it, his charitable work sounds more like a quality for nominating a hero than playing tennis. He could play tennis and be an evil villain who keeps his millions locked up in a mansion with his seven wives, all of whom he beats.

Spending two minutes deciding on the main ideas I’m going to include and then deciding on the order those ideas would be best to go in will help me no end when it comes to writing in a clear and organised way.

To help me do this, some of the ways to develop my paragraphs are going to help. I think, once I’ve made my point, I might use a series of questions, and then some examples, a little explanation, maybe even some numbers to show just how generous he is. I’m remembering too that I’m writing to explain rather than to persuade, and so I may be more reasoned than I would be with a more pressing purpose.

Most people are surprised to learn just how much Roger has done to support disadvantaged children across the globe. Who, for instance, knows about his work in South Africa and Botswana, Namibia and Malawi? What about his donations to the victims of Hurricane Katrina? His involvement in Rally for Relief to support victims of the 2004 tsunami? Whilst his own charitable foundation focuses mainly on education, where he has changed the lives of almost a million children, he also regularly invites his allies and his on-court enemies to get involved in charitable events to raise funds for emergency relief around the world. It’s the fact that he does so much to widen the impact of his work and to ensure its sustainability that makes him such a good candidate for your programme: there are few philanthropists who rattle the collection bucket around their wealthy friends and supporters in order to get them involved too. 

So, this is my first attempt. Let’s look at those links. Red shows threads related to Roger Federer. Orange is to do with what people know about him. Green is good stuff he has done. Purple are things to do with his global presence. Bold is a development in the idea – that he gets his friends to join in and influences them too.

Most people are surprised to learn just how much Roger has done to support disadvantaged children across the globe. Who, for instance, knows about his work in South Africa and Botswana, Namibia and Malawi? What about his donations to the victims of Hurricane Katrina? His involvement in Rally for Relief to support victims of the 2004 tsunami? Whilst his own charitable foundation focuses mainly on education, where he has changed the lives of almost a million children, he also regularly invites his allies and his on-court enemies to get involved in charitable events to raise funds for emergency relief around the world. It’s the fact that he does so much to widen the impact of his work and to ensure its sustainability that makes him such a good candidate for your programme: there are few philanthropists who rattle the collection bucket around their wealthy friends and supporters in order to get them involved too. 

That gives you a fairly good idea of some of the ways you can link ideas. It’s so much more than the occasional discourse marker or connective!

#1 Direct repetition. Some of this is probably something you missed, like ‘get involved’. You can do this much more subtly by keeping them fairly far apart, and modifying them slightly to make them less noticeable.

#2 Synonyms. These needn’t be single words. ‘Across the globe’ and ‘around the world’ work like that.

#3 Pronouns. This just means substituting ‘he’ for ‘Roger Federer’ as and where suitable, along with all the other variations on that.

#4 Reference chains. This is where you use a combination of synonyms, direct repetition and pronouns to refer to ideas. There aren’t many in the passage, but Roger Federer – the tennis ace – this generous sports star – he – my favourite sports personality – the Swiss tennis player and so on would be a reference chain. We use reference chains not only to secure links and avoid too much repetition, but also to build up bias.

#5 Lexical fields. There are two ways to build up a word group. One is through picking out one word – like support- and building up the other word classes around it. Support in this case is a noun: ‘the support he offers’, so I can use other words from the same family: to support, supporting, supported, supportive, supportively, supporter, and so on. The other type of lexical field I can use are ones in the same group, sort of like synonyms or linked words, but I can also think of the sense of the word. Do I mean support as in he is a foundation, something structural? Because I can imply that he’s a cornerstone, a foundation, that he’s created an infrastructure, that underpins things, picking out lots of words to do with building. Or I could also mean financial support, like aid. I like the idea of him building something, that he is creating something sustainable, that will last when he is gone.

#6 Anaphoric reference. This is just a posh way of saying referring back to ideas or words you’ve used before. You’ll use #1-5 to do this. You can also use deictic reference. And that’s a posh way for terms like this, those, these, here, there, then, now. It also includes pronouns too. It helps make writing strong and avoid repetition because you have to have already explained what ‘this’ is, so it’s making your subsequent sentences depend on the first, like its roots are in previous sentences and the idea grows from that base.

#7 Discourse markers. This is the exam board term for words and phrases that not only link forward and backwards, like so, then, and, next, consequently, moreover and so on, but also words and phrases that indicate what something is. Words and phrases like for example, for instance and such as indicate an example. Then you have ones that indicate comparison and contrast, like similarly and alternatively. You have ones that identify explanation, that identify something is additional, that indicate logical order or to introduce summary. In the real world, many of you may find these things called ‘connectives’ or ‘conjunctions’. Dr Ian McCormick in his book, The Art of Connection: The Social Life of Sentences’ (see I told you Pop Non-Fiction likes colons in titles) explains a lot more about how sentences connect, if you’re a complete language boffin and you wish for more. For normal mortals, however, you can find good lists of helpful connectives.

Just a note on those helpful connectives: please don’t stuff them into your writing. I’ve seen students using one every single sentence. Also, consider where you put them. They don’t always have to go at the beginning.

So, if I’m looking back at my first example and at the markscheme, I’m definitely ‘coherent’ in my second paragraph, but I don’t think I’m fluently linked. They’re also clear, connected ideas too. That leaves me room for polish. I’m going to use some of the things from my list of 7 types of linking devices to smarten up and tighten up my writing.

So let’s polish…

Most people are surprised to learn just how much Roger has done to support disadvantaged children across the globe. Who, for instance, knows about the financial aid he gave to the victims of Hurricane Katrina? Or his organisation of the Rally for Relief to offer economic support to victims of the 2004 tsunami? But it’s not just about the money. Through his connections and position as sports’s most well-known humanitarian, this compassionate tennis ace has founded a legacy that goes beyond cash donations. The Roger Federer Foundation has been pivotal in South Africa and Botswana, Namibia and Malawi in building an infrastructure for educational development that will impact generations to come. It has already changed the lives of almost a million children. Perhaps most commendable are his efforts to encourage others to contribute as well. He also regularly invites his allies and his on-court enemies to get involved in charitable events to raise funds for emergency relief around the world. It’s the fact that he does so much to widen the impact of his work and to ensure its sustainability that makes him such a good candidate for your programme: there are few philanthropists who rattle the collection bucket around their wealthy friends and supporters in order to get them to pitch in and participate too.

So I’ve made some small changes, including moving one idea further on in the paragraph. I thought, looking back at it that it should go: financial aid – building a sustainable foundation – involving his rich and famous friends. If I were starting from scratch completely, I’d probably go from financial aid to involving his friends and then to the wider foundation. It makes more sense in terms of logical argument. Himself – his circle – a wider, global network. But it was a bit late to tinker. I’ve tried to add in some phrases that mark an increase in importance of the ideas with perhaps most commendable. Some of the changes I’ve made are small, like adding an or before the second question just to make it a little more clear that it is a different idea. Some just add a bit more variety, like changing ‘get involved’ to pitch in and participate as well as encourage others to contribute. I’ve got a little bias in there as well with the reference to him as this compassionate tennis ace. I changed the bit about his charity to give it the full title – because when I looked at it, the Roger Federer Foundation also picks up on that idea of cornerstones, support and building. Maybe I picked that up by diffusion and it was kind of sitting in the back of my head waiting for me to notice it.

In being more conscious of how your sentences build on one another within a paragraph, and in trying to use those seven linking devices between paragraphs (especially between the opening and the ending), you’ll find your writing is much more tightly structured. Linking your ideas is SO MUCH MORE than simply using a random connective here and there. I told you that it was intricate, and readers notice these things. You may not have understood how they work exactly, but you know when it’s wrong (like in my random first attempt) or when it’s awkward or random. Making solid links within and between paragraphs will help you move up that ladder of assessment, but don’t leave it to chance. The best writers start each sentence picking up ideas from earlier in their writing and consider before they writer where they are going with an idea. I have the luxury of editing. You’ll be writing on paper in an exam. Whilst I had the ability to chop, cut, paste, edit and amend, you will be much more restricted. Even more important, then, that you consider those intricacies of organisation!

GCSE English Language Technical Accuracy: sentence forms

Have you ever tried to use a range of sentence forms in your writing?

I have.

Let me tell you a story about a pair of tired old teachers who were knee-deep in exam papers. Some wag had decided to teach all their students to use the words of the question in the form of a question to start off their answer. Well, I guess that was what happened – I’m sure it had come from a place of wisdom rather than being an urban myth about how to pass GCSE that spread like wildfire among teenagers. Paper after paper came back with:

Have you ever been homeless?

Have you ever tried to organise an event for homeless people?

Have you ever thought about attending an event for homeless people?

And the likes.

It wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that every single one of those questions was answered.

Have you ever been homeless? I have.

Have you ever tried to organise an event for homeless people? I have.

Have you ever thought about attending an event for homeless people? I have.

After about five, let’s just say that it became a kind of weird, cruel and unusual punishment.  I can’t see a question like this and not think of my friend reading them out in a quasi-serious way every time she stumbled across them.

It’s one reason I find myself longing for stories and descriptions on Paper 1.

But they crop up there too!

Have you ever been on a bus journey through a city? I have.

Have you ever met someone completely different from you? …

Have you ever made an unusual discovery?

Have you ever sat at the foot of the mountains and pondered the meaning of life?

Why then, dear readers, has this hideous trope become quite so ubiquitous for GCSE students?

I suspect it hinges on two things: the accidental attempts of students to use DAFOREST (or any other mnemonic of rhetorical devices) in inappropriate and clumsy ways, and the misguided attempts of students to use a range of sentence forms.

After all, that is what the mark scheme asks for:

Let’s see…

Level 1 is roughly Grades 1-3. That asks for a simple range. That’s three different types of sentence, right? Two is not a range. But three is.

Level 2 is roughly Grades 3-5. That asks for an attempt to vary sentence forms. That means there is some conscious attempt to use different types of sentence. A reader can see attempts to make variety. I might see a simple sentence for effect, for example, or a question.

Level 3 is roughly Grades 5-7. That asks for a variety for effect. So by these grades, they are working and there is some understanding of how you can use sentence forms to affect the reader. That’s moving beyond the occasional, and it’s using longer sentences for effect as well, not just the easier stuff.

By Level 4, roughly Grades 7-9, there is a full range of appropriate sentence forms for effect. Seems clear. A full range is using an extensive variety. Appropriately means using them right.

So why do students go with that hideous ‘have you ever …. blah blah’ nonsense?

A direct address and a question seem to hit both linguistic features (for content and organisation) and range of sentences (for technical accuracy).

I’d like to draw your attention to a curious little word for Level 3 (so roughly grades 5-7) writing: APPROPRIATE. It crops up at level 4 for technical accuracy too.

Linguistic devices should be appropriate. Sentence use should be too.

I’d largely argue that the horrible direct address at the beginning of a story or description was conscious (upper level 2 – Grade 4ish) rather than appropriate (lower level 3 – Grade 5ish). And for technical accuracy, you need to be appropriate to move into Level 4.

But, my dears, if I take that nasty little ‘have you ever’ feature away from you, where does that leave us?

What even is a ‘simple range’ or a ‘full range’ of sentence forms? What even are the forms available to us when we write.

For once, I am grateful for my time in French primary schools. They are obsessed by types and forms of sentences. Obsessed. I mean they teach it over and over. It makes little difference to the nine-year-old students, but it left an indelible mark in my mind.

What are sentence types?

As a general rule, there are five. I started with three, and then I said ‘But Emma, what about… ‘ and so the list grew. Some will say three. Some will say four. I think I can find you at least five.

I’m not sure it’s a definitive list, but it’s a list nonetheless.

The first are simple sentences. My French colleagues teach that this is a sentence with one verb and one subject.

He ran.

The verb being ran and the subject being the subjective pronoun he.

The subject could also be a noun, a nominal group/noun phrase, a proper noun, an infinitive or implied – as well as lots of other things:

He ran. (subjective pronoun)
Daniel ran. (Proper noun)
A wave of irrational terror ran through the boy. (Nominal group or noun phrase)
The cat ran. (Determiner & noun)
To run is the greatest pleasure a boy can have. (An infinitive)
Run! (Implied)

But in all cases, there’s one verb and one subject (who or what did the verb).

Just as a point of interest, the simple sentence is vastly underused. A mastery of the simple sentence for effect is very much an example of higher-level writing. When you know how useful they are for expressing simple ideas, for speeding up text, for adding drama, for making your point clear, then you realise how very useful they can be. There is a messy ground where sentences may have one subject with two verbs (John dodged and feinted), or two subjects with one verb (John and Barry ran), and they fall into some other realm. Technically, since they have an ‘and’, they’re a kind of compressed compound sentence for the French. See below!

After this, we have the compound sentence, which I discussed in my post about the semi-colon. A compound sentence is joined by a FANBOYS (co-ordinating conjunction) and it splices two (or more) simple sentences together. You may find semi-colons, colons, ellipsis or dashes doing a happy job of replacing the co-ordinating conjunction, but you’ve still got at least two verbs and at least two subjects.

The monster rose up behind him. John ran.

Two verbs. Two subjects. Two simple sentences.

The monster rose up behind him, so John ran.

There are lots of accidental compound sentences permeating the work of Grade 2 – 5 students – the hideous run-on sentence which should have full stops, commas and the likes, but do not. Spliced by FANBOYS. Sounds like a terrible horror movie. I went to the shop and I bought a book about grammar and then I picked up some pencils so I could write a letter to my mum. Or even those sentences that are spliced by commas. I went to the shop, I bought a book about grammar, then I picked up some pencils so I could write a letter to my mum. When I see these accidental compound sentences, I am not thinking about Level 3. It goes back to punctuation use and demarcation, but someone who writes using commas instead of full stops, or uses too many FANBOYS, is not someone who understands what sentences are or even what they do.

Then you get the complex sentence, which has a main clause (kind of like a simple sentence) and then a subordinate clause (which doesn’t make sense without the other bit and depends on it) which is worthy of a lesson or two all on its own.

Although I like savouries, I prefer sweets.
Despite the persistent rain, we went out for lunch anyway.
I wrote endlessly about sentence types because I was bored of living.

You can do playful things with those subordinate clauses, of course. You can stick them at the front of the sentence, or you can embed them but you should never leave them dangling.

The fourth type of sentence is not wholly appreciated by all, although I love them. The sentence fragment. A sentence fragment usually has the verb missing or the subject missing. Or both.

The sentence fragment. (No verb)
Or both. (No verb)
Silence! (No verb or subject)
Congratulations! (No verb or subject)
Outside! (No verb or subject)
Weird! (No verb or subject)

Sentence fragments are used accidentally by students at the lower grades, and purposefully by those striving for the top. How that works is that round about Level 2 and 3, I’ve got a loose expectation that you have a growing competence with compound and complex sentences. By the top of Level 3 and into Level 4 (let’s talk Grade 6-9 then) I’ve got an expectation that you’ll be using simple sentences and fragments much more purposefully and efficiently. That makes it easier on you because – hooray! – you don’t have to master the harder stuff to get to the better marks. Indeed, better scripts may certainly have more simple sentences and fragments than you might be expecting.

Sounds kind of counter-intuitive doesn’t it? Do simpler stuff more and get better marks?

I’ll talk about that balance later.

So you’re anxiously waiting to hear what the final two sentences forms in my repertoire are… let’s talk about compound-complex and complex-compound

By the way, if you refer to these on Question 2 or 3 of paper 1, I’d like to remind you that a) most of the time students write ‘compound-complex sentences’ they have little idea of what that actually means, and 100% of the time I’ve seen this it has a) NOT been a compound-complex sentence and b) Had no relevance for answering Question 2 or 3 and was utterly unhelpful.

But, just to be brave, let’s talk compound-complex. This, logically, is one (or more) compound sentences where one of the clauses is dependent on another clause. The sentence that follows is – perhaps – a compound-complex sentence.

My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbors because she had brought me up “by hand.”

This is such a delight. Let’s look at the clauses…

I’ve taken out that little embedded name so that it’s a little less unwieldy.

I’ve put a full stop in and replaced the omitted subject. What you can see is that we have three sentences with three verbs. The last verb, ‘had brought’ is dependent on the ‘had established a great reputation’ because of the subordinating conjunction ‘because’.

If you’re still with me.

You can see then when the bits get put back in that there is one compound sentence, and one of those bits of the compound sentence is a complex sentence.

My brain ached and my eyes bled even though I thought it all made sense. 

Arguably, then, you may also find complex-compound sentences, which would be two or more complex sentences spliced together as a compound sentence with a FANBOYS.

I guess.

Although I had a good understanding of grammar, the complex-compound sentence foxed me completely, and I found myself in a bewildering minefield even though I had been teaching more years than I cared to confess, . 

Is that compound-complex, or complex-compound? Is there even a complex-compound? Does that even exist?!

Wait though. Does that mean you could have complex-complex sentences? Oh dear.

Luckily, though, it is not these ridiculous grammatical convolutions that will secure you the best marks, since it is all about what you do with those sentences.

Those are the forms of sentences.

That’s one way to get a ‘range of sentences’.

There are also types of sentence.

There are definitely four of those, and no quibbling.


I hate sentences.


Are you still with me?




Let’s leave them well enough alone. 

You could, I guess, also include affirmative and negative versions of these.

Negative declarative.

I don’t think there is anything left to say. 

Negative interrogative.

Haven’t you got anything better to do? 

Negative exclamative

I haven’t any examples!

Negative imperative

Don’t move! 

So there you have it… a bunch of different ways that you can use a range of sentences beyond the ‘have you ever had a brain aneurysm when trying to use different sentences? I have’ approach.

Just to summarise, these are the tools you have at your disposition:

  • simple sentences
  • compound sentences
  • complex sentences
  • sentence fragments
  • compound-complex (and maybe complex-compound – who knows in these turbulent and anarchic times?)
  • declarative sentences
  • interrogative sentences (a.k.a. questions)
  • exclamatory sentences
  • imperative sentences
  • and negative versions of all of the above.

The trick is how you use this glorious grammatical toolbox… but that is a topic for another day.

In the next post, I’ll be looking at how you can best use these sentences in Paper 1 and Paper 2 to gain maximum control, exploring how writers use this full range for specific effect.