Paper 0486/11, Paper 11 (Open Books): Examiner’s Report
The following are key areas that are necessary for success in set texts papers:
1. Relevance to the question.
Candidates benefit from being trained to analyse questions, looking for key phrases on which to base their answer. A good answer will keep the question firmly in mind throughout and will not digress into narrative, speculation, general assertion or personal opinion unrelated to the text. A few minutes spent planning an answer will help candidates to stay on course. Successful candidates know the importance of the key phrases in the question as they write their answer. Phrases such as ‘Another way in which the relationship is memorable…’ or ‘This scene is particularly exciting because…’ at the start of paragraphs not only help the candidate keep on track and focused, but help the reader see how the answer develops.
2. A well structured argument
Classroom discussion is clearly central to acquisition of the skill of constructing a developed argument, an essential ingredient for achieving the highest grades in the paper.
3. Well selected supporting detail and quotation.
Along with a well structured argument goes the ability to use quotation and close reference to support that argument, not merely as a prop, but as the basis for comment and analysis. Less successful candidates may often demonstrate knowledge by inserting quotation but they do not go on to comment on it; their answers become a series of assertions or narrative. There is also sometimes a mismatch between the quotation and the point being made. Candidates should be encouraged to use quotation effectively, to select appropriately and economically, and to comment on the selection they make.
4. Analysis of the writer’s technique.
Another essential for success is the ability to engage with the writer’s choice of language (Assessment Objective 3). While passage-based and poetry questions may seem to have the most overt requirement in this connection, discursive answers are always enhanced by a consideration of the writer’s technique. In order to encourage candidates to explore rather than explain the use of particular words, one useful exercise might be to encourage them to try and find synonyms or substitutes and then consider the ensuing effect.