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Writing: Understanding the Questions


Writing: Understanding the Questions Revision

Understanding the Questions

Now that you have a good understanding of the AO points, you can see that different questions require different skills from you.

To get full marks, having a good idea of what the question is asking you is important.

Practicing is the best way to do this. The more questions you read, the quicker you will be able to pick out exactly what they want from you!

The First Glance…

Before you jump into planning and writing, take a deep breath and read the question through carefully. Twice.

This will ensure you don’t misunderstand the question and waste time in the exam.

Circle or underline some key words, focusing on what the question is asking you to do. 

  • Are you being asked to take a particular aim with your work? Use a particular tone or emotion?

The wording might be specific and tell you exactly what format to use in your writing…

  • Think about what features are associated with the format. For example, an article would need a heading and a report would use formal language.

Annotating can be a useful way to note your thoughts after reading through the question – check out our annotation page for more info!


Keywords In The Question

Here are some examples of formats you may be asked to use in the writing section…


      • Headline
      • Subheading
      • Columns
      • Author attribution
      • Date

Read the question carefully to work out what tone to use in your writing. 

Who is the article for? A student newspaper? Church bulletin? Personal blog?


A Letter:

You can give your opinion more freely here and use persuasive techniques to convince the reader of your point depending on the topic. 

  • Emotive language, either positive or negative, can be used if the aim is to persuade.
  • You can use personal pronouns, either giving your opinion: ‘I thought the play was mind-numbing’, or talking directly to the reader: ‘Don’t waste your hard earned money on this’.
  • If the audience is not known, you will need to adapt your formality to suit the purpose.
  • Remember to include a sender and recipient address and an appropriate greeting and sign-off.
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What is the Question Asking You?

In your writing exam the question will be shorter, so paying attention to what it is asking you to do is important.

The question might focus on a particular emotion or feeling, like the feeling of being free or finding a new place. 

Or, it might focus on a specific format, for example asking you to write an article for the local newspaper, or a letter to your local MP.


Marks For Each Question

The writing section is 40 marks for each paper, and both AO points are assessed within it.

  • In Paper 1, Question 5 is 40 marks, with 24 marks for AO5, content and organisation and 16 marks for AO6, technical accuracy. You have a choice of two questions – you only have to answer one though!


  • In Paper 2Question 5 is 40 marks, with 24 marks for AO5, content and organisation and 16 marks for AO6, technical accuracy. You do not pick a format.
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