From one link, and possibly only relevant to that particular examination board; but a useful read too: A summary report of recent (where A is the highest grade) examination papers.
NB Check Exemplars
For all candidates
Planning/outlining Developing candidates’ ability to spend five minutes productively on preparation for writing is likely to bear fruit in gaining a better global sense of the text before they begin writing. Teaching candidates how to jot down their possible content ideas, and consider the overall structure and sequence of their writing is helpful: various strategies such as spider diagrams, flow diagrams, notes, or linear sequencing may be helpful. The key thing here is that candidates know there are two things they need to think about: 1) the content and ideas of their text and 2) the overall structure and organisation of their text. The point of this activity is not so much to prepare a detailed outline plan of the text but to go through the thinking processes which help the writer think about the text as a whole and their authorial intentions before they start.
Task representation It was evident that some students had an acronym to help them think about the requirements of the writing task, but it was less evident that they were using this in their writing. It is important that candidates develop the capacity to move beyond the identification stage to thinking about what that means: if the form is a newspaper article, what are the genre characteristics of a newspaper article? If the purpose is to provide information, what are the language features of an instructional text? If the audience is non‐experts, how might the writing need to be adapted to make it accessible to this audience?
Reviewing during writing Encourage candidates to pause regularly as they write to re‐read what they have written and to remind themselves of their intentions in terms of form, purpose and audience. Often re‐reading a paragraph helps generate new ideas for the next but it also helps keep the sense of the text as a whole in the writer’s mind. Teach candidates how to ‘read aloud in their heads’: this helps us to hear our text and be the reader of our own writing. Encourage candidates to pause before they get to the end of the writing and think just for a moment about how to bring the writing to an effective ending. For lower‐ability candidates
Managing examination time Many F grade candidates did not attempt the writing task at all, or did not finish it, so one clear implication is supporting these candidates in how to manage time in an examination.
Re‐reading sentences whilst writing F grade candidates have a tendency to write long, rambling sentences which managed information poorly. It is likely that these writers ‘just write’ and may need support with strategies that help them think a little more about what they are writing and how best to say it. It may help these writers to learn how to orally rehearse sentences or parts of sentences in their head before they write them down. They would also benefit from looking at examples of poorly‐managed, overlong sentences and playing with how to rewrite them to make them more effective.
Using some short sentences The lack of text rhythm and a tendency towards rather monotonous structures was another feature of responses from F grade candidates. Look at examples of short sentences in different texts and discuss their effect, both on how the text sounds when read aloud and the impact on meaning. It is important to help these candidates understand that it is not just a case of having some short sentences, but making good choices as a writer about how to draw attention to an idea, description, point or so on by giving it the weight of a short sentence. For average‐ability candidates
Avoiding repetition of similar structures in a text, such as I think/I believe Using some authentic texts as models, look at alternative ways of expressing a personal stance, including alternative verbs to think and believe, and adverbial positioning, such as in my opinion, clearly, without doubt and so on. Look also at how the I think start point of a sentence can often be omitted but still retain a sense of a personal perspective.
Using paragraphs more effectively C grade candidates in general have understood well that paragraphs need to be organised thematically, and have also learned some standard adverbials which support the connection of ideas across a text. Their writing would be strengthened by a more sophisticated use of paragraphing, particularly using thematic organisation to build argument sequentially, rather than organising the text essentially around ‘for’ or ‘against’ paragraphs, or the bullet point prompts of the question. One element of this is developing a broader repertoire of ways to link ideas across paragraphs. This is not simply through a better use of a more varied range of adverbials, but also through: lexical connections, such as the use of repetition, synonyms or antonyms to link ideas in two paragraphs; the use of This to refer back to the previous argument; and stronger topic sentences (or thesis statements) in paragraphs to flag the line of argument. For high‐ability candidates
Using clause structures which support the expression of arguments The most basic way to express an argument is through simple subordination such as because, if and unless. However, it might be helpful to introduce high‐attaining writers to some of the clause patterns which allow arguments or points of view to be expressed in a more sophisticated way through parallel structures such as: not only… but also; neither… nor; either… or; if… then; although…nevertheless.
Being creative in approaching the task In the sample of scripts analysed, it was only A grade candidates who took a different approach to the writing task, and even at A grade there were few examples of this. Encourage candidates to feel able to take on different character roles to bring a different perspective to the task, or to develop an alternative viewpoint from the one implied by the question (no‐one wrote about why our society is not a violent one, for example).
Avoiding overlong paragraphs The points made above in relation to developing paragraphing also have resonance at a higher level, but as a consequence of candidates’ ability to generate more ideas and write a greater length. Using some authentic texts presented as unparagraphed prose, experiment with different ways of paragraphing, including looking at the effect of the occasional short paragraph, and discussing the impact of different choices for subdividing by theme. Support these writers in understanding that theme can be an over‐arching theme or a sub‐theme, and that sometimes ‘big ideas’ need breaking down into smaller ideas to develop an effective argument. Links could also be made here with using the pre‐writing preparation stage to think about the number of ideas and sequencing in a more strategic way.