Breaking Down the Question – English Composition Guide

Breaking Down the Question – English Composition Guide

Previously we have looked at the importance of considering the PCLM marking scheme that your answer will be graded by when approaching the question for the Part B and Composition sections. Below are examples of how to approach questions from past papers and prepare your answers by considering each element of the marking scheme (we do not include mechanics of language as this is refers to spelling and grammar, and instead focus on whether your piece reads like the desired written medium).

2007

Imagine your local radio station is producing a series of programmes entitled ‘Changing Times’, in which teenagers are asked to give their views on the changes they welcome in the world around them. You have been invited to contribute. Write out the text of the presentation you would make.

Clear appreciation of task: You must show that you recognise the task is to write out the text of the presentation for the radio programme ‘Changing Times’. It is best here to write informatively and include your opinion.

Consistency of register: It is possible to   be formal or informal, but be consistent in which of these you choose. Humor is possible as the show is based on the views of teenagers, but be consistent in this if you choose to be.

Appropriate sense of audience: You are not told who your audience is, but you are given a hint with the mention that the radio station is local; this suggests the audience comprises of your neighbours and people who live near you. This hints that your register can be informal, and that the changes you talk about can be ones taking place in your neighbourhood that your audience can relate to.

Quality of presentation: This refers to how well your piece reads like a radio presentation, how relevant your points are to the radio programme and the audience, as well as that you are consistent in your chosen register.

Imagine you have a friend in another country which is considering the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places. Write a letter to your friend advising him/her either to support or not to support the proposed ban. In giving your advince you may wish to draw on the recent experience of the smoking ban in Ireland.

Clear appreciation of task: You must show that you recognise you are not just writing a letter, but also attempting to advise your friend to support or not support the proposed ban. You could therefore write persuasively or informatively.

Consistency of register: As you are writing to your friend the most appropriate register is informal, but you can choose formal; regardless of your choice be consistent in this. If you wish to be humorous you can be, but be consistently humorous if so.

Appropriate sense of audience: The audience is your friend so writing about shared personal experience rather than statistics would be appropriate, as would the use of humor to lighten the advising.

Quality of letter: This refers to the advice you give being effective and whether you communicate this appropriately to advise your friend to/not to support the proposed smoking ban. In addition, the piece must read as a letter.

2006

‘Hours later… the boy’s soul raged…’

Imagine that, in an attempt to control his feelings, the boy writes into his diary an account of the incident and his reactions to it. Write out his diary entry.

Clear appreciation of the task: You must display a recognition that the task is to compose a diary entry which accounts the incident and the boy’s reaction to it. You are therefore writing aesthetically and hence should describe events and experiences, as well as how the subject feels about or reacts to these.

Consistency of register: The tone should be informal as you are writing to a diary who you have a rapport with, which implies a personal tone.

Appropriate sense of audience: As the audience is your diary the emphasis should be on recounting the incident and the boy’s (your) reaction(s) to it. Diary entries focus on describing to the diary what has happened to you and how you feel about such events; therefore you should write directly to the diary and reveal what happened so as to indicate that you recognise your audience (the diary).

Quality of entry: This concerns whether your piece appears and reads as a diary entry; this focuses largely on whether what you have written has described the event from the text and how the boy felt about this.

Write a letter to a famous writer or celebrity or sports personality of your choice offering your services as a ghost writer for a future book. In your letter you should outline the reasons why you believe you would make a successful ghost writer for your chosen author.

Clear appreciation of task: You need to show recognition that you are being asked to write a letter offering your services as a ghostwriter to someone. With this in mind you should outline the reasons for why you would make a successful ghost writer for your chosen audience; you could write informatively or persuasively, but be consistent in which ever genre you choose.

Consistency of register: You should be consistently informal as you are offering a service to someone you do not know. Humor should be avoided for the same reason.

Appropriate sense of audience: Show that you recognize your audience, who is a person with some level of fame. To indicate this you could use techniques such as recounting part of their life which you intend to write on in a certain way, thus revealing that you recognise their celebrity status.

Quality of letter: This refers to whether your piece reads like a letter, and if suitably outlines the reasons why you would be a successful ghost writer for your intended audience.

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About the Author

John Ryan

John has a Masters in Modern English Literature and is the founder of RyJoLC, an educational consultancy based in Dublin that provides English language and curriculum resources to educational institutions worldwide.
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