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AQA English Language and Literature B – ELLB1

Steph Atkinson | Monday July 27, 2009

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ELLB1 – Introduction

ELLB1 (Introduction to Language and Literature Study) is the first unit of the new (2009) AQA English Language and Literature B course; it’s a wholly examined unit worth 60% of the student’s AS mark (i.e. 30% of the A-level). The key text for this unit is the AQA-produced Anthology of thematically linked spoken and written texts. The current theme (2008-2011) is Travel, Transport and Locomotion. A new Anthology will be introduced every three years. The exam is 1 hour and 30 minutes, for which candidates receive a new, clean copy of the Anthology. It consists of two elements:

  • Question 1: Comparison of two unseen texts on the theme of Travel, Transport and Locomotion
  • Question 2: Comparison of two texts taken from the Anthology on Travel, Transport and Locomotion

Like ENGB1 for AQA English Language B, this introductory unit needs to be viewed as far more than just ‘a unit’ within this AS level course. Whilst it requires knowledge of many of the literary terms and ideas familiar from GCSE English and English Literature, it introduces a new linguistically influenced approach to a range of literary and non-literary texts which forms the basis for all aspects of the course.

Like ENGB1, the unit introduces students to the key concepts of genre, context, audience and purpose as well as to the analysis of both written and spoken language. The Introduction to ENGB1, written by Steve Campsall elsewhere on Englishedu, is relevant to both parts of ELLB1 and gives the best overview of genre, context, audience and purpose (G-CAP). Other documents on the site written by Steve Campsall for AQA English Language B contain many relevant and useful sections which overlap with ELLB1 and these will be clearly cross-referenced in this document. Those of you familiar with ENGB1 will undoubtedly find your knowledge of this unit particularly helpful throughout your teaching of ELLB1 and the other units of English Language and Literature B.

Question 1: Comparison of Two Unseen Texts

ELLB1 Question 1 consists of one compulsory question. Students are presented with two unseen texts or extracts (written or spoken, and both thematically linked to the Anthology); they need to compare the ways in which the texts achieve their purposes in terms of how the texts are structured and present their material, and how the purposes and context of the texts influence language choices. The italicised text above forms part of the examination question. The less able student will attempt to list the many differences between the two texts in a superficial way; the stronger student will look to explore the subtleties of structure and language and the possible reasons for the differences between these in the two texts. This section is work 32 marks and it is suggested that candidates spend 30 minutes on this question.

Question 2: Comparison of Two Texts from the Anthology

ELLB1 Question 2 consists of one compulsory question. Students are presented with a steer (‘steer’ is a term specifically used by AQA in reference to this specification. A steer is a statement or comment about travel, transport and locomotion, such as ‘Travel can be exciting and adventurous’ [ELLB1 January 2009]). Students are then asked to compare two texts from the Anthology which are linked to this steer (such as ‘Compare two texts from the Anthology which present the excitement and adventure of travel [ELLB1 January 2009]). Candidates are free to choose any 2 of the 32 texts. They are asked to write about some of the following where appropriate:

  • word choice
  • figurative language
  • grammar
  • sound patterning
  • form and structure
  • layout and presentation
  • contexts of production and reception

The attitudes and values shown towards travel, transport and locomotion are also significant for this question, as can be seen by the nature of the steer.

This section is worth 64 marks and it is suggested that candidates spend 1 hour on this question.

ELLB1 – Question 1 (Unseen Texts)

Dealing with unseen texts is a skill with which candidates should be familiar from GCSE. If students took AQA GCSE English and English Literature A, the comparative skills applied in Paper 1 (Non-Fiction and Media Comprehension Questions), Paper 2 (Poetry from Different Cultures) and the English Literature Paper (Pre-1914 and Post-1914 Poetry) should provide a useful foundation. Comparison is dealt with throughout this document and is also specifically addressed in the section Comparison Skills in Questions 1 and 2.

As mentioned above, the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1 deals generically with genre, context, audience and purpose. This provides a good starting point for this unit. This section, therefore, deals specifically with how to compare thematically linked unseen texts in Question 1. A more detailed handling of the different levels of linguistic and literary analysis (the Question 2 bullet points, which can be equally applied to Question 1) is provided later in this document.

The key words to consider in Question 1 are:

  • the ways in which the texts achieve their purposes
  • how the texts are structured and present their material
  • how the purposes and context of the texts influence language choices

The ways in which the texts achieve their purposes

The two unseen texts can be of any genre, including transcripts, poetry, drama, advertisements, leaflets, blogs, articles, guidebooks, novels, cartoon strips and websites. The wide range of texts in the Anthology gives a good idea of the possible scope of these unseen texts.

It is important that the two unseen texts are approached with an open mind as to their possible purposes and that students have a secure understanding of their contexts of production and reception. Although they will deal with the same topic (such as London buses [ELLB1 January 2009]), it is likely that these contexts will be very different and will greatly affect the purposes of the texts and the ways in which the texts achieve them. It is worth quoting from the section on discourse and audience in the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1: ‘An easy pitfall for students is that they fail to recognise that the text they are analysing is unlikely to have been aimed at them. Forgetting this leads to many empty and erroneous comments being made about a text. Only when the primary focus of analysis is at the level of discourse, will the analysis be more likely to be subtle, sophisticated and worthy of the highest marks’. Therefore, students should be encouraged to think carefully about the intended audience for each text and the evidence that supports this view.

The first text (Text A) for Question 1 in January 2009 was an extract about ‘omnibuses’ from Baedeker’s London and its Environs 1900, a guidebook to London published in 1900. A recognition of the contextual factor that buses could be relatively new and unfamiliar to the intended audience of London residents and/or tourists in 1900 would greatly enhance a candidate’s analysis of the text’s purposes and the ways in which it achieves them.

Similarly, the second text (Text B) was an extract about modern buses from Time Out London, a guidebook to London, published in 2007; a recognition that, in this context, buses are now likely to be familiar to all residents and tourists, and that the purposes of this text will therefore be different from those of Text A, would similarly enhance the comparison of the texts’ purposes.

It is also important that candidates are aware that these texts will have multiple purposes, as mentioned in the section on discourse and purpose in the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1; it would be improbable that AQA would set unseen texts that had only one purpose, as it would not allow for such subtlety of analysis.
Text A would therefore clearly be intended to inform the reader in some ways (for example, about the history and use of the omnibus in London), but it could also be intended to reassure the reader about this potentially unfamiliar mode of transport, to justify the existence of the London bus companies in its use of employment statistics, to persuade them to use the omnibus and to promote public transport in general. Text B could equally be argued to inform in some ways, but it informs the reader about different aspects of buses which are more relevant to the 21st century audience. It could also be said to be promotional in its mention of the open platform Routemaster buses, entertaining in its use of humour and reassuring in its description of the many ways in which London buses are increasingly accessible to a variety of passengers. Information that is skewed, as is perhaps the case here, could be seen as a kind of persuasion. This kind of subtle recognition of the myriad purposes of a text would also help the students to achieve the top band of marks. More specific commentary on how to compare texts and their purposes can be found later in this document.

As mentioned in the section on discourse analysis in the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1, it is best for candidates to think of how their unseen examination texts act as social discourses when considering their purposes. They should ask themselves the questions, ‘to whom is the writer communicating?’ and ‘what are their purposes in doing so?’ This will help candidates to clarify in their own minds what the purposes of the two unseen texts are and will then lead on to some thoughtful analysis and comparison.

The key phrase ‘ways in which’ invites the candidate to consider the two elements (mentioned in the remainder of the question) which help the texts achieve their purposes: the structure and presentation of the texts, and the language choices within them.

How the texts are structured and present their material

Structure can be thought of as how a text is constructed; it also refers to the sequence of a text and the way information builds upon itself in the audience’s mind, forming a kind of narrative. Structure may include (but is not limited to): sentence structures; page-placement; order of paragraphs; order of sentences; the use of titles, subheadings and bullet points and the relationships between these and the main text; and the use of captions and pictures and the relationships between them. Steve Campsall’s comments on the graphological aspects of discourse and genre are particularly pertinent to presentation. Generic graphological elements (i.e. elements of presentation) often quickly identify the purpose and audience of a text as they are intended as immediate visual signals which communicate such characteristics from a distance. Structure and presentation, of course, work together in order to achieve the manifold purposes of a text, rather than separately: they support each other rather than working in isolation. It is beneficial for candidates to recognise this in their answer, and to treat them as cohesive parts of a whole, rather than as disparate elements. Presentation (in terms of graphology) is dealt with in more detail below and in the section on graphology in the Englishedu piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1.

Structure, therefore, in terms of Question 1, should always be related to the purposes of the text. It can be useful for students to think of possible structural choices that a writer may make without considering an actual physical text, in order to become more familiar with analysing textual structure in Question 1. For example, if one of the text’s purposes is to inform, then it is likely that it will use signposting devices, such as subheadings, to guide the reader. It may also use emboldening to highlight key words to enable the casual reader to scan the text and assimilate important information. It is likely that the writer would use clearly delineated paragraphs which each deal with an aspect of the chosen topic.

Of course, unseen texts may make unusual structural choices which could initially puzzle the reader. A predominantly informative article on buses may present its text in the shape of a bus, for example. In this case, students are always at an advantage if they keep an open mind. It could be argued that every structural or presentational aspect has been chosen to achieve one of the text’s purposes in some way. Students should aim to make sensible and tentative comments about the possible explanations for these. Here, modal verbs such as ‘might’ and ‘could’ are particularly useful in immediately signposting to the examiner that the candidate is open-minded and is doing their best to explore the possible reasons for the writer’s structural and presentational choices. The bus-shaped text could be intended to add a dash of humour to an otherwise information-heavy piece, and therefore it can achieve its purpose of entertaining the reader whilst also informing. Similarly, the image above could be using the bird-shaped text to mirror the idea of entrapment, encapsulated by the concept of the ‘gilded cage’: the bird is trapped in both a cage of gold and a cage of words.

With all this focus on detailed and thoughtful analysis, it is easy to forget the comparative element which is at the heart of Question 1 (and, indeed, Question 2). Comparative phrases should be used judiciously; there is little merit in listing twenty superficial and mediocre comparisons in order to demonstrate one’s broad comparative vocabulary. It is much more beneficial to carefully select a smaller number of well-chosen and subtle points of comparison and to develop them in much more analytical detail, whilst relating these to the texts’ purposes. More specific commentary on how to compare texts can be found later in this document.

Above all, the students should consider these questions:

  • What structural and presentational decisions has the writer made, and why did the writer make them?
  • How do these decisions help the text achieve its purposes?
  • How do these compare with the purposes of the other text and the choices the writer made in writing it?

How the purposes and context of the texts influence language choices

This leads us to consider how purpose and context influence language choices in the two texts. More detailed analysis about a smaller number of well-chosen comparisons will gain higher marks.

If the candidate has already securely established the purposes of the two texts, has considered the contexts, and   has explained how the structural and presentational choices have been affected by these elements (as explored in the two sections immediately above), then it is relatively straightforward for them to consider how purpose and context have influenced the texts’ language choices. It is always worth considering less obvious examples of language choices – such as titles and headings – as these contributes to a text’s purposes as much as the body of the piece.

The section on word choice (in Question 2 below) and the section on lexis/semantics in the Englishedu piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1 are relevant here. It would be sensible to consider distinctive language choices whilst reading each text in Question 1 and to highlight or annotate them as required. Again, the comparative element is key, and this is dealt with in more detail later. Briefly, it is often useful to consider questions such as:

  • why different words are used to describe the same concept in the two texts (such asomnibusandbus’)
  • why certain words are used in one text but not another
  • why some texts coin new words
  • why some texts use jargon, synonyms, acronyms and abbreviations
  • why certain adjectives and verbs are used (why, for example, would inspectors be said topatrola bus in 2007?)
  • why certain figurative language is used
  • why slang, archaic or contemporary language is used

As long as the language choices are consistently compared and linked to the purposes and audiences, the candidates should be able to demonstrate some analytical skill which will be rewarded. This topic is dealt with in much more detail when considering word choices in Question 2 and in the section on Lexis/Semantics in Englishedu piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1, as indicated above.

The unseen element

The principles of dealing with unseen texts are the same at AS level as they are at GCSE. Candidates should be encouraged to read Question 1 first in order to give a focus for their reading of the two unseen texts. They should also be encouraged to read the two unseen texts with a pen in hand in order to jot down any ideas about purposes, contexts, structure, presentation and language choices. It should be remembered that there are only 30 minutes for this question, which implies a maximum of 5-10 minutes reading and planning, followed by some carefully focused writing. Timed practice is invaluable in this regard and there really is no substitute for it in order to improve examination technique. It is also relatively straightforward to progress towards independently writing essays on two completely unseen texts by building a series of lessons around Question 1. This series of lessons could begin with a lesson involving some detailed discussion and analysis of two unseen texts as a class. Students could even be encouraged to bring in their own pairs of unseen texts which are linked by a theme. This could then lead onto the revision of relevant terminology, comparing the texts in pairs and group essay writing. The students could then progress further by the teacher gradually removing support one element at a time, such as the chance to discuss the texts with others, the length of time given to read and annotate the texts, and the chance to devise points of comparison in a group.

ELLB1 – Question 2 (Anthology Texts)

The section on genre, context, audience and purpose (‘G-CAP’) in the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1 is also a useful starting point for Question 2, as students are again required to compare these elements in two texts. This section, therefore, deals specifically with how to use the steer to shape the answer and with the bullet points listed for Question 2. Although these bullet points are specifically dealt with here in relation to Question 2 and the Anthology texts, they can equally be applied to the comparison of the unseen texts in Question 1 (although, given the comparative brevity and weighting of Question 1, they could not be covered in as much depth and detail in the exam).

Question 2 – worth twice as many marks as Question 1 – obviously assumes a much greater knowledge of the two chosen texts and therefore asks the candidate to demonstrate a much broader and deeper understanding of the various elements that contribute towards conveying a certain attitude or idea about the Anthology topic – this is where the steer comes in.

The steer

The steer is the key to Question 2. Candidates have fallen at the first hurdle by selecting two texts which superficially seem to fit the steer very well, only to find themselves running out of things to say 30 minutes into the hour-long essay. This situation can easily be avoided by some careful preparation.

It is worth spending some time – say, 5 minutes – thinking carefully about the steer and which texts to compare for Question 2. If, for example, the January 2009 steer (‘Travel can be exciting and adventurous’) were on the paper, the student would need to consider:

  • the possible meanings of the words ‘exciting’ and ‘adventurous
  • how they are going to interpret them, and therefore
  • which two texts fit best with this interpretation, and also
  • allow the student sufficient scope to compare a range of aspects in the texts which link explicitly to the steer

If the student chose, say, Texts 1 and 2 from the Anthology to answer this question because they felt instinctively that the two texts conveyed a strong attitude that travel can be exciting and adventurous, but could not then think of any ways in which the texts achieved this attitude, then it would be best to avoid them and to select another pair of texts. Such statements may seem obvious but, given the weighting of this question (two thirds of this exam and 40% of the overall AS grade), one cannot overemphasise the importance of choosing the right texts for the steer given. Plenty of practice in choosing the best texts for a range of possible steers is essential.

At the heart of Question 2 lies the steer. There is no benefit in comparing an aspect of the two texts if it does not link directly to the steer. The steer is there to do just that: to “steer? the student in the right direction and to focus the student’s answer. Question 2 does not ask the student to simply compare any two texts; it asks them to compare them in the light of the steer, and so they must ensure that they do this throughout.
One easy way to ensure this occurs is to use the words of the steer in every paragraph of the answer to Question 2 – more on this later. This will help to make certain that the answer focuses on the relevant aspects of the text. Another way of focusing the student’s answer is to consider the list of bullet points which give them explicit guidance on which linguistic and literary elements to cover in their response.

The Question 2 Bullet Points

As Steve Campsall writes in the section entitled ‘G-CAP’ in the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1, the G-CAP mnemonic provides four ‘key concepts’ of language study. These, in turn, ‘provide the basis for the more subtle levels of analysis that can be achieved when these concepts are further analysed’, using, in this case, the Question 2 bullet points (the equivalent of the ‘language frameworks in AQA English Language B’ for those of you familiar with these).

 

Question 2 Bullet Points (AQA English Language and Literature B)

Language Frameworks (AQA English Language B)

 

If you are familiar with ENGB1, it is clear from the diagram above that there are many cross-references between the language frameworks for AQA English Language B and the Question 2 bullet points for AQA English Language and Literature B  . Some aspects, such as grammar, are clearly direct equivalents. Where the outlines of arrows are dashed, it indicates that there is less of a direct crossover and that the two elements of the specifications are more distinct than equivalent.

This section considers how to analyse the Anthology texts for Question 2 using the bullet points provided and by considering the additional framework of attitudes and values. The skill of comparing the two texts is dealt with in more detail later. The purpose of using these bullet points is, like the linguistic concepts in ENGB1, to ‘provide a selection of useful ‘levels’ from which a text can be considered analytically, levels that will allow a close, methodical and above all, subtly revealing analysis to be carried out’ (see the second paragraph of the Englishedu piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1).

As Steve Campsall continues in the third paragraph of this piece, ‘students need to grasp that the concepts are to be applied judiciously and that no single text will require the use of all of them. It is up to the student – and is a strong feature of the mark scheme – that only appropriate concepts should be selected for a particular text’. In Question 2, it explicitly states before the bullet points to ‘write about some of the following where appropriate’. The bullet points chosen need to ‘reveal interesting and useful detail about the text under study. Stating the obvious receives few or no marks; revealing the mundane gains perhaps a grade D; but by exposing the subtleties of a text, a student will clearly receive the lion’s share of the marks available’. To put it briefly: if a bullet point is irrelevant to the two texts the student has chosen for Question 2, there is little purpose in writing about it.

Word choice and figurative language

Useful material for this section can be found in Steve Campsall’s section on LEXIS & SEMANTICS (the second section of the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1)

ELLB1 uses the linguistic terms word choice and figurative language. Whilst word choice is a wide-ranging concept, figurative language is merely one aspect of word choice. This therefore implies that the mark scheme credits any pertinent comments on word choice, including comments specifically on the element of figurative language. As Steve Campsall mentions in the second section of the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1, comments on word choice and layout and presentation (lexis/semantics and graphology respectively in ENGB1) are ‘certainly responsible for very many lost marks and thus are rather easily maligned frameworks’. This is, in part, due to students uncovering ‘only the more mundane points of lexis’. He also provides a very useful list of terminology and examples in this section on lexis and semantics, under the headings ‘Some Key Lexical Aspects’ and ‘Some Key Semantic Aspects’. Briefly, these are: monosyllabic/polysyllabic; French/Latinate vs. Anglo-Saxon; field-specific lexis; low frequency and high frequency lexis; formal and informal; denotation; connotation; figurative language; jargon and initialisms; metonymy and synecdoche; circumlocution; hyperbole; litotes or understatement; euphemism/dysphemism; polysemy; semantic field; and idiomatic language.

Within this section is a specific focus on figurative language. He writes:
unusual turns of phrase or ornate means of expression can be used to create a more complex and interesting level of semantics in a text often in an attempt to increase the influence or persuasive nature of the text. Figures of speech, or ‘tropes’ as they are sometimes called, often work through the creation of imagery or emotion, both of which act to deepen a reader or listener’s involvement and engagement with the text. Common types of figurative language are metonymy, metaphor, simile and personification.

Therefore, it is worth becoming familiar with the range of techniques that fall under the umbrella of figurative language and to practise applying these terms to both unseen texts and to the texts from the Anthology.

Feature-spotting (labelling the techniques used in a text with no reference to the effects achieved) is to be discouraged, as it is in all other areas of the syllabus. Little credit is given for demonstrating in the ELLB1 exam that you can use a broad range of lexical terminology without any further comment or analysis on the effect of these techniques. Carefully chosen, integrated quotations are also the sign of a top band answer – more on this later. The mantra ‘where appropriate’ applies here, too: using terminology accurately, fluently, and in a way which illuminates comments about the ways the two texts are related to the steer is one of the keys to success.

Whilst it is logical to compare the use of the same techniques which are encompassed by the bullet points word choice and figurative language, it is perfectly acceptable to compare contrasting techniques: the mark scheme credits all ‘clear and sustained comparison’ (AO3) and ‘appropriate and valid insights’. How to aim for the top band of marks is dealt with later in this document.

Grammar

Useful material for this section can be found in Steve Campsall’s separate guide on GRAMMAR

If the students read and understand the separate AQA English Language B grammar guide, they will know far more about the subject than they will ever need to know for English Language and Literature. However, grammar can be seen as a ‘higher’ level framework in ELLB1, and so perceptive and analytical comments on grammar may be seen as an advantage in the preparation for Question 2. Grammar can cover aspects as diverse as word classes (nouns, verbs, adjectives…), sentence types, sentence functions and punctuation. Often, grammar can be combined with lexis; so, when commenting about the effects of word choice of ‘enthralling’ in a text, one could also comment on its adjectival nature.

It is easy to fall into the trap of writing comments such as, ‘This text has lots of complex sentences, so it is difficult for children to understand’. Such simplistic comments are usually a) inaccurate and b) unsophisticated. If the student is going to apply a grammatical label to a text, they must make sure that it is the right one, that it is accurate, that they are confident in using it and that they can make some sensible comment about how this grammatical choice contributes towards the text’s correlation with the steer. Feature-spotting gains very little credit in English Language and Literature. If a comment on grammar does not illuminate the text in relation to the steer for Question 2, it is not worth making.

Sound patterning

Useful material for this section can be found in Steve Campsall’s section on PHONOLOGY and PHONETICS (the third section of the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1)

Steve Campsall’s section on Phonology and Phonetics in the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1 goes into more detail than is required for ELLB1. Some useful terms covered in this section include: alliteration; sibilance; assonance; rhyme; tone; and onomatopoeia. In English Language and Literature, sound patterning is concerned predominantly with the analysis of speech and poetry, but also with sound patterns in other types of texts.

As Steve Campsall writes in the section indicated, phonology ‘can be used to apply to the use of sound or sound patterns in texts as a means of creating emphasis or effect, e.g. the use of alliteration or onomatopoeia. Analysing a text at the level of its phonology therefore does not only apply, as many students seem to think, only to spoken texts as phonological aspects are often of significance in many written texts’. This point is equally relevant to Question 2, where the vast majority of texts in the Anthology are written (in fact, only one text is spontaneous speech). By the same token, as he goes on to write, ‘[s]ound patterning is not merely an aspect of poetry: it forms a vital part of language and is a significant feature of much discourse’.

The analysis of sound patterning in Question 2 should always be linked to the steer, as with all these bullet points. It is usually one of the less commonly addressed bullet points for Question 2, but can elicit some sensitive and high-scoring comments if employed judiciously.

Form and structure

Useful material for this section can be found in Steve Campsall’s guide to DISCOURSE and DISCOURSE STRUCTURE , and in the sections on discourse analysis, discourse and genre, discourse and context, discourse and audience, and discourse and purpose in the Englishedu Introduction to ENGB1 .

Form usually refers to the physical form of a text, such as an article, poem, novel, leaflet, transcript and postcard.

Structure, as covered above, is composed of elements such as: sentence structures; page-placement; order of paragraphs; order of sentences; the use of titles, subheadings and bullet points and the relationships between these and the main text; and the use of captions and pictures and the relationships between them.

In Question 2, the most obvious point of comparison is the physical form of the two chosen texts. The challenging aspect here is making pertinent comments which compare, say, the relative effectiveness of a cartoon strip and a poem in addressing the steer ‘travel can be exciting and adventurous’. Structure is covered in some detail above, and to a greater extent in Steve Campsall’s Englishedu materials, as indicated at the beginning of this section.

It is always worth remembering that comments on structural and formal aspects in Question 2 should always be related to the steer. If, for example, a text’s structure could be argued to be haphazard in some way, how would this contribute to the idea expressed in the steer that ‘Travel can be exciting and adventurous’? If a text uses humorous captions to match its entertaining pictures, how could the student link this to the steer? Each text should be dealt with on its own merits and the steer should never be forgotten.

Layout and presentation

Useful material for this section can be found in Steve Campsall’s section on GRAPHOLOGY (the first section of the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1)

As mentioned above, layout and presentation are covered in much more detail in the Englishedu piece indicated above. Layout and presentation are often considered to be the poor relations of the Question 2 bullet points, but, with careful consideration and links to the steer, intelligent and comparative comments on aspects of these can garner high marks.

These aspects are briefly mentioned in the section ‘How the texts are structured and present their material’ for Question 1 above. The principles for analysing layout and presentation in Question 2 are exactly the same (for proof of this, see the mark schemes of the two questions as compared below in the section ‘Examination Technique – aiming for the top band’).

As Steve Campsall writes in the section on graphology in the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1, ‘[a]n analysis of a text at the level of its graphological features means a close consideration of its visual form. The intention is to reveal how graphological features help to underpin, add to or shape the text’s content’. In addition, for ELLB1, it is essential to compare the two texts’ features of layout and presentation, and to link these choices to the steer. To take the example ‘Travel can be exciting and adventurous’, one must ask oneself, ‘How is this layout/presentational feature contributing to conveying the attitude that travel can be exciting and/or adventurous?

In the second paragraph of the section on graphology in the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1, it says that ‘[g]raphology is perhaps the most misused of the analytical methods and students regularly produce low-grade graphological analyses. This is likely because the graphological aspects of a text can easily lead students into forgetting that they are studying language and, instead, fall into the trap of analysing imagery’. The comments above on the generic graphological conventions of texts for Question 1 will prove equally useful for Question 2 given the correspondence of the two mark schemes.

Students have time during the AS year to carefully consider graphological aspects and to get to grips with practising some subtle analysis. This should also benefit their analysis of the layout and presentation in unseen texts for Question 1. They should be encouraged to keep the steer at the forefront of their minds and to ask themselves how aspects of layout and presentation allow them to link these two texts to the attitude the steer is expressing. Again, these aspects should be carefully chosen so that they can be compared and linked to the steer at all times.

Layout and presentation overlap in some ways with form and structure, as structural aspects (such as bullet points) can form part of the graphology of a piece. Layout and presentation can therefore include (but are not limited to): font; placement of pictures; graphics; logos; illustrations; colour scheme; emboldening, italicisation and underlining; bullet points; maps; and text boxes.

Whatever aspects of layout and presentation are chosen for comparison in Question 2, the steer lies at their heart and should guide candidates in their choices.

Contexts of production and reception

Useful material for this section can be found in Steve Campsall’s section on DISCOURSE ANALYSIS in the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1, and in the sections above on Question 1

Steve Campsall provides a useful framework for this Question 2 bullet point in his section on discourse and context in the Introduction to ENGB1. He writes about the four aspects of contexts of production and reception which link with the idea that any text is a social discourse. The four aspects deal with the ‘language production and its interpretation at four points in time’:

  • Conception
  • Production
  • Reception
  • Interpretation

Empathetic thinking is therefore as useful for Question 2 as it is for Question 1. One must remember that one is receiving the text in a potentially different way from the original audience (as with the Baedeker’s 1900 guidebook on omnibuses) for both tasks. A text is conceived and produced for certain audiences, purposes and contexts and is received and interpreted by them, and by others, in different ways (as suggested in Question 1); this is equally applicable to Question 2. This is why successful politicians aim to appeal to the widest possible audience. As indicated, much of this is covered above in the sections above on Question 1 and in the sections of Steve Campsall’s work on Discourse Analysis.

Attitudes and values


Useful material for this section can be found in Steve Campsall’s section on PRAGMATICS (the final section of the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1)

Attitudes and values are not specifically mentioned in the Question 2 bullet points but, with the steer, they lie at the heart of Question 2. It is essential that candidates can compare the ways in which two texts convey the same attitudes and values – hence the steer, which provides this focus. The mark scheme for the legacy AQA English Language and Literature B paper NTB1 mentions a ‘good and detailed understanding of attitudes conveyed in texts’ and the attitude towards travel, transport and locomotion expressed by the steer is the descendant of this.

Since pragmatics is ‘a part of the study of signification or meaning’, and ‘requires close attention to the social context involved’, it is inherently linked to the attitudes being conveyed by a text. The section on pragmatics (the final section of the Englishedu piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1) and the section on discourse analysis (in the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1) are very useful in this respect. Attitudes and values are closely linked to the relationship between the text, its writer and the reader, and so link very clearly with pragmatics.

As Steve Campsall writes in the section on pragmatics in the piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1, ‘[l]anguage can also act in powerful ideological ways that work to reinforce a society or group’s values… operating at a pragmatic level’ (own italics). If one is secure about the range of attitudes and values in a text (i.e. one is aware of the possible steers which could be linked to the text), there is a secure grounding for both Question 1 and Question 2.

Comparison Skills in Questions 1 and 2

The Question 2 bullet points are, if you like, the building blocks for the analysis of the texts in the Anthology. However, dealing with each text in isolation, rather than comparing it to the second text, is to be avoided in both Questions 1 and 2, as it severely affects the marks awarded. Comparison skills, therefore, should be explicitly taught in relation to both parts of ELLB1.

In the mark scheme for ELLB1, it explicitly states that ‘Examiners should remember that it is essential that candidates compare the texts’. The phrase ‘Little or no comparison’ falls into the mark band that equates to a fail for both Question 1 and Question 2. ‘Limited comparison’ garners little more credit. The aspiration for all candidates, regardless of ability, should be ‘clear and sustained comparison’. So what does this actually mean?

Candidates familiar with the AQA English and English Literature A GCSEs will, no doubt, remember the comparison skills encouraged in the three examination papers. Yet the importance of comparison in some aspects of these papers at GCSE can be overstated, which can then lead to some rather superficial analysis, as candidates attempt to make as many comparisons as possible. This approach does not encourage the ‘clear and sustained comparison’ required at AS level. Rarely do GCSE candidates realise, for example, that comparison is only one third of one of the Assessment Objectives for the poetry question on English Paper 2, and so they focus on comparing the use of metaphor, alliteration, simile et al. at the expense of more subtle (and high-scoring) poetic analysis. It may be challenging, therefore, to adjust students’ mindset to the requirements of ELLB1. A few simple ideas, linked to the key phrase ‘clear and sustained comparison’, will help to achieve this adjustment.

A ‘clear and sustained’ comparison

In order to achieve a ‘clear and sustained comparison’, whether for Question 1 or Question 2, students should have established to their own satisfaction the audiences, purposes, context and attitudes and values of the two texts. Without these elements being securely established, it is often the case that candidates have a range of excellent points about one text, but lack any clear points of comparison. These elements provide the essential basis for fruitful and subtle comparison and gaining the highest marks possible.  More on the creation of cohesive and sustained comparisons can be found in the separate Englishedu guide on the construction of an argument style essay.

One focus is clearly on the use of comparative phrases. It is important, however, to note that comparison is not limited to similarities, and it therefore does not preclude contrasts. These contrasts could involve, for example, contrasting the different linguistic and literary techniques used to achieve the same effect in the two texts, or contrasting the different effects of the same technique which is used in both texts.

Clear comparison implies that it is clear to both the student and the examiner why the comparison is being made and how it links to either the purposes/audiences/contexts (Question 1) or to the steer (Question 2). Sustained comparison further implies that comparison is not superficial and explores a range of reasons as to why the similarities/differences identified exist. It is straightforward to assert that Texts A and B use figurative language to achieve their chosen purposes, but more challenging to explain specifically how they do this.

It may be useful to think in terms of a river when considering how to integrate comparison in Questions 1 and 2. The aim of a top band essay is to flow seamlessly and fluently from one idea to the next, integrating comparisons, analysis and terminology. The flow of this river is occasionally disturbed by the tricky obstacles presented by comparing unusual or striking elements in the texts, but the river finds a way to incorporate these more challenging aspects into its current and to progress to its destination. Some explicit teaching of a range of discourse markers and a variety of ways of moving confidently between ideas would therefore prove useful for both aspects of ELLB1 and for future study.

Sustained comparison also implies that comparison is integrated throughout the answer – again, the separate Englishedu guide on the construction of an argument style essay is useful here. One way of ensuring this is to encourage students to include some kind of comparison in most paragraphs. This is not to suggest that they slavishly follow the model of one-comparison-per-paragraph, as this will undoubtedly hinder the more able and fluent writers. Rather, it is to suggest that sustained comparison can be achieved by constantly keeping the other text in mind as a counterpoint to the text which is being written about at the time, and by bringing it in where a relevant comparison can be made. It is perfectly acceptable to spend a whole paragraph in the detailed analysis of one text – this, after all, is also encouraged by the mark scheme – as long as some comparison is brought in soon after.

Although comparison is central to the mark schemes for ELLB1, there are several other elements which should be considered when aiming for the top band.

Examination Technique – aiming for the top band

The mark scheme forms the backbone of any examination and, fortunately, Questions 1 and 2 on ELLB1 test the same skills. Let us remind ourselves of the Assessment Objectives for ELLB1:

AO1 select and apply relevant concepts and approaches from integrated linguistic and literary study using appropriate terminology and accurate, coherent written expression

AO2 demonstrate detailed critical understanding in analysing the ways in which structure, form and
language shape meanings in a range of spoken and written texts

AO3 use integrated approaches to explore relationships between texts, analysing and evaluating the
significance of contextual factors in their production and reception

Mark schemes, of course, change subtly between exam series according to the questions set, but the core skills and requirements remain the same. Let us now consider the mark schemes for the top bands for Question 1 and Question 2:

Question 1

28-32 Very good answers: the best that can be expected of AS candidates under examination conditions

  • clear, detailed and undivided focus on the question (AO1)
  • consistently accurate use of language and appropriate terminology (AO1)
  • shows good and detailed understanding of the content of and ideas in the texts (AO2)
  • shows good, detailed and thorough understanding and analysis of how language, structure and form create and shape meaning (AO2)
  • shows good and detailed understanding of the importance of contextual factors (AO3)
  • shows good and detailed understanding of attitudes and ideas conveyed in the texts together with clear and sustained comparison (AO3)
  • supports and develops points consistently with examples from or reference to the texts (AO1, AO2, AO3)

Question 2

55-64 Very good answers: the best that can be expected of AS candidates under examination conditions

  • clear, detailed and undivided focus on the question (AO1)
  • consistently accurate use of language and appropriate terminology (AO1)
  • shows good and detailed understanding of the content of and ideas in the texts (AO2)
  • shows good, detailed and thorough understanding and analysis of how language, structure and form create and shape meaning (AO2)
  • shows good and detailed understanding of the importance of contextual factors (AO3)
  • shows good and detailed understanding of attitudes and ideas conveyed in the texts together with clear and sustained comparison (AO3)
  • supports and develops points consistently with examples from or reference to the texts (AO1, AO2, AO3)

Given the fact that the two mark schemes are identical, this means that each time the students discuss a new Anthology text in class in preparation for Question 2, it is possible to test their skill in analysing an unseen text for Question 1. Similarly, the comparative element of Question 1 can be used to hone the comparison of more familiar Anthology texts for Question 2. The two halves of ELLB1 are symbiotic and the skills tested are essentially the same. This also implies that the teaching of the two halves of ELLB1 can be integrated.

This also means that the teaching of the unit does not therefore involve skills specific to Question 1 or Question 2: the mark schemes and examination techniques can be dealt with holistically.

Interpreting the mark schemes for Questions 1 and 2

In order to achieve marks in the top band for both questions, students must aim to hit as many of the bullet points as possible. These bullet points can be used by students to tailor their answers to the requirements of the top band of marks. These skills are all mentioned at some point above, but it may be useful to recap some of the ways of achieving them briefly.

  • Clear, detailed and undivided focus on the question

For Questions 1 and 2, consistent references to the key words in the question or to the steer will ensure an undivided focus on the question. Ensuring that the introduction and conclusion to the answer give some sort of response to the question, rather than being ‘bolt-on’ paragraphs that say nothing more than what the candidate is going to do (introduction) and has done (conclusion), will also help to achieve this focus. Again, the separate Englishedu guide on the construction of an argument style essay is useful here

  • Consistently accurate use of language and appropriate terminology

This is covered in part above. The sections of the Englishedu piece on the linguistic concepts in ENGB1 indicated above contain a wealth of useful terminology for all the elements of Questions 1 and 2. Fluency is a difficult skill to teach; one of the best ways for students to understand it is to read some excellent examples of past students’ work, as the craft of fluency can often feel intangible and elusive until evidence of it is seen in print.

  • Shows good and detailed understanding of the content of and ideas in the texts

The understanding of the content of and ideas in texts stems from practice with a wide range of examples. The extensive practice with unseen texts for Question 1 and with the introduction of the Anthology texts for Question 2 will allow students to more quickly and efficiently assimilate ideas from a range of texts. It may be useful to ask students to summarise the main ideas in a text after 5 minutes’ reading to hone these skills and to produce a brief précis of the content and ideas contained in each Anthology text as part of the revision process.

  • Shows good, detailed and thorough understanding and analysis of how language, structure and form create and shape meaning

These aspects are covered thoroughly above and in the sections of the Englishedu guide Introduction to ENGB1 indicated above. The key here is to ensure coverage of all three aspects and to ensure that feature-spotting is avoided at all costs.

  • Shows good and detailed understanding of the importance of contextual factors

Context is covered in some detail above. It is important that candidates do not feel that they must cursorily link every comment to a contextual aspect; rather, as with the use of the Question 2 bullet points, they should bring in context where it is relevant, illuminating and appropriate.

  • Shows good and detailed understanding of attitudes and ideas conveyed in the texts together with clear and sustained comparison

Attitudes and values and clear and sustained comparison are most clearly dealt with in the sections above. It is not enough to state what the attitudes and ideas are, particularly in Question 2, where the steer in fact gives the candidate the attitudes and ideas to compare. Candidates must aim to demonstrate that they understand how and why the attitudes and ideas (specified by the steer in Question 2) are distinctively conveyed in each text.

  • Supports and develops points consistently with examples from or reference to the texts

This can be achieved through the consistent use of integrated quotations and references to support every point that is made. Lengthy quotations are not helpful and, in fact, detract from the fluency required by AO1; concise, well-chosen and integrated quotations and references are central to achievement in the top band. This is the one instance where the mantra ‘where appropriate’ does not apply – it is always appropriate for students to make brief reference to their texts in order to indicate to the examiner that they have studied them in some detail and are able to support their arguments convincingly throughout.

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Steve Campsall’s AQA English Language B Materials
AQA English Language and Literature B Exam Paper and Mark Scheme for ELLB1 (January 2009)
AQA English Language and Literature B (Legacy Specification) Mark Scheme for NTB1 (June 2008): http://store.aqa.org.uk/qual/gceasa/qp-ms/AQA-NTB1-W-MS-JUN08.PDF