Following on from the previous post about Question 1 on AQA’s GCSE English Language Paper 2 Question 1, this time I’m looking at Paper 2 Question 2 to give you a few revision tips and hints for the exam.
Let’s have a look at the question first of all.
This is June 2017
and here is November 2017
As you can see, some things change and some things don’t. Let’s look at the ones that don’t.
First, it says You need to refer to Source A and Source B for this question.
That gives you your first indication of the marking. This is a question asking you to handle two different sources of information.
What follows is then a statement that focuses you in on a small part of both texts and tells you the focus point for those differences.
You’d do well to underline the subject and the focus point as this will help you narrow in on what to look for. After all, this question is actually asking you to look at a very small part of the text.
So I know I need to look for stuff generally to do with ‘the boys’ in both texts, and specifically ‘how they spend their time playing’. This second statement tells me how to narrow down and where to look.
The third bit has some bits the same Use details from both sources to write a summary of the differences/different and then it repeats the subject ‘boy’ and the focus ‘activities’ and ‘enjoyed’.
So, it’s telling you in two different ways what to focus in on.
The final thing the question tells us is that it’s worth 8 marks. That means I need to spend about ten minutes on it. I won’t need extra paper and I don’t need to write three paragraphs or find four differences or any nonsense like that.
What I do next is locate everything to do with what the boy does in Source A. I underline all of it. This is a technique that I call ‘broad brushstrokes’ and whilst it means a double read-through, it really does help get to the ‘right’ quotes. So often teachers find that students who hit the top grades are really picking from a very small range of quotes available to them, whereas lower down the grades, it’s more hit and miss. Using broad brushstrokes helps you focus in and then narrow down.
Already you can see there is not much to work with – and that’s fine.
I do the same with source B and underline absolutely everything that the boy in Source B seems to enjoy doing.
Then I go back to Source A, having Source B fresh in my head, and focus in on the points that are connected or come under a bigger idea. For instance, both sources refer to the boys making noise, or their relationship with adults, enjoying contact with parents.
So I underline once again and pick out a few pairs of things that are different.
‘he throws his entire body into … bark[ing] gibberish’ vs ‘a habit of whistling’ and ‘pop guns’, ‘a hearty shout, a shrill whistle, the crack of little whips’
and then I do the same with another difference:
‘rests his head on my shoulder whenever he gets tired’ vs ‘holding his hand in mine’
But when I think about it, it’s the boy in Source A who initiates contact whereas the boy in Source B doesn’t. He bounds ‘away to school’ with ‘nimble feet’.
So now I’ve got some differences and some quotes, I’m ready to look at the markscheme and what it is I need to do.
Like other parts of the markscheme, there are three parts to this question. They are also not equally weighted.
The first bullet point is about the differences between the two texts.
The second is about your use of textual detail.
The third is about inferring meaning from what this tells us.
Some comment then from the principal examiner’s report that will help you understand what’s being assessed and what’s not…
This question is testing your ability to synthesise, as is Question 4. That’s crucial. You absolutely need to find those differences and bring them together. You are looking for connecting points. Weaker responses will mostly be making a connection and giving a quote, whereas better responses will be inferring meaning. You also need to remember that the focus of this question is very narrow – the boys and their activities – and so you’ll need to only look for those things and write about those things. You also need to make sure you aren’t mentioning language features. That’s Question 3 and can’t be marked here. It may be the very best language analysis that has ever existed, but it’s like you’ve started writing chemical formulations rather than answering about inferences relating to a specific focus. It may be the best chemistry that has ever existed but it’s not what the examiner is looking for. Also, don’t write more than you are being asked for. Two paragraphs is more than enough for 8 marks. Unless you have incredibly large handwriting, you don’t need extra paper to respond to this task.
Before we start writing, then, some final words from the examiner’s report, which is now in the public domain:
Students still aren’t moving past 4 marks on average though, which means you have a bit of work to do to make a clear inference.
We’re going to look at how you make those clear inferences today.
So, I had my quotes in response to the June 2017 question above:
I’ve decided that I don’t think I will look at the way they seek out parents as it’s not about how they play. I will however look at the fact the second boy in Source B plays loads more with toys and things, compared to Source A where the boy seems to rely on human interaction.
I’m going to follow the guidance from the examiners’ report and start with a difference, a quote, some inferences, then contrast, more quotes, more inference.
In Source A, the boy seems to enjoy making a lot of noise, as he ‘throws his entire body’ into ‘bark[ing] gibberish’ which suggests that he is so enthusiastic about this shouting that he does it whole-heartedly and without any reserve or hesitation. However, in Source B, whilst the boy also seemed to enjoy making noise as a child, as he had a ‘a habit of whistling’ and his mother mentions a number of noisy toys or behaviours such as ‘pop guns’, ‘a hearty shout, a shrill whistle, the crack of little whips’, it seems that he has a wider range of noises. Also, it may be that the ‘barking gibberish’ is related more to the fact that the younger child in Source A is ‘tired’ rather than actually enjoying it. It could be frustration rather than pleasure which is causing this behaviour.
So here, I was trying to follow a loose formula …
a) In Source A [subject & focus from question] and make a point, followed by a quote.
b) Explain quote and make inference about what it means or suggests.
c) Contrast with Source B [using subject & focus from question] and make another point, followed by a second quote.
d) Explain quote and make inference about what it means or suggests and how that’s different from Source A.
e) Add an ‘also’ and take it further, explain the difference more deeply or give reasons for the difference.
Making inferences is the tough bit. You’ve really got to think about what it suggests or what it means. I like the following phrases for doing this:
- it suggests that
- it makes us think
- it is designed to
- it gives the impression that
- it could be that
- it may indicate that
- it sounds as if
- it seems
- it’s described as
- this indicates that
- this could be associated with
- this may be
- this is shown to be
- this shows
- the writer hints that
- this adds a sense of
- we can assume that
- the writer could be
- it’s as if
- the writer purposely
- this allows the reader to
These are all really useful ways to explain or draw an inference from the text. Pick four or five that you feel comfortable with, and keep using them!
Next up, revision tips for Paper 2 Question 3.
Don’t forget you can find links to all my free material on 8700 AQA GCSE English Language Paper 1 and Paper 2 here. All you could ever need, and more. Why not book a lesson if you want individualised support that’s focused on your own performance?