While most students conform to the misconception that the best way to prepare for paper 2 is to route learn extensive lengths of vocabulary in a desperate frenzy the night before the exam, many students fail to acknowledge that taking the time out to plan their piece during the exam is actually conducive to fulfilling other demands of the rubric. Students should bear in mind that there is more to a highly scoring piece than interjecting every sentence with idioms with the hope that your overly saturated writing has at least some sophisticated vocabulary. A simple, yet well structured piece that is written concisely with precision of language and correct idiom usage is likely to be a far better contender for the coveted 7. In this blog, we’ll walk you through how planning helps you craft a convincing, precisely written and highly score piece.
- Picking apart the question:
You’ll be given a selection of five questions across different topics in Paper 2. Choose the question you’ll be able to answer best.
- Don’t rush! Otherwise, you could subsequently misread the question and include points that are irrelevant, only to realise your mistake – a huge blow to your overall score – when you have 10 minutes left in the exam hall. Be patient – read each question carefully, make sure you understand it, and once you’ve understood every question, pick wisely.
- During the first 10-20 minutes of the exam, pick apart each question. It’s especially important to deconstruct each question to ensure you don’t misunderstand the keywords and fail to respond to the demands of the question. Each question will outline what to include in your piece, and it is imperative that you take the time to understand what’s expected of you to score highly in Criterion B (message).
- Pick the question that asks for the text type you’re most familiar with or the topic you’re most prepared to write about. If it comes to a choice between a text type and a topic, always go for the question with the topic you’re more thoroughly prepared for – message counts for 10 marks, whereas format only counts for 5.
Every question will specify a text type to follow. One question may ask you to write a diary entry about your experiences celebrating a local festival with your friends, whereas another may ask you to write a speech addressed to the elderly discussing the benefits of technology. Since the format of your piece accounts for 20% of your marks, it will be to your benefit to take some time out and plan how to structure your piece so that it meets the conventions of the text type.
- Create a basic guide to follow. You might draw a rough plan for a diary entry, marking down where you’ll include the date and weather, or plan the headline and byline for a newspaper entry. Taking some time out to refresh your knowledge of the conventions of each text type can prevent you from forgetting the small yet defining details that are unique to each format during the adrenaline rush and nervous frenzy of the exam, showing the examiner that your in depth understanding of the question
- Content and Structure
While each question will outline key points you’ll have to include in your piece, the rest is up to your creative liberty. You could write about anything as long as it’s relevant to the question and doesn’t stray too far away from the syllabus topic. With this much creative discretion at your hands, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the information you could possibly include, and with no clear structure to follow, the chances of you simply regurgitating all you’ve learned without any coherency or fluidity are heightened. The top markband of Criterion B literally states that a level 9-10 out of 10 piece has ideas that “are relevant” and “the development of ideas is coherent and effective; supporting details are appropriate.”
- Once you’ve selected a question, create a brainstorm of ideas you want to include in your answer and a rough guide in bullet points on how you’re going to develop upon each idea.
- Organise the ideas into paragraphs, making sure each paragraph either introduces a new idea, or elaborates on the previous one. This ensures that similar ideas are grouped together and developed. Ideas that are erratically mentioned throughout the piece makes the threads that weave the paragraphs together fray at the ends and fall apart!
- It’s important to structure your piece (and your guide) so that you cover all the main points in the beginning, and points that are less important towards the end. Therefore, if you run out of time, you’ll be leaving out content that isn’t imperative to fulfilling the demands of the rubric and won’t be as damaging to your score.
- Key vocabulary and sentence structures
Another advantage to taking time out to plan your piece is that you can jot down any idioms that you think are relevant or that you’d like to include, and plan how to incorporate it within the context of your piece. You can also plan out sentence structures, such as how you’re going to start and conclude each new paragraph so that by the end, all the ideas flow into one another and are linked together effectively. Jotting down vocabulary and sentence structure serves as an effective reminder to include them during your piece, increasing your language score and preventing you from being stumped when you don’t know what to write.
Planning your piece will help you gauge how long of a piece your writing will be, and whether or not you can realistically cover everything within the time frame. Most likely, a well thought out, condensed plan will help you stay focused, preventing you from rambling or repeating information. Remember, the more you write, the more likely you are to make mistakes, so keep your piece simple and precise!
Most importantly – have faith in yourself! It’s evident that planning is crucial to writing an effectively structured, coherent piece, and those 20-30 minutes of just brainstorming and organising your ideas could be the 20-30 minutes that make or break your score. Take the time to collect yourself, control those nerves, and dive into the questions with full confidence in yourself to hone the skills you’ve acquired over the past two years and write a compelling piece!
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