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Visible Revision Part 1 - Examiner's Report and Advice

After each exam the examiner produces a report that outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates for each question.

By now you should have had, or can ask for, the mark you got for each question. This should highlight your strengths and weaknesses. I've colour coded everyone's marks so that if you got more than 60% of the marks of the question you are green, 60% amber and less than 60% red.

You should now be planning your marginal gains.


Q1 - 4 marks

Q2 - 8 marks

Q3 - 6 Marks

Q4 8 marks

Q5 Creativity 8
      Accuracy 4

Q6  Creativity 10
       Accuracy 5

Here is where you can tailor your revision to make significant gains. You can focus your revision to make serious gains on question 1 and 4 - these are your weak areas which can bring you the largest gains. But only one of your questions is perfect - you need to keep the skills of this question ticking along as any lapse counters the gains you've made and there is still room for improvement.

A serious gain in marks would be 8 marks (in the past grade boundaries have been spaced at 5-8 mark intervals). This may sound huge but it averages out as 1 mark per skill you are marked on.

See Dave Brailsford talk about Marginal Gains:

See it in action with Scotland's greatest Olympian:

So the examiner's report is where you can start making some gains - knowing what is successful in training yourself for the exam is key and knowing what not to do is even more important.

Q1 - 'The most successful students showed detailed understanding by employing a combination of their own words and support from the text, together with pertinent and often perceptive interpretations of the issues.'

Interpretations of the issues is key here. The question has changed from 'learn' to 'understand' which means you've got to give the impression you get of the issue being discussed related to the question.

Top band answer - The use of 'moral degradation' highlights the severity of the impact on the audience of computer games but for the user the contrast is always in the 'exhilarating rush' of the violent simulation. At the heart of the article is the balancing of these two ideas.

Key mistake - 'A few students misunderstood the requirements of the question by, for example, offering a critique of the text or discussing the effects of language.'

Q2 - 'The most able made perceptive links to the content of the text'

We have all become adept at using our honed analytical skills but students who accessed top marks were more focused on how the analysis linked to the content of the text. The skill with analytical questions is writing a lot about a little and not just covering a range of analysis. Think about your last step of analysis -the alternative interpretation. The report suggests that this still doesn't get you to top bands without being able to link to the content of the text so this must always be an aim.

Top band answer - The scale of the jellyfish highlights the scale and devastation that can be caused by the sucking of the jellyfish into the nuclear plant yet the comedic image of 'slimezilla' seems to make light of a problem that would normally seem trivial contrasting with the initial danger shown in the image. 'Slimezilla' though hinting at the horror of godzilla seems to juxtapose this horror with the more light-hearted 'slime' perfectly illustrating the key idea within the article that the dangers of the jellyfish to nuclear plants isn't taken as seriously as it should do. 

Key mistake - 'Students who did less well relied on generalised comments about the effects of the headline, such as ‘it makes you want to read the text’ or ‘it tells you what went on’,

Q3 - 'This piece might have produced higher marks for some students had they read the question carefully. Too many students explained the thoughts and feelings of both Bill Bryson and Stephen Katz even though the question specifically required them to focus solely on the writer.'

Read the question - we have all been there and made the same mistake in not answering the question in front of us but we need to take the moment to identify 'task words' and 'content words' of the question. Across the year group this was one of the most poorly done questions. Top band answers won't just pick out one thought and feeling but they will show how these progress.

Top band answer - Although the writer feels scared in the opening, especially as he is describing the 'abyss that opened up in front of me', there is a sharp change to confidence further on in the text. 'Abyss' suggests a never ending darkness which could also represent his the seeming unlimited fear pouring through him, it is clear from the line he thinks that not being able to see the bottom is a negative point and not an adrenaline rush as the guide seems to be suggesting to him. This is completely contrasted by the end as he talks of his 'pleasure knowing no bounds' highlighting the exhilaration he now feels and the sense of accomplishment that is at the forefront of his mind. His thoughts and feelings go from limitless negativity and fear to limitless positivity and thrill.

Key Mistake - 'Treating this question as a ‘language’ question, or explaining the effects of the events on the reader did not receive any credit because that was not what the question required.'

Q4 - 'Those who attained marks in Band 3 or Band 4 of the mark scheme, were able to make appropriate selections of words and phrases from the chosen source texts, analyse how these were effective and then compare this use of language in relation to the different context of each source.'

This is the daddy of the reading questions. The one where everyone can make a gain. The key to the top band answers is linking to context. Context is the background of where the work has come from not limited to Form Audience and Purpose. Who is writing the articles? Why are they writing them? What kind of text is being published and for whom? These are all valid questions to ask yourself but you can also consider the stance and tone of the article and why they are approaching their subject in this way.

This is too complex to cover in a short example paragraph and will be covered in a future blog post.

Key Mistake -'Students whose mark resided in Band 2 attempted to select and compare but often resorted to describing content and purpose, speculating on audience or making generalised comments about sentence length. These students often identified features such as alliteration, hyperbole, triplets etc. but then offered only generalised comments that, for example, they ‘involved the reader’, or ‘drew the reader in’.'

Q5 - '...the writing which received marks in the highest band showed originality of thought, structure and vocabulary.'

This is a chance to show off. I haven't put together the A/A* Vocabulary link for nothing. The more you show the better you do. Think of the structure of your text. The likely reaction of your audience. The misdirection or mixing of humorous and serious points. These all take careful planning before hand and skill in craft and practice. This is a skill you should practice once a week always with the examiner as an audience in mind. Watch what the question is asking you. Christmas is a day not a time of year. A trap a few of you may have fallen into.

Key Mistake - 'Some of the weaker responses lapsed into narrative, interpreting ‘time of year’ for ‘specific event’ – often Christmas or a particular summer holiday'

Q6 - 'The majority of students promoted the idea of travel, though a good number successfully argued that staying at home was valid: ‘allow your inertia to control your life’ was the suggestion from one
student that was particularly compelling. Others cited David Attenborough and the beauty of HD
television as reasons for staying at home as well as the normal risks and cost of travel. Irony
and satire were employed convincingly by the most able writers.'

This is the being bold question. You are creating an argument or persuading so don't be afraid to go against the grain. Write the unexpected. We had some great ideas on charity and arguing against it. Surprise the examiner and if you know what your writing is unexpected point it out in explicit terms:

Top Band Answer - As you read this, you'll be expecting the thousands of student drones to churn out how travel broadens their horizons and makes them see the world in a new light. Ask yourself, as you read exam paper and exam paper and exam paper telling you to go and live with a remote Patagonian tribe to give you new perspective, is the repetitive nonsense about travel really the brave new world? Have horizons been broadened or has it just taught millions of teenagers to spout out 'somewhere over the rainbow' guff to line travel operators pockets. Stay at home. Watch your world through your massive telly and laugh as people go travelling and find exactly what they thought they would. Sit back and surprise yourself with the depths of the oceans that none of these hippies will ever see through their hacky sacks and alpaca ponchos.

Key Mistake - 'Weaker students, however, ignored the key words in the question and
simply wrote about going away on holiday. Another attribute of less successful writing was the
spurious use of statistics: ‘70% of teenagers have never been abroad’ and ‘25% of all flights
crash’ being examples. The evidence of formulaic writing was as apparent here as it was in
Question 5, and the conclusion was the same: the most successful writing is free of it.'

So there you have it. The magical exam elixir. Go away and work out which categories and plan your marginal gains.

Tell me how you are going to improve. What are you going to do, when are you going to do it and how will it improve your grade?


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