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Many centres will have given students the Non-exam Assessment (NEA) set text list at the end of last term and sent them forth to research their second texts to form links with for Task 1 and to plan an original non-fiction writing piece for Task 2. As the upcoming new term starts, it is worth recalling some “absolute” requirements of the NEA so that energies are most productively steered and, above all, the adventurous spirit in which the A Level English Language and Literature NEA component was designed is reflected.
Requirements of the NEA component
“Part fact part fiction is what life is” according to Jeanette Winterson in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Both readers and narrators alike are “meaning seeking creatures” so when finding stylistic connections between Task 1 texts how far the narrative voice is objective or subjective is an intriguing variable within and between the texts to discuss. Whilst at least one text must be chosen from the prescribed non-fiction list for Task 1, there are productive comparisons or contrasts to be made between them, for instance, the episodic observations structuring the seemingly neutral recollections in What the Chinese Don’t Eat and The Examined Life or the chiastic structure of Stuart, A life Backwards as “chaotic” as Stuart is sometimes, or the circular, somewhat ironic, odyssey in The Lost Continent.
The NEA H474 Teacher Guide is really useful as a “sharp focus” on the points of differentiation – with emphasis on contextual and stylistic aspects – will yield lines of enquiry that fulfil the Assessment Objectives in “sufficient depth and detail of analysis” for a whole texts essay. Comparing the blend of pathos and satirical humour in The Lost Continent and Stuart, A Life Backwards or indeed the allegories of social and environmental effects on humanity in Stasiland with those in Down and Out in London and Paris or Twelve Years A Slave......the ways in which “writers frame their worlds” intrigue and beguile.
The possibilities for comparisons are also abundant beyond the list with the option of a free-choice second text, written in any genre, literary or non-literary, spoken or written, provided that it is “substantial” and “published in book form”. One last really important detail is that at least one text should be published in the 21st century and the other text can be from any period or also 21st century. The commendable aim of studying contemporary writing is met and serves as a levelling element for assessment purposes as all students will form their own judgements of fresh material – an exciting prospect. Once students present their individual choices for the linked texts all proposed NEA texts and tasks should be submitted to OCR for approval, using the text and task proposal form.
“Why could there not be experience and experiment?” asks Winterson in her “literary biography”. Indeed, students may have also been planning their original non-fiction writing pieces for Task 2 over the summer. You’re perhaps already considering or planning short writing exercises building up expertise in writing in different non-fiction genres for the term ahead.
More on Task 2, including how to effectively pair texts and write appropriate task titles, will be available in my next blog in October.
Bibliography: Winterson, J. (2012) Why be happy when you could be normal? Vintage.
Tess Knevett - Lead Moderator - A Level English Language and Literature (H474/04)
Tess Knevett has worked with OCR since 1992 on a range of examined and non-examined components, most recently as Senior Moderator on Unit F662/01 Literature post-1900 Coursework. Having led two English and Communications faculties and an English and Drama department, her experience in the classroom underpins her work as an assessor. Tess has eclectic tastes in literary and non-fiction texts and likes "really good writing" on any subject, written in any style and so regards the fresh and adventurous approach of the NEA Component 04 OCR Advanced Level English Language and Literature as an exciting development.