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Reading: Understanding the Questions

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Reading: Understanding the Questions Revision

Understanding the Questions

As you now will know from our Facing the Texts page, there are multiple ways you are assessed in your English Language GCSE Reading exam. 

While no Assessment Objective is more important than another, there are more marks to be found in questions that focus on AO3 and AO4.

This is because they require more developed answers, including comparisons or critical opinions, supported by evidence from the text. 

First Look

The most important thing when reading a question is to work out what is it asking you to do. 

Is it asking you to pick out language features, compare the author’s views on a particular topic, or argue your opinion about something presented in a text?

This can even be as simple as finding two structural features in the source, or identifying language features that are used to persuade. 

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Key Words

When working out what the question is asking you to do, there are a few key words to look out for. 

They could impact what you include in your answer, how much detail to go into, as well as telling you what sort of evidence you need to gather from the text. 

For Example:

Analyse: Separate information into components and identify their characteristics

Describe: Give an account of

Explain: Give reasons

Summarise: Present principal points concisely

Discuss: Present key points

Illustrate: Present clarifying examples

Identify: Establish or indicate

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Pay Attention!

Noticing the amount of marks in a question is key in determining how much time you should spend on your answer.


Paper 1 mark distribution example: 

Q1. 4 marks: AO1

Q2. 8 marks:  AO2

Q3. 8 marks: AO2

Q4. 20 marks: AO4

Quality over quantity is key in the exam, but usually the more marks a question has the longer you should spend on it and the more detail you should include.

In Question 1, as it is covered by AO1, you will have to identify explicit or implicit information and infer meaning.

In Question 2, covered by AO2, you will have to discuss the effects of the language or structural devices used by the author. 

In Question 3, covered by AO2, you will have to discuss the effects of the language or structural devices used by the author. 

In Question 4, covered by AO4, you will be asked to give your own critical opinion and convey your argument with evidence from the text. 

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