Tackling Paper 2 - 'Challenging Event' & 'The Decision'

In this podcast we offer some key advice for how to tackle the Writing section of Paper 2 Language. Using two example questions (one a diary entry and the other a piece of personal writing), we talk about how we might answer each question, while meeting the specific demands of the Assessment Objectives.

We advise you listen to this with paper and pen in hand because there are plenty of really important ideas that you'll want to capture for revision purposes.

Weather - Exemplar Answer & Podcast

Write about a time when the weather made an important difference in your life.

You could write about:

·      Things that made the biggest impression on you

·      How the experience made a difference to your life

·      The way you feel about that experience now


You can download a word document version of this question and exemplar here

Timing: 1 hour including planning and checking

Assessment Objectives: AO5 (24 marks) and AO6 (16 marks)



Great storm of 1987 (15th October)

Woke to roof tile coming through dormitory window

Boarding house gathered in common room (power cut) – excitement and nerves

Day spent in village of Cranbrook helping clear fallen trees



The sheer power of nature – sense of my own insignificance

How even those things that seemed permanent can be swept away in a moment

Power of community and shared purpose – being part of something



Planted the seeds for my current interest in living a life of service

Wake up call – I came to recognise that life is fleeting and everything can change quickly



I look back with a feeling of nostalgia and fondness

It was exhilarating – break of routine and predictability of everyday life




I woke, not to the usual shrill alarm bell that used to echo through our dormitory on school days, but to the sound of howling, and of broken glass.

As I and the 11 other boys I shared my room with leapt from our beds, we were careful not to step on beads of glass that lay scattered across the wooden floorboards of the room. Near the shattered window, like some ugly piece of terracotta shrapnel, sat a broken roof tile that had been torn away and then flung into our lives by the violence of the storm raging outside. It was mid-October 1987 and the freak weather would go on to reap more than two billion pounds’ worth of damage, and claim several lives, before it was spent.

Micky, whose bed was nearest the light switch, was flicking it up and down, up and down, but it was clear that the power was out. We huddled closer to the window to gaze out towards the tennis courts and rugby fields beyond, fearful of the danger we might be in, but compelled to bear witness. I stared, mouth agape, as I watched a tree, branches roots and all, being dragged across the pitch; it was tearing a ragged muddy scar as it twisted and tumbled onwards.

Then the fire alarm blared and we grabbed dressing gowns and slippers, before streaming downstairs towards the common room and our muster point. Prefects were lining the route with flashlights, but I remember them shining the harsh beams in our eyes, rather than illuminating our way – I think they were as bewildered as we were.

At the bottom of the main staircase we were met by our Housemaster, Mr Judd, who was characteristically calm and cheerful, despite the chaos raging around our suddenly fragile-seeming sanctuary. He explained that the storm would blow itself out in a couple of hours, that school would be cancelled for the day and we would be involved in the clean-up operation in the local village (our school was situated in a rural part of Kent). I can remember that we erupted into spontaneous cheering and celebration, a cacophony to match anything the storm might muster!

Sure enough, a few hours later we stepped out into an eerie stillness, armed with saws, axes and one or two of the older boys had even been issued with petrol-operated chainsaws! As I took stock of the devastation left by the storm, I was shocked by the damage it had left in its wake. Trees, buildings, nothing had been left unscathed and I had this dawning realization that the world is far more ephemeral and fragile than it at first might seem. I can also recall feeling suddenly insignificant in comparison to the sheer brute force and indifference of mother nature.

However, that sense of sublime fear and awe was softened by a clear feeling of shared purpose and community. For the rest of that day we roamed the village, free to lend a hand as and when it was needed. Many of the locals shook our hands or made us tea and biscuits as we set about clearing debris or cutting away the branches that were blocking the roads leading in and out of the village. We told jokes, teased one another and made a difference where we could.

Looking back on those events now, I feel a sense of nostalgia, tinged perhaps with a little sadness. I have lost touch with so many of those lads now, even though at the time the bonds between us felt unassailable; sometimes Time can wreak havoc quietly and insidiously, but with as much brute force as the strongest of winds. I think, in many ways, the seeds for my interest in service and grassroots action were also planted that day. The great storm of 1987 took much away, but it left gifts and opportunities for new growth too. That roof tile was a wake-up call in more ways than one!

(666 words)

'The Winter's Tale' - Exemplar Answer & podcast

The Winter’s Tale (Paper 2 Language – writing task – Exemplar)


Timing: 1 hour including planning and checking

Assessment Objectives: AO5 (24 marks) and AO6 (16 marks)

You can download a word document of this answer here


Planning notes

Close-up: a child making a snowman with a friend

Wide-angle: fields and roads covered in snow (bird’s eye view) panning to cityscape with cathedral spire

Close-up: a homeless man in a make-shift shelter, shivering and alone

The idea is to try to shift tone from an idyllic scene of snowy weather as a charming and playful experience, to one which disrupts that first mood and tone, towards empathy and awareness that wintery weather can also be dangerous to those who are vulnerable.



Rosy-cheeked and flecked with wind-spun flakes of snow, the toddler’s hands glided back and forth over the sculpted torso of his creation. Try as he might, he had been unable to find a spare hat amongst his parents’ wardrobes and so the being before him wore a crop of porcupine-quill sticks which stuck out at various angles from his smiling head. A carrot, liberated from the rabbit coop, stood out proudly for a nose and his ice-blue eyes glittered in the harsh morning sunlight, lancing across the garden in which the snowman stood (his sister would surely not miss the oversized faux sapphire rings?).

The boy had been working hard for more than two hours but the squalling snow seemed to mute out the passing of time as well as the sky and horizon – strange how such days were defined by both stillness and chaos at the same time. His yellow mackintosh and rubber boots seemed to yell in defiance against the hungry white blanket that had swallowed up the world around him. Billowing upwards in a twisting column, his breath pulsed as he continued his labours. All around him nature contracted, waiting patiently for the sun to do its work and take the edge off the frigid, icy carapace of the day.

A solitary crow, gliding eastwards, held that yellow speck in its glassy gaze for a moment, before turning its attention once again to the patchwork of fields and serpentine roads that cut their way through the landscape. In the distance the cathedral spire punched its thick neck skyward and here and there fool-hardy commuters slid and skittered their way along grey paths towards skeleton-staffed offices; business as usual!

Huddled in a tiled shop doorway, a sodden sleeping bag twitched and convulsed as the wind tore its way into the alcove. The display window, full of racks of staring spectacles and backlit posters of models with perfect teeth and contact lenses, glared unapprovingly at their unwelcome visitor.

A sudden cough racked him and his face emerged from the depths of his polyester sarcophagus. He couldn’t have been more than 25 but the pallid skin and dark circles under his dead eyes made him seem ancient. His gloveless hands were numb and swollen, nails bitten to the quick. He fumbled into a pocket, coming out with a rolling paper and a few pinches of tobacco, harvested from discarded butts the day before. He set about making his first cigarette of the day, squinting as the snow renewed its assault.

On the opposite side of the street sat two bulging bin bags, leaning against the wall of a shoe emporium. The snow had settled where it could, the taut black slopes offering small pockets of repose, set against avalanche-prone valleys. The crow landed deftly on the summit of one of the bags and began pecking, trying to penetrate the plastic cadaver.

Taking pity on the bird, the homeless man broke off a piece of stale bread from his breakfast feast and tossed it across the divide between them. The corvid hopped down, spying the man with suspicion, before spearing the offering with its sharp beak and taking to the skies. The shivering figure watched the black feathers slowly disappear into the white wall, which pressed down relentlessly on the cityscape. Where might he go, if he too had wings?

He lit the crinkled tube and drew heavily on the first lungful of acrid smoke. Exhaling, his breath too billowed upwards in a twisting column. Perhaps the boy in the yellow mackintosh breathed out at the same time. Perhaps they met somewhere in the skies, in the secrecy of the blizzard, where all distinctions are erased. And perhaps the crow knitted their breath together like some black-feathered seamstress.

(627 words)