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Edexcel English Language Unseen Fiction Reading | Around the World Part 1

Richard Gent | Friday December 15, 2017

Categories: KS4, EDEXCEL GCSE, Edexcel GCSE English Language 2015, Paper 1: Fiction and Imaginative Writing, Paper 1: Fiction and Imaginative Writing Assessment Pack, Paper 1: Fiction and Imaginative Writing Schemes

This resource has been broken into two parts to make it easier for you to cut, paste and edit. Please click on the link below to find the other half of this resource.

  • Edexcel English Language Unseen Fiction Reading | Around the World Part 2

For Paper One

Fiction and Imaginative Writing


From the Edexcel specification

‘Students should read selections from a range of high-quality, challenging prose fiction, in preparation for responding to an unseen 19th-century prose fiction extract in the examination. They should be able to read substantial pieces of writing (extended texts) that make significant demands on them in terms of content, structure and the quality of language. Throughout the qualification, students should develop the skills of inference, analysis and evaluation’.

‘Students should read a variety of prose fiction from a range of genres and cultures. Students should use what they have learned about the writer’s craft in their reading of fiction to inspire and influence their own imaginative writing’.

Students should:

  • read and understand a range of prose fiction, including unseen texts.
  • critical reading and comprehension: identify and interpret themes, ideas and information in a range of literature and other high-quality writing; read in different ways for different purposes, and evaluate the usefulness, relevance and presentation of content for these purposes; draw inferences and justify these with evidence; support a point of view by referring to evidence within the text; reflect critically and evaluatively on text, use the context of the text and draw on knowledge and skills gained from wider reading; recognise the possibility of different responses to a text.
  • summary: identify the main theme or themes; summarise ideas and information from a single text.
  • evaluation of a writer’s choice of vocabulary, form, grammatical and structural features: explain and illustrate how vocabulary and grammar contribute to effectiveness and impact, use linguistic and literary terminology accurately to do so and pay attention to detail; analyse and evaluate how form and structure contribute to the effectiveness and impact of a text.

The sample fiction texts that have been produced in this Anthology are based loosely around four themes they illustrate the range of genres, cultures and period described above. Students should build up in their learning a wide portfolio of fiction texts that they can use beyond this in preparation for the exam.
Within the Anthology there is a discussion on how to use this material effectively in the classroom, a discussion of the assessment objectives, what examiners are looking for and one sample set of questions with indicative content for each of the four themes.

How to use unseen fiction material effectively in the classroom
Some general tips:

  • The assessment of reading skills in this paper is based entirely on unseen texts. Consequently whenever possible students should practice analysing fiction texts as ‘unseens’ as the norm in their study of both English Language and English Literature
  • Try to harness good reading skills from Key Stage 3 onwards by introducing students to a range of fiction texts from the 19th century across a range of genres and increasing the challenge of these texts up into Key Stage 4
  • There is clear crossover here with English Literature where the named nineteenth century prose texts can be taught alongside these unseen nineteenth century fiction texts as integrated exercises
  • In preparation for the writing tasks in Section B, it is important that students are allowed the opportunity to articulate their opinions on the subject of the text. This is an important skill for both English Language and English Literature although all such judgements should be evidenced based

Reading the Unseen Fiction Texts

Reading activities can be carried out as individuals, in pairs or in larger groups. The main principle should be to get students to respond independently to the texts and to understand the viewpoints and perspectives expressed and the main themes and structure of the piece. This can be followed with closer reading to analyse the writer’s craft and language.
Some words in the fiction texts are likely to be unfamiliar; students may wish to underline and highlight these. In some cases a glossary will be provided in the exam. For the purpose of this anthology, students may wish to research words they are uncertain of. Teachers may wish to add their own gloss to these passages before letting their students look at them.  The texts in the Anthology are of varying degrees of length and difficulty to suit a wide range of ability.

Texts could be analysed using the following points:

This list is not exhaustive and is quite lengthy and teachers may wish to slim this down or pick out some of the points for their students but the list will act as a starting point:
Look carefully at the opening of the text and the impact it has.

  1. What is the text about?
  2. Look at the main characters and how they are developed in the text.
  3. Look closely at the genre of the text. What is it?
  4. What style of language is adopted by the writer and how is the text structured?
  5. How does the text engage the reader?
  6. How does the text end? What impact does the ending have?
  7. Look closely at the narrative and/or descriptive sections of the text.
  8. What are the atmosphere, tone and mood of the text?
  9. What point of view is put across by the writer? How is this achieved?

Assessment of the unseen fiction texts

For English Language the following assessment objectives apply for the Reading sections in this paper:


  • Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas.
  • Select and synthesise evidence from different texts.


  • Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views


  • Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references.

For the assessment in Section A: four questions are asked covering the whole text.

The Questions are listed below with the marks:

  • Question 1- assesses AO1 totalling 1 mark based on information and ideas.
  • Question 2- assesses AO1 totalling 2 marks based on information and ideas.
  • Question 3- assesses AO2 totalling 6 marks based on the writer’s use of language and structure.
  • Question 4- assesses AO4 totalling 15 marks based on a critical evaluation of the text.

At the back of the Anthology a set of sample questions and indicative content for each theme is included along with the generic skills descriptors for each level for each question.

Some general tips with the exam

  • It is important that the text is read thoroughly before students start to look at the questions. Students may have very varied reading speeds. They should each be aware of how long it is going to take them to read a total of about 40-50 lines of text which is the approximate length of the unseen text in each exam paper.
  • As a general guideline, it is recommended that students spend approximately 15 minutes reading and annotating the unseen text. In the exam itself which is I hour and 45 minutes, the students could work on the basis of 15 minutes reading time and 45 minutes responding to the reading questions. This is a guide for students but each individual student should formulate a reading method that works best for them.
  • The questions will be structured to help you frame your responses.
  • Go back to the text and highlight the section of the text that the tasks are directing you towards.
  • Planned answers, based on a good understanding of the text tend to be significantly more successful than unplanned ones based on a hurried and potentially superficial reading.
  • The reading tasks work in a progressive fashion. The demand for skills and insight increases with each of the four questions. Each reading question builds on the one it follows. Question 4 is substantial and worth over 60% of the marks.


This extract is from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This extract describes a journey along a river.

We slept most all day, and started out at night, a little ways behind a monstrous long raft that was as long going by as a procession. She had four long sweeps at each end, so we judged she carried as many as thirty men, likely. She had five big wigwams aboard, wide apart, and an open camp fire in the middle, and a tall flag-pole at each end. There was a power of style about her. It amounted to something being a raftsman on such a craft as that.
We went drifting down into a big bend, and the night clouded up and got hot. The river was very wide, and was walled with solid timber on both sides; you couldn’t see a break in it hardly ever, or a light. We talked about Cairo, and wondered whether we would know it when we got to it. I said likely we wouldn’t, because I had heard say there warn’t but about a dozen houses there, and if they didn’t happen to have them lit up, how was we going to know we was passing a town? Jim said if the two big rivers joined together there, that would show. But I said maybe we might think we was passing the foot of an island and coming into the same old river again. That disturbed Jim- and me too. So the question was, what to do? I said, paddle ashore the first time a light showed, and tell them pap was behind, coming along with a trading-scow, and was a green hand at the business, and wanted to know how far it was to Cairo. Jim thought it was a good idea, so we took a smoke on it and waited.
There warn’t nothing to do, now, but to look out sharp for the town, and not pass it without seeing it. He said he’d be mighty sure to see it, because he’d be a free man the minute he seen it, but if he missed it he’d be in the slave country again and no more show for freedom. Every little while he jumps up and says:
“Dah she is!”
But it warn’t. It was Jack-o-lanterns, or lightning-bugs; so he set down again, and went to watching, same as before. Jim said it made him all over trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom. Well, I can tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my head that he was most free- and who was to blame for it? Why, me. I couldn’t get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way. It got to troubling me so I couldn’t rest; I couldn’t stay still in one place. It hadn’t ever come home to me before, what this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it staid with me, and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to myself that I warn’t to blame, because I didn’t run Jim off from his rightful owner; but it warn’t no use, conscience up and says, every time, “But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could a paddled ashore and told somebody.” That was so- I couldn’t get around that, no way. That was where it pinched. Conscience says to me, “What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you every way she knowed how. That’s what she done.”
I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead. I fidgeted up and down the raft, abusing myself to myself, and Jim was fidgeting up and down past me. We neither of us could keep still. Every time he danced around and says, “Dah’s Cairo!” it went through me like a shot, and I thought if it was Cairo I reckoned I would die of miserableness.
Jim talked out loud all the time while I was talking to myself. He was saying how the first thing he would do when he got to a free State he would go to saving up money and never spend a sin-gle cent, and when he got enough he would buy his wife, which was owned on a farm close to where Miss Watson lived; and then they would both work to buy the two children, and if their master wouldn’t sell them, they’d get an Ab’litionist to go and steal them.
I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, “Let up on me- it ain’t too late,...

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