Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.
The new language spec, AQA Q5, (AO5) Paper 1 and paper 2 is worth 24 marks for your content and organisation. Here’s how the top marks are awarded:
Descriptive writing makes our readers (in your case the examiner) see, feel, and hear what you see or imagine. Whether you are describing a person, a place, or a thing, your aim is to reveal a subject through vivid and carefully selected details. Try to focus on the mood or feeling evoked rather than simply describing an object/person as it exists in itself. Try to arouse emotion.
To score top band, your writing must have ‘extensive and ambitious vocabulary with sustained crafting of linguistic devices’. It must also be ‘compelling, incorporating a range of convincing and complex ideas’.
The exam board doesn’t want much – does it?! Actually, to write well is difficult. Let’s take a look at an example question:
What do you think of this…?
I reached up and grabbed the first branch. It was slippery but I managed to get myself up onto it. The wind was blowing and the tree was rocking back in forth. I could already feel the excitement as I started my journey.
The rain started up harder and I could feel the weight of just a few drops. I reached the part of the tree that had only a few branches and it was a challenge.
It’s a good descriptive piece; I’d mark this around a band 3 (14/24 marks) hitting the clear and consistent band. But would you say it’s convincing, inventive, assured and compelling? No.
But, by changing just a couple of your lexical choices, the mark can go up easily by a couple of marks (around 18/24 marks).
I reached up to grab the first moist branch. It was slippery but I managed to hoist myself up onto it. The wind was blowing rapidly and the tree was rocking back in forth but I didn’t care. I could already feel the exhilaration as I started my dangerous journey.
The rain started up harder and I could feel the weight of just the few drops. I reached the part of the tree that had only a few branches. It was a challenge.
What the examiners are looking for is something exceptional and exciting to hit the top band – remember you’re up against other 16-year-olds describing the same image. Yours has to stand out; now take a look at this one:
I regained consciousness, eyes still closed. My expectations of what I was to visualise in a moment were limited to a remote, unheard location amidst nowhere. A sudden thought of hope gave me some optimism, as I finally decided to discover my surroundings. I lifted my head, one eye opening at a time, absolute beauty, by all the meaning of the word. My eyes reached a point where they couldn’t open wider anymore, signifying the magnificent sights ahead of them. There was everything one would see in a dream, it defined nature.
My feet burned with new blisters as my wet boots crunched through green and pine needles. A cold breeze rustled the trees and raised goose bumps on my arm. Through the pain of the cold, my eyes remained astonished as they filled up with tears representing the awe- inspiring scenery.
I would mark this at around band 4 (23/24 marks) it hits the skill descriptors for both content and organisation.
How do you know you’ve written a ‘convincing and compelling’ piece? To me it’s simple; I want to keep reading the extract above.
If you want to hit the top band you must use a range of techniques; colours, adjectives, adverbs, a mixture of sentence types, all the senses and imagery. But that’s not enough. Experiment with clause order, word choice and ‘show’ don’t tell!
Your writing needs to show originality and creativity! How do you achieve that? Listen to your English teacher and practice – lots!