This is part of an OCR English blog series rounding up practical insights and ideas from markers, teachers and the OCR English subject team to support you and your students with exam preparation.
It feels timely to cover some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that teachers have been asking over the past few months about English Language now that the exam period is almost upon us.
To help answer some of your questions, we’ve provided guidance on 4 of the key points:
We hope that our answers to your frequently asked questions helps to refine your teaching approaches and ensure your students are well prepared as they can be.
'Subject terminology' is the specific phrasing featured as part of AO2 and refers to the inclusion of relevant literary and linguistic terms.
These should be included but not at the cost of relevant and perceptive explanation of the effect of the writer’s craft. Examiners are NOT looking for the inclusion of subject terminology without any explanation aka feature spotting.
The mark scheme gives clear guidance on this by saying ‘Precisely selected and integrated subject terminology deployed to enhance the response’ so students should be aiming to include subject terminology as part of a full response to the set question.
The focus of question 4 is on students’ own personal reading of the texts in light of the statement and their critical engagement with it.
For AO4, students need to be able to show a personal engagement with the texts backed up with evidence from the texts and, particularly for the higher levels in the mark scheme, a degree of critical ‘distance’.
The question in the sample material tries to prompt this by asking ‘How far do you agree?’ to encourage a summative overview of the texts. The first and second bullet points in the question are linked to AO4 and require students to show an understanding of what the writers are saying (about freedom and personal beliefs in the Component 1 SAM, for example) i.e. 'what ideas are they presenting?’
Student should consider things like:
This may include some elements of language analysis to support points, but it is not an in depth look at the use of language and structure as in Question 3.
Remember, terminology is not a focus here as it is for the AO2 questions. The focus of Question 4 should be on an evaluation of viewpoints/perspectives and of the student's own interpretation in light of the statement.
The third bullet point in Question 4 is linked to AO3. The focus is on a comparison of the ideas in the texts in light of the statement. The comparison of ideas can include similarities or differences. Higher-level responses will typically include comparison throughout with students evaluating the texts in response to the question as they go.
The writing tasks are worth 40 marks with the marks split between AO5 (24 marks) and AO6 (16 marks).
There is some cross over between the two assessment objectives but the key skills required to target each one do differ.
AO5- key skills
AO6- key skills
The effective use of structure is important in order for students to hit both AOs effectively. If students use very limited structure they will be heavily penalised regardless of how good their form, awareness of purpose / audience, tone etc. is.
There is no definitive list of possible non-fiction texts that may be included in the exam. The tasks will always be to produce a non-fiction text for a specific audience and one of two the tasks will always link to section A of the paper. The writing guide suggests examples such as articles, newspaper reports, speeches and letters and the tasks will always be something similar to these text types.
Ed Stokes - Subject Advisor - English
Ed Stokes is a Lead Subject Advisor at OCR and is responsible for a portfolio of English qualifications including GCSE English Language, Functional Skills English and Entry Level English.
Prior to working at OCR Ed was a Year 9 Progress Leader and English Teacher at a secondary school in the East of England. Ed taught GCSE and IB English and Media Studies in a range of schools in the UK and abroad and has taught ESOL as part of the International Development Programme. In his spare time Ed is a keen cyclist.