Structure (Gothic)

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.

This is a typical question for P1 Q3 Structure:


And these are the skill descriptors you need to meet:


You must comment on effective structural features an author has made.

Remember you will analyse a larger extract, with several structural features. The ones I’ve used below are a single paragraph. At the end I’ve listed structural features to look out for.

The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

Baffled I stood and waited, straining to listen through the mist. What I heard next chilled and horrified me, even though I could neither understand nor account for it. The noise of the pony and trap grew fainter and then stopped abruptly and away on the marsh was a curious draining, sucking, churning sound, which went on, together with the shrill neighing and whinnying of a horse in panic, and then I heard another cry, a shout, a terrified sobbing – it was hard to decipher – but with horror I realised that it came from a child. I stood absolutely helpless in the mist that clouded me and everything from my sight, almost weeping in an agony of fear and frustration, and I knew that I was hearing, beyond any doubt, the appalling last noises of a pony and trap, carrying a child in it, as well as whatever adult – presumably Keckwick – was driving and was even now struggling desperately. It had somehow lost the causeway path and fallen into the marshes and was being dragged under by the quicksand and the pull of the incoming tide.

Structural techniques/features:

  • focus begins on the character listening in the darkness
  • clause order of first two sentences – consider Hill’s initial emphasis, question why?
  • then the third very complex sentence full of compounds, clauses and punctuation talking in 1st person. Could represent the character’s disorientation.
  • semantic field/pattern of language associated with hysteria and confusion
  • then the final sentence full of terrifying emotive language

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten.  ‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand!  The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in–let me in!’  ‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself.  ‘Catherine Linton,’it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of _Linton_?

Structural techniques/features:

  • extract focuses on the character’s thoughts and what they appear to be seeing
  • a series of complex sentences with several breaks (semi-colons) could represent how the character feels in the nightmare
  • the dialogue in the middle of the text, disorientates the reader
  • Use of exclamation marks to convey emotion character feels


Catherine’s heart beat quick, but her courage did not fail her. With a cheek flushed by hope, and an eye straining with curiosity, her fingers grasped the handle of a drawer and drew it forth. It was entirely empty. With less alarm and greater eagerness she seized a second, a third, a fourth; each was equally empty. Not one was left unsearched, and in not one was anything found. Well read in the art of concealing a treasure, the possibility of false linings to the drawers did not escape her, and she felt round each with anxious acuteness in vain. The place in the middle alone remained now unexplored; and though she had “never from the first had the smallest idea of finding anything in any part of the cabinet, and was not in the least disappointed at her ill success thus far, it would be foolish not to examine it thoroughly while she was about it.”

Structural techniques/features:

  • language such as quick, greater eagerness, heightens the pace of the extract for the reader
  • nearly all sentences are complex with main part of clause first, building the tension in the scene
  • Focus is all on Catherine and her search in the room
  • all in 3rd person as if we’re watching her.

The Castle Of Otranto –  H Walpole

The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate cloisters, and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find the door that opened into the cavern.  An awful silence reigned throughout those subterraneous regions, except now and then some blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed, and which, grating on the rusty hinges, were re-echoed through that long labyrinth of darkness.  Every murmur struck her with new terror; yet more she dreaded to hear the wrathful voice of Manfred urging his domestics to pursue her.

Structural techniques/features:

  • the focus is on the underneath of the Castle (the setting)
  • language such as anxiety will make the journey tense for reader
  • language such as cavern, lower part, Castle, will create a dark, enclosed setting building the fear felt
  • first is a very long, complex sentence full of punctuation, followed by a second complex sentence. both are descriptive and highlight a frightening journey

The Monk – M. G. Lewis

I hesitated not to obey her: but unwilling to leave the Baroness a victim to the vengeance of the Robbers, I raised her in my arms still sleeping, and hastened after Marguerite.  The Horses of the Banditti were fastened near the door:  My Conductress sprang upon one of them. I followed her example, placed the Baroness before me, and spurred on my Horse.  Our only hope was to reach Strasbourg, which was much nearer than the perfidious Claude had assured me.  Marguerite was well acquainted with the road, and galloped on before me.  We were obliged to pass by the Barn, where the Robbers were slaughtering our Domestics. The door was open:  We distinguished the shrieks of the dying and imprecations of the Murderers!  What I felt at that moment language is unable to describe!

Structural techniques/features:

  • focuses on an escape, switches from character to the robbers to add excitement and tension to the scene
  • written in 1st person POV
  • last two sentences end with an exclamation mark
  • verbs such as hastened, sprang and spurred, add to the pace of the scene for the reader
  • emotive language such as slaughtering, dying and murderers will add fear at the end of the scene


The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Dorian Gray glanced at the picture, and suddenly an uncontrollable feeling of hatred for Basil Hallward came over him, as though it had been suggested to him by the image on the canvas, whispered into his ear by those grinning lips.  The mad passions of a hunted animal stirred within him, and he loathed the man who was seated at the table, more than in his whole life he had ever loathed anything.  He glanced wildly around.  Something glimmered on the top of the painted chest that faced him.  His eye fell on it.  He knew what it was.  It was a knife that he had brought up, some days before, to cut a piece of cord, and had forgotten to take away with him.  He moved slowly towards it, passing Hallward as he did so.  As soon as he got behind him, he seized it and turned round.  Hallward stirred in his chair as if he was going to rise.  He rushed at him and dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear, crushing the man’s head down on the table and stabbing again and again.

Structural techniques/features:

  • The focus is on Dorian Gray
  • language such as adverb ‘suddenly’ are shocking because it was unexpected.
  • In the middle, Wilde uses simple sentences to build the tension and callousness Gray murders his friend
  • Then switches to longer more descriptive sentences similar to Gray’s movements ‘slowly towards’
  • then the final sentence focuses on the murder and the frenzied attack


This question assesses how the writer has structured a text.  Look for

  1. a new paragraph – a shift in perspective, character, setting.
  2. look at the beginning/end of the extract.
  3. look for a topic change.
  4. look for exclamation marks they indicate excitement/anger or sense of urgency.
  5. look for short sentences, suggest faster pace, the building of tension.
  6. look for verbs that mirror actions eg run may suggest pace picks up!
  7. look for comparisons (simile/metaphor) that add to the pace of action.
  8. look for complex sentences that mirror the characters/setting mood/action.
  9. look for clause order, which is at the start, main or subordinate clause.
  10. look for patterns in words that suggest ongoing action.
  11. look for adjectives/adverbs that add to meaning in an extract eg a train moved angrily.
  12. look for descriptive writing/dialogue in an extract.
  13. what is a reader drawn to see/think or feel?
  14. are certain elements foregrounded? If so why?
  15. look for conjunctions connecting events.


Thank you for reading.

Evaluating Dickens

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.

This is a typical question for P1 Q4 Evaluate:


These are the skill descriptors you need to meet:


When answering this question look for:

  • narrative perspective
  • sensory language
  • powerful imagery
  • emotive language
  • techniques used for effect

I will look at each extract slightly differently, hopefully together you will see which details to annotate, then how to use them collectively to build a chohesive evaluative comment.  At the end I’ve listed other evaluative features to look for.

David Copperfield

It was a murky confusion—here and there blotted with a colour like the colour of the smoke from damp fuel—of flying clouds, tossed up into most remarkable heaps, suggesting greater heights in the clouds than there were depths below them to the bottom of the deepest hollows in the earth, through which the wild moon seemed to plunge headlong, as if, in a dread disturbance of the laws of nature, she had lost her way and were frightened. There had been a wind all day; and it was rising then, with an extraordinary great sound. In another hour it had much increased, and the sky was more overcast, and blew hard.

Techniques used: imagery, emotive language, personification, simile, extended metaphor

Possible choices: 

  • noun-confusion-suggests uncertainty
  • verb-blotted-suggests stain
  • tossed-verb-suggests throw,
  • ‘greater heights’ v ‘depths below’ v ‘deepest hollows’,
  • adjective-wild-suggests untamed,
  • verb-plunge-suggests dive/thrust
  • alliterative ‘dread disturbance’
  • adjective lost and frightened
  • ‘there had been’ past tense clause and semi-colon
  • rising‘ and ‘extraordinary’ adj meaning remarkable/incredible
  • great, overcast, blew hard

Evaluative comment: I agree with the student, Dickens has used a powerful extended metaphor to describe the incredible and exciting turbulent weather. Dicken’s has successfully used words such as ‘flying’, ‘tossed’, ‘wild’ and ‘plunge’ to personify the movement of the clouds appearing uncontrollable. This vivid description ensures a reader can visualise the weather as not only beautiful but also terrifying. It makes you feel as if you are underneath the darkness, feeling its power.

A Christmas Carol

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office “In the dog-days”; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Techniques & Possible choices (this extract is full of imagery and techniques):

  • tight-fisted
  • grindstone
  • “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”
  • Hard and sharp as flint
  • no steel struck out generous fire;
  • secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster.
  • froze his old features,
  • nipped his pointed nose,
  • shrivelled his cheek,
  • stiffened his gait;
  • made his eyes red, his thin lips blue – Red – evil, blue – cold makes him sound like a monster, unlikeable
  • shrewdly in his grating voice.
  • A frosty rime
  • wiry chin.
  • at Christmas.

Possible evaluative comments: Powerful verbs and modifiers build somebody, unpleasant, he’s presented as mean both with money and in spirit. The simile is successful because it compares him to a cold unfeeling rock- he is presented as a cold, mean and a private person suggesting he is never warm or generous. By using the simile to compare Scrooge to a stone, “flint” we understand that he is hard-hearted yet also sharp and quick-witted. When I read, I would link the image of a flint as a stone the sharpen knives giving him a menacing image. Sibilance is used throughout, “sharp”, “steel”, “secret” giving an almost snake-like image for me by repeating the ‘s’ sound. The vivid description makes the character appear secretive, rule 3, Oyster is a hard shell but soft in inside, all words convey a lonely and distant man separated from others by choice. Furthermore, Dickens has cleverly used another simile to compare him to “oyster” supporting his hard image and also presenting him as secretive and isolated. The reader may also sympathise with Scrooge as it suggests loneliness. Also, like an oyster is effective because it is suggesting that he may also have a special quality, yet to be revealed. I can imagine the cold weather and relate to the character, Dickens’ use of the long, complex sentence structure adds to the feeling that Scrooge is difficult and complicated. The description of Scrooge is highly effective as it is detailed and layered. On the surface, he is unpleasant and friendless. However, Dickens also foreshadows a more positive character to come and creates sympathy for me.

Bleak House

Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas, in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • Implacable
  • mud
  • as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth,
  • Megalosaurus
  • waddling like an elephantine lizard
  • Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots
  • soft black drizzle
  • flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes
  • gone into mourning,
  • for the death of the sun.
  • Dogs, Horses,
  • Foot passengers,
  • jostling one another’s umbrellas,
  • infection of ill temper,
  • losing their foot-hold
  • tens of thousands
  • slipping and sliding
  • broke
  • the crust upon crust of mud,
  • sticking
  • tenaciously

Evaluative language: reflects, observes, reveals, implies, exposes, evokes, illustrates, considers,

Great Expectations 

She was dressed in rich materials-satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on-the other was on the table near her hand-her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a Prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • rich, jewels, silk, splendid – suggest wealth
  • satin, lace, white – suggest layers ( a metaphor for how complicated Havisham is?)
  • repeated white – suggests innocence, purity
  • contradiction with her age, and choice of words ‘some bright’ ‘other jewels lay’ suggesting innocence has gone (left with), now bitterness?
  • scattered, half arranged, heaped could suggest her mental state or the suddenness of being jilted – again a metaphor for the fickleness of love/males?
  • listing of items, effective as it draws out her (original) happiness
  • the paragraph ends with ‘looking-glass’ – emphasises the importance of what she sees/what she was/has become.

Possible evaluative language:

  • Dickens endeavours to show….
  • Dickens expresses a view …. to the effect…
  • seeks to criticise
  • attempts to expose…..

Nicholas Nickleby – Dotheby’s Hall

Pale and haggard faces, lank and bony figures, children with the countenances of old men, deformities with irons upon their limbs, boys of stunted growth, and others whose long meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies, all crowded on the view together; there were the bleared eye, the hare-lip, the crooked foot, and every ugliness or distortion that told of unnatural aversion conceived by parents for their offspring, or of young lives which, from the earliest dawn of infancy, had been one horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. There were little faces which should have been handsome, darkened with the scowl of sullen, dogged suffering; there was childhood with the light of its eye quenched, its beauty gone, and its helplessness alone remaining; there were vicious-faced boys, brooding, with leaden eyes, like malefactors in a gaol; and there were young creatures on whom the sins of their frail parents had descended, weeping even for the mercenary nurses they had known, and lonesome even in their loneliness.

Brief evaluative plan: look above at the patterns/contrasts in the language used by Dickens to describe the children. This extract is full of imagery, techniques and vivid language. The extract shows a very explicit description of just how miserable this school for unwanted children is. Their faces are “pale and haggard,” their bodies deformed, showing anger and misery and suffering.  Dickens uses detail to overwhelm the reader with the suffering of these children.

Evaluative sentence stems: 

  • creates a [….] scene
  • creates the impression….
  • helps the reader feel…..
  • the writer’s choice is effective because……
  • the author builds dramatic tension….

A Tale of Two Cities – The Shoemaker

A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and showed the workman with an unfinished shoe upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few common tools and scraps of leather were at his feet and on his bench. He had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow face and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of his face would have caused them to look large, under his yet dark eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had been really otherwise; but, they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so. His yellow rags of shirt lay open at the throat and showed his body to be withered and worn.  He, and his old canvas frock, and his loose stockings, and all his poor tatters of clothes, in a long seclusion from direct light and air, faded down to such a dull uniformity of parchment-yellow, that it would have been hard to say which was which.

Important details:  the character is described as more dead than alive, with his hollow face, withered body, and a hand so thin that it looks transparent.  He’s got a raggedly cut white beard, a hollow face, and very bright eyes. His tattered yellow shirt shows a withered and worn body. He has faded down to a dull parchment colour due to lack of direct sunlight and air (a metaphor for freedom?); he blends into his yellow shirt, making it difficult to distinguish one from another.

Possible Evaluation sentences:

  • the author slowly reveals…..
  • the author is suggesting
  • I particularly liked the description…..
  • it made me feel/see/hear….
  • I believed…..

Here are other evaluative comments that you can look for in a text:

  1. look for patterns in words that create strong images
  2. look for emotive language that makes the reader feel something
  3. look for punctuation to enhance meaning
  4. look for verbs or modifiers that have strong connotations (positive or negative)
  5. look for adjectives/adverbs that add to the meaning and help you see an image vividly
  6. look for descriptions that reveal a different focus
  7. look for the senses, used to help reader’s understanding
  8. look for any technique used eg personification/onomatopoeia to reinforce an idea
  9. look for descriptions that build up an image for the reader (eg weather)
  10. look for patterns that build tension across an extract


Try using some of these verbs:


Thank you for reading.



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.

This is a typical question for P2 Q4 Comparison of viewpoint:


AQA Paper2, Question 4 asks for a comparison of writer’s view/perspective and what methods (techniques) the author/writer used to convey them. You need to meet these skill descriptors:


What do you think the viewpoint of these short extracts are?


I don’t think it is coincidence that it’s taken a few hours of the morning sun warming the water for the bigger fish to be found more regularly in shallower water. It’s not always the case, but most reports of bigger fish have come after a couple of hours of sunlight.


Techniques: 1st person POV, long and complex sentence, short paragraphs, building up excitement, alliteration, repetition of idea, present tense.

View/Perspective: anticipation, patience, mysterious.


It seemed like a bit of a joke at first. “I’m making my family German,” I would announce to friends in glee, delighting in their surprise and interest. My enthusiasm motivated my mother to apply for her own dual citizenship. The paperwork for my five-year-old nephew is almost ready to be submitted for his own certificate and passport. But it seemed too far-fetched to take seriously: I couldn’t quite believe we would be accepted, despite our cultural right to be.


Techniques: 1st person POV, anecdotes, emotive, direct speech, informal, past tense.

View/Perspective: positive, upbeat, pensive, scared.


Parenting is a complex job and it is not uncommon for modern parents to need a little help along the way. Parenting is a huge responsibility, especially in the times we live in. And there are many different kinds of parenting classes, designed for different stages of parenting. So whether first time parents need a little help with the basics of baby care or even more seasoned parents need some advice on potty training or bullying at school, it is important for parents to seek help and advice.


Techniques: 3rd person POV, emotive, present tense, repetition of ‘parenting’, opinion. present tense, persuasive.

View/Perspective: serious, informative, biased tone leads to persuasion.


Hines’s research, the most up to date, did however identify a gendered divide in the preference for toys. Although not a strict rule, boys were more likely to look at cars and girls at dolls. Previous studies have found that this not only relates to the gender of children but their exposure to androgen (“male” hormones) in the womb. This American research even showed that there is a similar gendered preference for toys in monkeys leading some to conclude that children are born with gendered tastes in toys.


Techniques: 3rd person POV, formal, serious, long complex sentences, facts, technical language, mixture of tenses (mainly past)

View/Perspective: formal and concluding, respectful


Millions of young men were slaughtered during the first world war – “body-bagged for life”, in Sainsbury’s parlance – and doubtless as they lay dying in foreign fields, gazing down at what remained of their mud-caked, punctured, broken bodies, gasping their final agonised breaths, it would have been a great source of comfort for them to know their noble sacrifice would still be honoured a century later, in an advert for a shop.


Techniques: 3rd person POV, informal, emotive, hyperbole, imagery, alliteration, one long complex sentence/paragraph, quotes, deliberately inappropriate humour.

View/Perspective: Sarcastic, informal, scathing, scornful, mocking, facetious


Thanks for reading


Summarising – doing it well!

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.

These are the skill descriptors you need to meet:


and, a typical question will look like this:


To summarise means: give a brief statement of the main points of (something).  In other words recap, review or condense the important parts of a text.

A summary is a short, focused statement about an article.

Summary Writing:

Read Carefully and Closely: Your key to success in writing an article summary is your understanding of the article; therefore, it is essential to read carefully and closely.

Common mistakes in writing a summary: The most common problem that students have when writing a summary is that they misunderstand the point of summarising. When writing a summary about an article, your job is to write about the key points and make an inference.

Let’s look at an example (1):

During my vacation last May, I had a hard time choosing a tour. Flights to Japan, Hong Kong and Australia are just too common. What I wanted was somewhere exciting and exotic, a place where I could be spared from the holiday tour crowds. I was so happy when Joan called up, suggesting a trip to Cherokee, a county in the state of Oklahoma. I agreed and went off with the preparation immediately.

(73 words)

What are the key point(s):

  • The text is about selecting a holiday
  • Picking the right holiday wasn’t easy because they wanted something unusual
  • They wanted something interesting/thrilling/breathtaking but free from ‘tourists’
  • Joan made a suggestion to Cherokee which the writer liked.

How would you write the bullets into a cohesive summary? Remember you need to write only the key points. Which of these do you prefer?

  1. The writer struggled to think of a suitably thrilling holiday without tourists, but he did like his friend’s suggestion of Cherokee. (21 words)
  2. Cherokee offered the thrill they wanted from a holiday without the tourists. (12 words)
  3. Jan’s suggestion of Cherokee was exactly what he wanted. (9 words)

Number two is my choice, it picks out the key elements – Cherokee, thrill, holiday and tourists.  Remember for AQA P2 Q2, you also need to include a quote and inference and COMPARE to a 2nd text.

Cherokee offered the thrill they wanted from a holiday without the tourists, “they wanted to be spared from the holiday tour crowds”. A reader could infer the couple are older and want to discover new places.


Here’s a second example text linked.  This is also clearly about another holiday:

There is so much to see and do in Beijing that if you are visiting this city for the first time or the even the tenth time, it can feel overwhelming. Prepare to have your tastebuds delighted with the most delicious food you have ever tasted (don’t be afraid to try something new!). Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for amazing architecture, both old and new. And brace yourself for a cacophony of unfamiliar sounds and smells that fill this bustling, hustling city that will make you realise, happily, that you are truly halfway around the world.

(98 words)

What are the key points?

  • They are in Beijing and there’s lots to do
  • It’s for people who’ve never visited before or people who have visited many times
  • Sights, smells, sounds will be a highlight
  • It’s completely different to (England)

How would you write the bullets into a cohesive summary? Remember you need to write only the key points. Which of these do you prefer?

  1. Regardless how often you’ve visited before, Beijing always has something new to offer. Even though the city is full of everyday sounds, smells and tastes, it’s nothing like home. (29 words)
  2. New and old visitors to Beijing are sure to discover something new every time. (14 words)
  3. Beijing always surprises travellers with new adventures and experiences. (9 words)

Number two is my choice, it picks out the key elements – new, old, Beijing, discovering.  Remember for AQA P2 Q2, you also need to include a quote and inference and COMPARE to a 2nd text.

New and old visitors to Beijing are sure to discover something new every time which“fill this bustling, hustling city” which could suggest that there are still many places to discover in the busy city.


Now put the two together, remember the question will give you a focus (eg how are they similar/different-so read the question carefully), however, the majority seem to ask for a summary of differences:

(SUMMARY POINT) Text A points to how Cherokee offers the thrill the couple wanted from a holiday without the tourists, (QUOTE) “they wanted to be spared from the holiday tour crowds”. (INFERENCE) A reader could infer the couple may be older but still want to discover new places. (CONJUNCTION) Whereas Text B (SUMMARY POINT) is different, commenting on how new and old visitors to Beijing are sure to discover something new every time which (QUOTE) “fill this bustling, hustling city”. (INFERENCE) This could suggest that there are still many places to discover in the busy city and the lively nature would suit tourists that like energetic places, unlike Text A.

You can read more about P2 Q2 here.

Thank you for reading.

Say what you mean (exactly)!

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.

When writing how do you make the best choices? Hopefully, this blog may help you! This blog matches the one I did for P1 and tackles P2 Q5 (non fiction writing).

Your question will look/be worded similar to this:


AQA Section B: Writing You are advised to spend about 45 minutes on this section and you are are trying to hit these skill descriptors:


This blog will show you how to pick the best words/sentences etc. I apologise again for the differences in colour but hopefully, they will help you:

  • Blue – a possible choice
  • Red – synonyms and alternatives
  • Grey/black – my thoughts/explanation for choices

Write a letter to your local MP arguing against the closure of the library in your town.

If you are writing a letter, then note the min/detailed requirements:


The first thing you need to do is add the name of the sender, I realise you may not know it, but you could do this:

  • Name of MP

Then add the mode of address:

  • Dear Sir or Madam (or add the name of person if you know it – eg Mary, Uncle, Miss)

Now we’re ready for the main part of our letter, remember you are writing to a ‘person’ and you are appealing to them, so your letter needs to be polite, persuasive, emotive and personal.

  • I am writing this letter (do you need to state the obvious)?
  • I am writing to you (makes it personal)
  • I am writing because (gets to the point)

I like (2), this can then lead on to the reason for your letter.

  • because (after) depends on what you want to say next.
  • reading a (an) many choices depend on your next point – this is why planning is important!
  • story (article) in the (local) newspaper about the (ourI prefer ‘our’ is a determiner and is used in formal contexts by a writer to refer to something belonging to or associated with himself or herself.
  • local the adjective means relating to a particular area or one’s neighbourhood and will emphasise the importance of the library.
  • library closing due to cuts (cutbacks, lack of fundingcutbacks is the better word as it suggests a person has a choice.
  • I want to ask you (by including the pronoun you are directly talking to your audience)
  • why is this happening? (the question works, not just as a rhetoric, but you are also directly speaking to the MP and requires an answer. It also conveys your outrage).

Your opening needs to be brief and get to the point quickly. You can go into detail in the rest of your letter/article/speech etc.  Let’s put that together to see how it looks:

Name of MP

Dear Councillor 

I am writing to you after reading an article in Town Life about the closure of our local library due to cutbacks. I want to ask you – why is this happening?

You need to begin a new paragraph. Although a list of your main reasons shows the examiner you are able to prioritise information.

  • Public library (or plural -ies) is/are essential because (I prefer plural, is sends out the message that there are libraries all over the UK/World and are essential). Once I decide on that I can move onto the next part
  • they play (the verb suggests engaging in an activity for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical purpose an active role in society)
  • I want to point out they are needed effective, operating, active I like active
  • part in society (humanity, community, nation, public)
  • they level (match, align) the playing field for everyone (all)
  • they provide an important (necessary, vital, crucial, key) service to a community

Put that together, to see how it looks:

Public libraries are essential because:

  • they play an active role in our community
  • they level the playing field for all
  • they provide a vital service for our town

Listing your key points ensures your intended audience can clearly see the important information. It also shows the examiner you can select key points and summarise effectively. Now we can continue with the main body of our letter. It would be nice to have an anecdote here (make it personal):

  • I remember walking with my mother to the library in town. Re-ordering this sentence makes more sense. Walking with my mother to visit the library was a highlight for me as a child. 
  • walking through the doors and the first thing that hit me was the smell. Then 
  • I remember the colours, and rows; rows and rows of books, every colour, every shape, every size.  I would sit on a comfy chair, or the floor and look at the pictures of wild animals, snakes and tigers. And over the years I grew until I could reach all the shelves myself. It’s a place I associate fond memories of learning about the world we live inthis is too long for a letter, whilst anecdotes are effective, if they go on, they turn into waffle!
  • you also must comment on the community benefit (it’s in your bullet!) this is also the case for the many other families and local schools that use the services provided by the library.
  • (remember your techniques, why not use a list of three here?) The library also hosts; poetry reading, quiz nights and summer school activities for under 11s.
  • (try changing clause order around, begin with a negative word) Removing these services from the community (by repeating services and community I am emphasising the importance to my audience) would affect many townsfolk.

Now start a new paragraph and add another argument.  Begin with a connection to join/link your ideas.

  • Furthermore (moreover, additionally, what’s more) Libraries provide (list community benefits – a triple) those unemployed, on low incomes or those on disability benefits with the ability (capacity, potential. capacity) to search and apply for work easily (effortlessly, comfortably, conveniently) developing their digital and literacy skills Here I’m focusing on the technology libraries also provide.
  • Additionally, again another conjunction joins my ideas cohesively they (third-person plural pronoun reminds the audience that a library has more than ONE purpose) ensure that all children, including those from the poorest backgrounds, are not left behind. They help children escape (beat, liberate) the poverty trap (net, pitfall) Simple exclamatory sentence emphasises the importance of libraries.

I now need a new paragraph to introduce my last bullet point.

  • Many of the services (again repeats the idea that the library offers more than just books) offered by libraries are crucial (essential, imperative, vital) to rural areas and small (by repeating the words rural and small I’m reminding my audience that it’s a needed facility) town such as ours. Free internet access (again repeats the idea that not everyone can afford it) has a key (principal, fundamental, main) role in ensuring that those seeking work have the best possible chance of being successful (prosperous, blossoming).

So far which of the DAFOREST techniques (most year 11s will know those!) have I covered: direct address, opinion, rhetoric question, emotive language, triple. So, I need to include a few others like some facts/statistics and some imagery if possible.

  • After your article appeared in the paper (joins the beginning of the letter and end back) social media (makes it relevant in today’s world) reported overwhelming (amazing, astounding, staggering, crushing, devastating) statistics of 70% (stats!!) wanting the library to stay open. If you (by placing pronoun in italics I am emphasising the importance of the direct address/recipient) are here for the people, then you must listen to the people! The end complex sentence begins with a clause making the recipient the subordinate clause, and ends with another exclamation.

Add an ending to the letter

  • Finally, public libraries provide a vital service for many and any cuts to the service only puts increasing pressure on other services.

Now I need to put it all together and proofread it for errors! Do not forget to do that. It’s at this point I make some last changes, including an appropriate ending to the letter.

Here’s the finished letter – what do you think?

Name of MP

Dear Councillor 

I am writing to you after reading an article in Town Life about the closure of our local library, due to cutbacks. I want to ask you – why is this happening?

Public libraries are essential because:

  • they play an active role in our community
  • they level the playing field for all
  • they provide a vital service for our town

Firstly, I remember visiting the library with my mother: it was the highlight of my week. These types of trips are also important for many other families and local schools that use the services provided by the library. The library also hosts; poetry reading, quiz nights and summer school activities for under 11s. Removing these from the community would affect many townsfolk. What will you replace the services with?

Furthermore, Libraries provide those unemployed, or on low incomes with the ability to search and apply for work easily, developing their digital and literacy skills. Additionally, they ensure that all children, including those from the poorest backgrounds, are not left behind. They help children escape the poverty trap! How are you going to ensure every child matters?

Also, many of the services offered by libraries are crucial to rural areas and small town such as ours. Free internet access has a key role in ensuring that those seeking work have the best possible chance of being successful. What support are you putting in place, once these services are removed? How will you ensure every member of your constituent will be treated equally and have access to the same facilities?

After your article appeared in the paper social media reported overwhelming statistics of over 70% of people wanting the library to stay open. If you are here for the people, then you must listen to the people!

Finally, public libraries provide a vital service for many and any cuts to the service only puts increasing pressure on other services. I implore you to reconsider the implications of a possible closure.

Yours sincerely

(335 words)

Thanks for reading.

Minimum to well, maximum! (P1 & P2)

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.

When you scroll down this list, please don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s long, I know, but most of these you would have learnt in primary and will have used right up to year11 in both your literature and language units of English GCSE. In other words, it’s not as bad as it looks!

When approaching Question 2 (language analysis) as a minimum you need to be secure in the following terms:

  • Adjective
  • Adverb
  • Alliteration
  • First person narrative
  • Hyperbole
  • Images
  • Metaphor
  • Noun
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Personification
  • Point of view
  • Repetition
  • Simile
  • Tension
  • Tone
  • Verb
  • Vocabulary

However, try to get to grips with the following for in-depth analysis:

  • Atmosphere
  • Description
  • Emotive
  • Extended image
  • Extended metaphor
  • Flashback
  • Foregrounding or emphasis
  • Foreshadowing
  • Motif
  • Narrative perspective
  • Parallel structure
  • Rhetoric
  • Short but dramatic narrative
  • Sibilant sound
  • Symbolise

For Q3 Structure you will also need to know the following terminology:

  • Bias (what is present or omitted)
  • Chronologically
  • Colloquial
  • Complex sentence
  • Complex sentences with multiple clauses
  • Compound sentence
  • Conjunction
  • Connectives
  • Dialogue
  • Direct address
  • Direct quote
  • Direct testimony
  • Distant and formal mode of address
  • Emotive assertions
  • Extended list
  • Facts
  • Factual language
  • First-person
  • Foregrounding or emphasis
  • Humour
  • Imperative
  • Impressions
  • Inform
  • Intensifier
  • Interrogatives
  • Interview
  • Journal
  • Long complex sentence
  • Newspaper report
  • One-sided view
  • Persuasive and rhetorical tone
  • Point of view
  • Present participles
  • Present tense verbs
  • Pronoun
  • Questions
  • Reporting
  • Second person
  • Short sentence
  • Structure
  • Superlative
  • Testimonies
  • Third person perspective
  • Time shift
  • Tone and focus
  • Triples


There’s a subject terminology mat here if you want it (Subject terminology mat)


(I didn’t make this – it was a twitter share – I will credit once I find author!)

Thanks for reading.

Analysing language in non-fiction

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.

A question will be worded like this:

Q3 You now need to refer only to source B

  • How does the writer use language to describe a Victorian Christmas

This is using the same skills as analysing language for Paper 1 Q2. However, non fiction texts will not be full of imagery in the way fiction texts are. Analysing the right words might be harder.

Source B – Christmas Day -Christmas in Grantham, Lincolnshire 1894

Everyone loved the Christmas crackers again this year. Who would have thought that Tom Smith, a London confectioner started adding a motto to his sugared almond bon-bons which he sold wrapped in a twisted paper package some years ago, and they have become these Christmas crackers now ?

It`s fun crossing your arms to pull all the crackers at once. Holding the cracker in your right hand and pulling the other person`s cracker with your free left hand. Young Tim were laughing away, Bless him !

Molly and I even had a go. Inside we all got a paper crown made from tissue paper, and we laughed at all the silly mottos.Young Tim started singing `Polly Wolly Doodle` again and we all joined in with him.

Archibald got the coin in the Christmas Pudding. 2nd time in a row, he did last year too ! Bless him ! We all cheered and laughed.

All the family went up to the Front Parlour and they asked Molly and I do join them in a while which we did. Master James had lit the candles on the Christmas tree today and they had given out their presents to each other earlier while we was preparing Christmas Dinner. When Molly and I went in, I was given a grand present of the book, `The Story of a Modern Woman` by English author Ella Hepworth Dixon , a copy of Cassell’s Family Magazine edited by H. G. Bonavia Hunt and some money for Christmas. Molly got some money too.

We was both well pleased, we were.


Possible choices to analyse are:

  • The writer uses the collective pronoun ‘everyone’ followed by past tense verb ‘loved’. Immediately the reader is aware of the importance of Christmas to the narrator and the Victorian ‘family’.
  • The sheer delight at opening a cracker with a chocolate, using patterns in language such as ‘fun’ ‘laughing’ and ‘singing’ when pulling the cracker. The emotive first two abstract nouns have strong positive connotations associated with extreme joy and happiness.
  • This is soon followed with the joy at finding a coin in the pudding again ‘all’ were happy. This gives the reader the impression this is a really special time for the family.
  • Finally the family all join in singing and finally giving out of presents; a book, a magazine, handkerchiefs etc. All of the gifts are purposeful items which will be used by the recipient connoting to a time when it wasn’t about receiving but the giving of gifts.


You MUST identify:


You need to identify a method the author has used and discuss why it’s important/successful in context of the text.

Thanks for reading.



P2/Q2 Summary

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.

For the purpose of this blog, I’ve only used a ‘section’ of each article as an example. In an exam you will have the ‘full’ article to analyse.

You must refer to both sources – or your mark will be capped in level 2.  The exam board will provide you with a specific point of focus, some textual detail to look for that connects both texts either because something is similar, or something is different.

The scope of the question will not require you to consider writers’ techniques or effects. The question will not reference writers for this reason.” However, you must use quotes to support ideas and make inferences.

  • identify what a text is about – the main point being raised/discussed. (If you had to summarise a text in one point what would it be?)
  • Ensure you comment on the question focus eg the differences
  • Ensure any point you makes is linked to the question focus

make a point+evidence from each text+interpret (make an inference)

Text A – Entering the Forbidden City of Mecca, 1853

Mecca was the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed and is the home of the Kaaba, a small cube-shaped building enclosed within a mosque that is revered as the holiest site in Islam. In the year 630, Mohammed conquered Mecca and declared the Kaaba as the center of Islam, requiring that the faithful make a pilgrimage (the Hajj) to the site at least once in their lifetime. Because of its sacredness, Mecca became, and remains, a “forbidden city” – off limits to non-Muslims.

In 1853 intrepid British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton disguised himself as an Islamic pilgrim and made the trek into the heart of Arabia visiting the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. If his true identity as a European Christian had been exposed, the penalty for his indiscretion would have been death.

TEXT B – The Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)

In London, I obtained an East German entry visa and by the afternoon was on a plane to West Berlin.  Once there, I took a taxi with the intention of crossing into the East at Checkpoint Charlie before the crossing point closed for the night. In the back of the cab, I was chatting with a young Irish reporter on his first foreign trip. The radio was on, just a low background sound, and suddenly I saw the driver stiffen and sit bolt upright.  He turned up the sound and I asked him what was happening. He said: “It’s amazing. They’re opening the crossing in an hour.”

The border guards looked confused and numb, as if uncontrolled events had overwhelmed them.  People from the East surged past them and me and over the next hours I photographed incredible scenes of emotion. Some waved their passports at me as they headed West and often into the arms of strangers waiting to greet them.



  • (POINT) Text A begins with a description of ‘Mecca’, it is the (EVIDENCE) “centre of Islam” and sacred to Muslims.  (INTERPRETATION) This suggests it only has value to people of that faith and people who aren’t Muslim are banned. However Stoddart’s account of (POINT)  bringing down the Berlin wall is different because its political implications are just as dangerous shown when the locals (EVIDENCE) ‘stiffen and sit bolt upright’ at the news of the wall. (INTERPRETATION) It suggests that the breaking of the wall symbolically ends years of danger for the people of Germany.


  • British explorer Burton (POINT) gained entry to Mecca by masquerading as a (EVIDENCE) “Islamic pilgrim”. A (INTERPRETATION) reader could infer that he was aware of the dangers and if his true identity was uncovered he could have been killed. Whereas the Berlin text is different, after years of control the guards are (EVIDENCE) “confused” and unsure how to deal with the crowd that are ‘uncontrolled’ as the inhabitants ‘surged’ past them. (POINT) Possibly the guards struggled with this sudden turn of events and (INTERPRETATION) unlike Burton’s experience, the guards were no longer considered dangerous.


Thanks for Reading.



Viewpoint(s) & Perspective(s)

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.

For the purpose of this blog, I’ve only used a ‘section’ of each article as an example. In an exam you will have the ‘full’ article to analyse. Your question will be worded like this…

For this question, you need to refer to the whole of source A together with the whole of source B.

Compare how the writers convey their different ideas and perspectives of being kidnapped.  In your answer, you could:

  • compare their different ideas and perspectives
  • compare the methods they use to convey their ideas and perspectives
  • support your response with references to both texts.

TEXT A – John McCarthy talks about the moment he was taken hostage

‘Back in 1986, it was my first big adventure, going off to the Middle East, working as a journalist for a television news agency. The civil war in Lebanon had been running at that point for around ten years, and was one of the world’s big stories. So I was excited about being given the chance to go and work there with our Lebanese camera crews for a month.

While I was there, there wasn’t much fighting going on. It was a peaceful period of the war which gave me the chance to learn the ropes as a field producer without too much anxiety. And then a number of Westerners started being picked up and no one knew why. So it seemed like a good idea to get out of town until the situation became clear again.

TEXT B – Press ganged, 1811

Twenty-two year old Robert Hay was a ship’s carpenter who had made one voyage aboard a British merchant ship. We join his story as he walks through a London neighbourhood:

“I was, when crossing Tower Hill, accosted by a person in seamen’s dress who tapped me on the shoulder enquiring in a familiar and technical strain, ‘What ship?’ I assumed an air of gravity and surprise and told him I presumed he was under some mistake as I was not connected with shipping. The fellow, however, was too well acquainted with his business to be thus easily put off.

He gave a whistle and in a moment I was in the hands of six or eight ruffians who I immediately dreaded and soon found to be a press gang.

In this question, you must make a clear statement in response to the question about the two texts/articles ensure you answer the focus eg differences (comparison ‘could’ be similarity or differences), then detail the methods/techniques used by the “authors” to convey their viewpoint. Use range connectives (conjunctions).

Statement+method+explain+link to Q+evidence+effect+meaning or inference

Suggested Q4 answer – comparison of viewpoint, requiring analysis

Both texts retell different stories of a kidnap. In source B Hay is powerless as he quickly realises the danger he is in.  He attempts to disguise his fear using emotive language such as ‘gravity’ and ‘dreaded’ showing he understood the seriousness of his abduction.  The verb ‘accosted’ identifies his view at being stopped as one of aggression.  The word choices convey how he understood the gravity of being taken and a reader would also sense he was helpless as he didn’t put up a fight.   In contrast text A McCarthy conveys his lack of awareness of the danger he was in. He uses language connected to happiness and anticipation showing the kidnap came as a complete shock. The trip was described as an ‘adventure’ and with the verb ‘excited’ both suggest he viewed the trip similar to a holiday and would return home soon. This is unlike text B, where Hay’s language conveys he knew his abduction would be for a long time.

This quick realisation is the difference between text A and text B. Both are taken against their will, but Hays understood his fate, whereas McCarthy is unaware until it’s too late.

In text B Hay shows a perspective of resignation with the use of language such as the adjective ‘dreaded’ which suggests a great fear or apprehension and ‘immediately’ showing the speed at which Hay’s was abducted. The reader can infer that Hay’s viewed his abduction as a harrowing experience. This is different to Text A, McCarthy who’s view continues to be one of a brief trip seen in the use of noun ‘a month’ and ‘peaceful’. Both indicate his perspective of Lebanon: it was tranquil and calm. Even when ‘westerners’ were abducted McCarthy’s view is still one of being untroubled as he comments on how they were ‘picked up’ almost as if they were collected by taxi. His perspective conveys a sense of dread from the reader as McCarthy didn’t sense the danger.

The pattern of language associated with glee and merriment are key in illustrating how McCarthy was oblivious to the peril his life was in, seen in “good idea”. This gives an impression that there wasn’t any real threat. Alternatively, text B, attempts to escape his situation seen in his language used such as ‘mistake’. This gives the reader an awareness of Hay’s attempt to talk his way out of the situation and evokes a sense of panic and fear for him and his life. Both texts discuss how the men were abducted, but they are different in their attitudes and thier perception of what was happening.


This is a simple sentence frame to help you:

The author in text A clearly feels (link to question) this is seen in (method), the author used (XXX) seen (evidence) because (ensure links to question). This would (discuss effect) and could suggest (meaning or inference).

Thank you for reading.