J3501/02 Tackling the Exam (Mastersheet)

Below you will find a comprehensive overview of the Paper 2 Language exam, including advice on tackling each task. Look closely at the Assessment Objectives for each question, the recommended timings and the demands of each task.

If you want a word document version of the information, you can download it here

J351/02 Exploring Effects & Impact

(English Language Paper 2)

Tackling the Exam: Master Sheet


Exam paper format:

The exam is 2 hours long: Section A assesses reading skills and Section B assesses writing skills.

You will be presented with two passages of unseen fiction or literary non-fiction writing.

These could be extracts from novels, short stories or travel writing that employs the writing features and style usually associated with fiction writing.

Both will be 20th or 21st Century texts. The materials will be thematically linked.

You will also have a question paper with space provided for your written answers. Additional blank pages are provided at the back of this booklet, should you need it for your extended answers.


Assessment Objectives:


AO1:       (i) Identify & interpret explicit/implicit information

               (ii) Select & synthesise evidence from different texts

AO2:       Analyse how writers use language/structure to achieve effects and influence readers

                Use relevant terminology to support your views and ideas

AO3:       Compare how writers present their ideas

AO4:       Critically evaluate texts with appropriate textual references

AO5:       Communicate clearly and effectively, using relevant tone, style & register

                Organise information & ideas coherently

AO6:       Use a range of vocabulary & sentence structures for clarity, purpose & effect

                Use spelling, punctuation & grammar accurately


Timing & process overview (recommended based on number of marks available):


Read Question 1, 2 & text 1– 5 minutes

Question 1 – 4 minutes

Question 2 – 6 minutes

Read Question 3 & text 2 – 5 minutes

Question 3 – 15 minutes

Question 4 – 25 minutes

Question 5 or 6 – 1 hour


Question 1

Assessment Objectives: AO1(i)

Type of question: Three brief answers based on finding relevant words/phrases from text 1 which show that you’ve understood the passage.

Number of marks: 4 (divided between the three parts of the question)

Recommended time: 5 minutes reading time for the text 1/4 minutes for the question

Planning advice:

·       Read the question before reading text 1.

·       Annotate the keywords in the question by underlining them.

·       If asked for a quotation, there is no need to write full sentence answers.

·       Make sure your quotations are brief – marks will be lost for overlong quotations.

·       If asked to explain, use your own words rather than quote from the text.



Question 2

Assessment Objectives: AO2

Type of question: This task requires you to look at how the writer of text 1 has used language and structural choices to achieve his/her intended effect.

Number of marks: 6

Recommended time: 6 minutes including planning & answering the question

Planning advice:

·       Annotate the keywords in the question by underlining them.

·       Annotate the structural and linguistic features relevant to the task and make brief marginal notes that will constitute your plan.

·       To secure high marks, your analysis must be thorough and forensic in its focus. Aim to make at least three good points, covering both structure and language choices. If you can make more points, do but be mindful of time allocated to this task.

·       Make sure you use topic sentences and terminology suited to literary analysis.



Question 3

Assessment Objectives: AO2

Type of question: This task requires a forensic examination of text 2, exploring how the writer has used language and structural choices for effect. It is similar to the demands of question 2, but twice the number of marks are available so the volume of writing, and number of points made should reflect this.

Number of marks: 12

Recommended time: 5 minutes to read text 2 / 15 minutes to answer, including planning time

Planning advice:

·       Annotate the keywords in the question by underlining them.

·       Plan your answer by underlining key language and structural features in text 2 and then making brief marginal notes – do not try to write your response without doing this first!

·       Aim to make at least 2 structural points and 4 language points – each of which require topic sentences.

·       Use embedded quotations to support your ideas.

·       Use relevant terminology, suited to analysing text.

·       Use paragraphs

·       Check your work for technical accuracy



Question 4

Assessment Objectives: AO3, AO4

Type of question: This task presents you with a statement about the topic shared between the texts and asks you to evaluate the degree to which you do, or do not agree, justifying your answer with evidence from both texts.

Number of marks: 18 (AO3 – 6 marks, AO4 – 12 marks)

Recommended time: 25 minutes including planning time

Planning advice:

·       Annotate the keywords in the question by underlining them.

·       Pay particular attention to the three bullet points which must be addressed in your answer – AO4 will be signposted in the first two bullet points (‘discuss’/’explain’ by way of exploring how far you agree with the title statement) & AO3 will be signposted in the third bullet point (‘compare how the writers present their ideas’)

·       Use discourse markers of evaluation (‘x is arguably more effective’, ‘y is, in my opinion, more successful in…’)

·       Use discourse markers of comparison (both, similarly, neither, while x…y, conversely, etc.)

·       Make sure that by the end of your answer you have stated the degree to which you do, or do not agree with the title statement.

·       Use paragraphs

·       Check your work for technical accuracy

·       One approach to planning this task is as follows:


·       Paragraph 1 – briefly state your position (agree/disagree)

·       Paragraph 2/3 – explore the first two bullet points

·       Paragraph 4 – explore bullet point 3

·       Paragraph 5 – conclude with a more developed evaluative statement about the your position



Question 5 or 6

Assessment Objectives: AO5 / AO6

Type of question: This task offers two questions – ONLY ONE should be attempted (‘Either / Or’). You are invited to produce an original piece of imaginative or descriptive writing.

The question format will clearly state the required form. While these can vary, you will typically be asked to produce one of the following:

A report (based on a personal experience), a piece of descriptive writing, a piece of personal writing, the opening to a short story or novel, a piece of autobiographical writing, a story, a time when…

Whatever form you employ, the mark scheme and skills assessed are the same. The emphasis is on skilful use of descriptive and creative writing to shape your reader’s experience – plot (what happens) is always secondary to how you craft your material.

You will receive three bullet point prompts which are guides for the possible content of your writing. Sometimes these prompts come with the statement – ‘you COULD write about…’ and sometimes ‘you SHOULD write about…’

We would advise that you assume that they are always prescriptive rather than advisory – in other words, always use them to plan your response.

Number of marks: 40 (AO5 – 24, AO6 – 16)

Recommended time: 10 minutes planning, 40 minutes writing, 10 minutes checking

Planning advice:

  • Select the question you feel best able to tackle
  • Annotate the key words in the question
  • Plan by jotting down the language and structural features you intend to use. There are certain techniques which are reliable methods of securing good marks, if used skilfully. Some of the following are worth considering, by way of example:

Simile, metaphor, personification, pathetic fallacy, anaphora, mimesis, show and don’t tell, consistency of tense, consistency of narrator, alliteration, sibilance, lexical field

  • Plan the order and content of your answer – it is a common mistake for candidates to place too much emphasis on plot or try to introduce too many characters or locations. With the limited time available, it is better to be restrained here so you can focus on style and expression. Setting a scene and capturing an atmosphere or mood is more important than fixating on a clever plot line which cannot be successfully conveyed in an hour! One way to avoid this pitfall is to use a cinematic approach – choose three ‘camera angles’ (extreme close up, medium and long shot – or reverse that order) and use them in much the same way as a film might set a scene prior to the main plot unfolding. This will ensure you remain descriptive, rather than informative.
  • If your writing requires dialogue, use it sparingly and punctuate it correctly!
  • Play with complex sentence order and move the subordinate clause to different places for effect. Achieve texture by sometimes using short simple sentences too for effect.
  • Use interesting verb choices rather than ‘said’, ‘walked’ etc.
  • Think about adjectives, adverbs and concrete nouns – craft words rather than just pick the first words that adequately describe the event/person/place.
  • Use paragraphs – this is non-negotiable if you want to do well in this task!
  • Check your work for technical accuracy (this is vital for this task, given that 16 marks of the 40 are based on accuracy f spelling, punctuation and grammar).