Sunday, 21 May 2017

AQA Paper 1 Exam Hacks - focusing on effect

More exam hacks. This time I am looking at the language papers and paper 1.

I have written numerous sample answers, so I have sat scratching my head, working out what is needed. Until a cohort has sat a paper, I believe a lot of these ideas are experimental. So, take them with a ‘pinch of salt’. Some might be effective. Some might not be.  (That’s my disclaimer, folks)   

Two major structural hacks are for Question 2 / Question 3.

Question 2  


Paragraph 1: Analyse two words

Paragraph 2: Analyse two techniques

Paragraph 3: Analyse one thing about the use of sentences

Question 3

Paragraph 1: Explore narrative perspective by exploring the statement describing the text

Paragraph 2: Explore a structural change (mood /perspective) in the text

Paragraph 3: Explore the ending and how it links or contrasts to the start    

Paper 1: Reading Section Exam Hacks

1: Make sure you write one whole sentence in each point explaining the effect.

 We automatically sympathise and identify with him.

We as readers become clear about the cause of the noise.

2: Use one of these four things when talking about the effect.

Mood                    Atmosphere                      a sense of ….                      A feeling of

3: Mention the word ‘writer’ at least three times and the word ‘reader’ four times in questions 2, 3 and 4.

4: Use the royal ‘we’ (or ‘us’) when explaining when explaining the reader and the impact of the choices.

       We automatically sympathise and identify with him

       makes us trust his judgment even more.

       We’d be less likely to believe

       We as readers become clear

       We are in the same position as the start

5:  Think about what verb to use to describe the reader’s reaction

The reader sympathises / empathises / identifies / experiences   

6: The effect can also be a question.

What is behind the door?

What is making that noise?

Why is the narrator so interested in the letter?

7: Where does the writer position the reader? Is the writer trying to connect or repel the reader to events?

The writer puts the reader in the position of helpless (or active)  observer / confidant / participant / witness   

8:  What is the reader’s relationship with the character /narrator? Does the writer want you to like / dislike / hate the character? Or, does he want you to be suspicious?

The writer wants the reader to be suspicious about the man’s motives and so presents as a kind character who acts strangely.

9: Never forget power. The effect of a technique can often be linked to power. It can be used to make things seem inferior / superior or equal.

The violent verbs make the storm superior to the house and the people in it.

10: Readers have expectations too.

Readers will be expecting to see …

Readers expect ….

Readers will believe ….

11: Think about perspective and the effect of the perspective. Which perspective do you trust?  

       1st person – closer – understanding – relationship – connection

       3rd person – distant – mystery- revealing – helpless

Or tense:

Past – fixed – inevitable - predictable – helpless

Present – changeable – unpredictable- involved

12: Think about what is the normal way of presenting this kind of story.

Normally a writer would…

It is common for writers to…

Usually writers start by ….

A typical way to introduce a setting is to…  

13: The writer’s grand design! Address the idea that there is a masterplan under all the writing.

The writer intended … so

The writer designed it so ….

The writer planned for us to …. so  

The writer wanted the reader to …. so

14: If you are not convinced by the writer’s grand design, then say he/she is trying.

The writer is trying to make the reader curious about what is happening.

The writer is trying to make the reader sympathise with the narrator.

The writer is trying to make us feel like we are there.

15: Adverbs are your friends when writing question 4. They can go at the start or within a sentence.  

Typically, …. Realistically,…. Stereotypically, … Effectively, … Unusually, … Unrealistically, … Surprisingly, … Unsurprising, …

16: Explore alternative choices. If…, then….

If the narrator was a child, we’d be less likely to believe that there is something wrong going on.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Dear Xris32,
    I am an education science student from Munich and currently participating in a seminar about teaching english. That´s why I got very interested in your blog. After reading your last post I decided to ask you this: Is it really necessary to provide the students with these very detailled instructions (e.g.: "Mention the word ‘writer’ at least three times and the word ‘reader’ four times") or wouldn´t it be more helpful to just let them discover their own strategies and ideas?
    I´m looking forward to your response!

  2. Normally, I would model and show examples, but we are days away from the exam. The context for saying the number of times to use the word 'writer' is quite limited. Students have 15 minutes to make some high level comments whilst writing three detailed paragraphs. Speed and clarity are the key things here. By getting them to include the word, it forces students to engage with the writer and avoid plot retelling or lifting things from the text.

    Be clear, up to this point, I have used a range of approaches. This is just a functional request to make their responses direct.

  3. Thank you so much for this quick answer!
    Of course you want to be as efficient as you can with the upcoming exam.
    I might contact you once more if I have further questions.
    Have a nice weekend!

  4. Hi,
    Just want to say that this has really helped me get to grips with the first 4 questions on Language Paper 1. Do you have any tips for Question 5?
    Many thanks,


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.