Monday, February 4, 2019

Advice for Cambridge Assessments


Advice for each paper in Cambridge Assessment


Paper 1 Reading Passages (Core)
Question 1
Skim read Passage A for the gist of it before you look at the different parts of the question. Then scan the passage to find the answer to each part of the question in turn.

Each part of the question will tell you where to look in the text to work out your answer – for example it may say to look at certain lines, certain words or the whole passage. Check the key words used.

Generally, the questions will get more challenging as you work through, so watch out for instructions designed to help you – for example if you are told to use your own words or give a certain number of reasons.

Notice how many marks there are for each question. This will help you to judge how much to write for your answer and the number of points you will need to include. For example, a question with 6 marks is expecting you to offer more than a question with only 1 mark.

There is no need to repeat the whole of the question before beginning your answer. ‘He means that...’ or ‘It is because...’ are enough to provide a grammatical introduction to your sentence. This will save you time.

Where you are asked to give a word or words you do not need to answer with a full sentence – more time saved!

Question 2
Remember that in this question, your reading and writing skills are being tested so you need to be using both – picking out ideas from the passage and reworking them to write a convincing response.

You will need to use and develop the ideas contained in the passage, and add original details of your own. Don’t forget that your ideas should remain based on the passage and not stray too far from it.

Remember that the quality of your writing is being judged in this part of the question paper. The question may give you bullet points to help you structure your piece of writing.

You will need to check your answer when you finish and correct any mistakes you notice. Look out especially for things you might not have noticed as you were writing – like missed full-stops.

You will be rewarded for showing a wide range of vocabulary, so aim to avoid using the same word too often and try to choose more precise vocabulary rather than always the first word you think of.

Try if you can to “hear” your answer read out in your head – this will help you to check that you are using an appropriate register (that it sounds right). For example, a news report is going to differ in style from a magazine article. Reading your answer back to yourself will also help you to spot slips in punctuation and check your sequencing of ideas.

Question 3
3(a) Notes
You can write your response to this question in note form, but you should make sure that each point is clear enough and contains enough information for the examiner to understand your point.

In your identification of points, you will need to focus on and select the specific ideas or details relevant to the question set.

Make sure that your points are clear and show the examiner what specific idea you have selected. You do not need to use your own words for this part of the question, but you should make sure that the points you record are clear.

Write your points on separate lines in the question paper. Don’t write more than one point per line.

Don’t repeat your points.

Make sure that the words you write are clear and as accurate as possible to make sure the examiner understands what point you have selected.

You will have 10 numbered lines in the question paper on which to record your points. You cannot add extra points to this list of 10, unless you have crossed out an earlier point.

3(b) Summary
This response should be written in full sentences, not note form.

Use your notes from Question 3(a) in your prose response and try to include all of the points you have identified in 3(a) in your answer to 3(b).
You do not need to introduce or conclude your summary – this will waste time and words. You could start by using the wording of the question, ‘The features of the desert are...’

You need to show evidence of clear and concise summary style throughout, with good focus on the points you have identified in 3(a) Notes.

Use your own words as far as possible, but you do not have to find synonyms for technical objects, e.g. solar heaters.

Paper 2 Reading Passages (Extended) Question 1

The passage for this question may contain a description of a person or place or both. To do well, you will need to be sensitive to the atmosphere being created and show appreciation of the feelings of any characters in your response. This means watching out for details and picking up on clues in the passage as you read.
In this question, you are going to be rewarded not only for identifying relevant material in the passage but also for development of those ideas and use of supporting detail. Some ideas might be quite subtle and implied. This means that you will need to use any clues and details you noticed when you were reading, in order to write a convincing response.

If you are aiming to score the full 15 marks available for Reading in this question, it will not be enough to just repeat details you have read. The more you can adapt the details from the passage to suit the task you have been set, the more likely you are to score well for reading.

When you are preparing to write your answer, it will really help you to highlight the material in the text you are going to use – using a pencil so that you can change your mind if you need to. Next, draw up a quick plan in order to organise the ideas you’ve found into a logical structure, before you start writing your response.
If you are given bullet points to remind you of what should be included, use them to check you have covered what is required. These bullet points can also help you to structure your answer. The material from the passage should be put into the appropriate section and not repeated.

Section 2: Examination advice
Do not be tempted to add extra sections. For instance, where you are given the questions to ask in an interview, stick to those questions only and develop the responses to them. It can make your answers too fragmented or less focused if you add more.

If a detail is relevant, use it! Make sure that you are using as much of the material as it is possible to do. However, there may be some parts of the passage which you can ignore because they are not covered by the question.

Do not drift away from the text. Everything you write must be directly connected to the passage and be supported by references to it.

Using words or phrases from the passage here and there when you are giving details within your answer is fine. Watch out though that you do not copy big chunks of text as that is not going to be showing your understanding, just your handwriting! You should try to use your own words as far as possible.

Before you start writing, you will need to decide on the appropriate tone to use – you will decide this based on your audience and why you are writing. You might even be writing in character. You can expect that you will have to write in a reasonably formal style – this is after all an English exam! It is rarely going to be a good idea to use slang for example. Even if the task is to write a letter to a relative, it will be someone distant or older, such as an uncle whom you haven’t met recently. If a task asks for a report to your fellow learners, it will be official or for publication in the school magazine. It is really important to remember who you are writing for and to address them directly – imagining this is a real situation (as far as possible).

For the full marks for Writing you need to show that you have structured your answer, sequenced your ideas, and used a wide range of original and appropriate language. Thinking about the way your answer would sound if it was read out loud will help you to check if you are getting this right.

If the question has several parts to it, you can either deal with them in the order they are written in the question or you can deal with them together. You can decide on your own structure for your answer, but what matters is that there should be a structure of some kind which is clear to your reader.

Obviously, it is important that we can read your work so you need to make sure that your writing is legible. You won’t get any marks for how it looks in terms of layout though. For example, it is wasting time to divide a newspaper report into columns or add drawings and extra advertisements to try to make it look similar to real life. This cannot be rewarded and it will distract you from the real task of providing appropriate and accurate content for your response.

Don’t forget that you are writing in continuous prose so should be using paragraphs.

Checking and correcting your answer at the end is essential. You will need to make changes to correct slips and perhaps words or phrases which don’t sound quite right in context.

Question 2
This question may be sub-divided in two parts. You need to give equal attention to each part and provide at least half a page for each. Make sure that you concentrate on the sections of the passage which you have been told to look at.
You should aim to find at least four relevant quotations to support each of your points in both parts of the question. Give the quotation, in quotation marks, explain its meaning, and then explain its effect in the passage.

Spend some time thinking about which choices you will explain – choose the strongest examples rather than necessarily the first ones you come to.

Make sure that it is clear which word(s) you are discussing. If you choose more than three or four words together it is not clear which one(s) you are selecting, so try to keep quotations short.

Avoid clumping words together or listing them – again you need to focus on each word individually as you explore and explain the effect the writer wanted them to have on the reader.

You need to do more than label literary features – saying that something is a metaphor is a starting point but to show understanding of effect you need to explain why and how the author has chosen that particular image in the context of the passage.

Do not select a quotation which you do not understand as you will not be able to explain either its meaning or its effect.

When you are explaining a quotation, do not repeat the words used in it. You need to use your own words to show that you are understanding what you are reading.

Do not repeat quotations; you cannot get credit more than once for the same choice.

You need to give a full range of explained effects and link them into an overview which shows understanding of what the writer was trying to achieve in the passage as a whole.

Try to avoid generalised comments such as ‘The writer makes me feel as though I am there’ and ‘The passage is cleverly written’. These will gain no marks and give the impression that you are failing to find things to say. You need to explain HOW this is the case.

When you have some ideas for your comments, think about how they fit together before you start writing your answer – in that way you can avoid contradicting yourself in the effects that you are suggesting.

When you are planning your answer, things to look for could include:
–  use of the five senses – including colour, noise or sound effects
–  use of contrast or links between the subject and the environment
–  surprising or unusual words in the context of the description
–  imagery (similes and metaphors).
To score marks though you will need to explain HOW they work, not just find them.

Though there are no marks for writing in this question, if the examiner is not able to follow what you are saying then it will be hard for you to show your understanding. Try to keep the examiner in mind as you write – explain your points fully so that we know exactly what you are suggesting. Write in full sentences and in paragraphs, not in note form or using a table.

Question 3
3(a) Notes
You can write your response to this question in note form, but you should make sure that each point is clear enough and contains enough information for the examiner to understand your point.

In your identification of points, you will need to focus on and select the specific ideas or details relevant to the question set.

Make sure that your points are clear and show the examiner what specific idea you have selected. You do not need to use your own words for this part of the question, but you should make sure that the points you record are clear.

Write your points on separate lines in the question paper. Don’t write more than one point per line.

Don’t repeat your points.
You are not assessed for spelling in this question, but make sure that the words you write are clear and as accurate as possible to make sure the examiner understands what point you have selected.
You will have 15 numbered lines in the question paper on which to record your points. You cannot add extra points to this list of 15, unless you have crossed out an earlier point.

Section 2: Examination advice
3(b) Summary

This response should be written in full sentences, not note form.

Use your notes from Question 3(a) in your prose response and try to include all of the points you have identified in 3(a) in your answer to 3(b).

You do not need to introduce or conclude your summary – this will waste time and words. You could start by using the wording of the question, ‘The features of the desert are...’

You need to show evidence of clear and concise summary style throughout, with good focus on the points you have identified in 3(a) Notes.

Use your own words as far as possible, but you do not have to find synonyms for technical objects, e.g. solar heaters.

Paper 3 Directed Writing and Composition (Core and Extended)
Section 1
For this question, you will need to put yourself into role, and address your audience directly. The opening needs to introduce clearly the situation and purpose of the task, and will be rewarded if it puts the reader in the picture.

You need to be clear and often persuasive in tasks like these, so imagining that you are addressing someone in front of you might help you to keep that in mind. Do not be overly casual though – this is a formal piece of writing. Even if it is for your peers in a school magazine, written language for publication is less colloquial than spoken language.

Your answer will not be in the same genre as the passage, and should therefore be in a different style from it.

You should try to use as many ideas from the passage as possible as they will all be relevant, but you will have to change the way you express them; all the material you use from the passage must be modified to suit the new genre.

Do not write as yourself unless you are specifically told to do so and keep in mind why you are writing – for example are you meant to be persuading someone or offering advice?

There will almost certainly be two texts, perhaps in different genres e.g. a letter and a dialogue. The question will require you to assimilate information from both texts so you must not ignore one of them, but don’t just lift from the text(s) word for word. You need to find the ideas and use them.

The recommended structure for the response will be offered in the wording of the question, and you should follow this.

There will be at least two factors to focus on – for example advantages and disadvantages. You will need to make two lists before you start in order to make sure you have enough material for both sides of the question.
The third element of this question is evaluation; you will have to decide which of the options is better, present reasons why you have formed this opinion and justify it.

Keep your focus on what the question is asking you to do. Do not get distracted by peripheral issues; for instance if you are asked how money should be spent, don’t discuss the fund-raising methods.

Make strong transitions between points/paragraphs e.g. ‘Yet another reason to support this proposal is...’ You need to link your ideas together logically so that if someone in real life was reading this response they would follow what you are saying step by step.

Though you cannot make up things which are not in the passages, you should try to use your own ideas in the way that you extend those of the passages, provided that they are ‘based on the reading material’.

The ending needs to be definite and provide an effective and satisfying conclusion to the piece.

Section 2
It is essential that you choose a question which you understand and which suits your writing abilities.

Though the two different genres are marked according to the same mark scheme for Style and Accuracy, they are marked differently for Content and Structure. The two genres are different from each other, so you need to be aware of the characteristics of each.
Whichever type of essay you choose, it should be planned first. If after five minutes you have managed to collect only a few ideas for your choice of title, switch to another one. The plan should contain between 6 and 10 points or ideas which can be developed into paragraphs, if the essay is going to be of a suitable content and length. Aim for about 8 paragraphs and 400 words.

Openings to compositions are important as they either engage the reader or they don’t. Try to grab your reader’s attention from the start.

Take the opportunity to show off your range of vocabulary – find precise words to use and vary your choices.

Descriptive Compositions
It is difficult to write interesting descriptions, so this type of composition should not be attempted unless you have had practice and success at this type of writing. To write a strong descriptive answer you will need to use a wide range of vocabulary and even use imagery to engage reader interest. Unless the readers can see the picture they will not be able to relate to the experience.

You will need to use a variety of sentence structures. All forms of repetition should be avoided – unless you are deliberately using it carefully for effect.

You will need to evoke all five senses to create an environment and atmosphere, as well as details of size, shape and colour. Make colour precise, e.g. ‘scarlet’, ‘azure’, ‘off-white’, ‘bluish-grey’.

Try to avoid common, overused, vague, short and childish vocabulary, such as ‘nice’, ‘big’, ‘little’, ‘a lot of’, ‘good’, and ‘bad’.
Each noun probably needs one or more adjectives in front of it to give sufficient detail.

Don’t let your description become static – give structure and progression to your description e.g. moving towards or through something, such as a street market or busy shopping mall, or going through a period of time, an hour or a day for instance, and recording the changes.

Descriptive compositions must not become a narrative, which means character and event should not take over or be dominant. (You can have lots of description in a story but you should have as little “story” in a description as possible.)

Section 2: Examination advice
Narrative compositions
Decide on a tense and then stick to it; do not jump between present and past. The normal narrative tense is past and those who try to write in the present usually forget to do so after a while, so it is safer to start off in the past.

Know what your last sentence is going to be before you write your first. A narrative has to build up to a climax and lead towards a conclusion which is planned before it starts or it will end lamely or incomprehensibly, or the pace will be too slow or too fast.

Don’t try to do too much; you can’t cover many events and many years in one short composition. Select key moments and skip over the rest, changing the pace according to the intensity of the moment.

Don’t try to include too many characters (generally no more than than three is best). Don’t try to give them all speech.
For the top band, complexity of narrative and structure is required e.g. framing the story; flashback or forward time jump; two parallel strands being brought together. However, do not attempt these devices unless you are sure you can manage them.

Use dialogue by all means (if you can punctuate and set it out correctly) but don’t overdo it. You shouldn’t turn your story into a play, nor should you dilute the effect of occasional and significant moments of speech by giving the characters trivial things to say throughout. Save speech for important moments.

If you do use dialogue, find synonyms for ‘he said/she said’.

Even narrative needs description. You need to help your reader imagine characters and places by adding significant details to bring them alive.
Choose to tell your narrative in first or third person and stick with your choice; do not switch viewpoint accidentally, as this is confusing for the reader.

Don’t use a first person narrator if you want to die at the end of your story! It is generally safer to use third person narration as it gives you more flexibility and a wider viewpoint.

Don’t end your story with ‘And then I woke up in hospital’, or ‘It was all a dream’. Try to avoid clichés of any kind, including stereotypical characters and predictable outcomes.

Use similes, but avoid obvious ones such as ‘as red as a rose’. Make comparisons unusual, but still apt, by giving them a moment’s thought and making them more specific e.g. ‘as red as a matador’s cape’.
Use plenty of interesting details to engage your reader and make them want to read on.

Don’t exaggerate; too much blood or too many unlikely events become ridiculous, and fear is more believable when it is mental rather than physical.
Use your own knowledge and experiences as inspiration. It is better to think of something that actually happened to you, or someone you know, or which you read in a book or saw in a film, than to try
to make up something entirely from scratch. It will sound more convincing. You will need to adapt, embellish and exaggerate the original idea to make it relevant, fresh and memorable – just retelling the plot synopsis or giving a factual account is not likely to interest your reader.

Keep a balance in the different parts of the narrative. An over-long introduction reduces the effect of the middle section where things build up to a climax, and you need to leave yourself time to create a memorable ending.

End your narrative deliberately. Stories need a conclusion, where things are either resolved or purposely left unresolved as a cliff-hanger (though on the whole readers prefer to know how a story ended). You must not give the impression that you just stopped writing because you ran out of time, ink or ideas.

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