Sunday, April 02, 2006

Top Tips for ENA1

As many of you are now revising for your AS and A2 exams, I thought it might be handy to give some advice on what to revise and how to get yourself primed for each exam. So, every few days I'll try to post material on each unit (ENA1,3 5 & 6) to give you a bit of extra help, some of which is delivered with my examiner's hat on (it's a black and white cowboy hat, if you're interested). If you have any suggestions of your own - or questions - just add them through the comments icon.

The paper consists of a written textual analysis question worth 40 marks, and a choice of essay questions on either Child Language Acquisition or Language & Representation worth 20 marks. A further 10 marks are allocated across the paper for AO1, which is your own written accuracy (punctuation, spelling, linguistic register and structure etc.).

Question 1 - types of text.
There's been a range of different written texts set for this question: newspaper interviews (Peter Fox last year), comment pieces (Vanessa Feltz on Miss World), reviews (film review of Moulin Rouge), obituaries (Joe Strummer in The Guardian); advertisements, both charitable (National Blood Service & Woodland Trust), educational (How to Become an Environmental Health Officer) and commercial (Nokia and Virgin phones).

To answer this question well, you'll need a combination of engagement with the text and a good grasp of language frameworks. For AO3, you are awarded marks for your ability to find significant language features (rather than just count random features and hope you'll pick up marks) such as word classes, verb tenses, verb aspects, verb forms and moods, and significant patterns.

So, looking at the mark scheme should tell you that if you start generally at pronouns and then gradually work your way through types of pronoun (first, second, third, plurals, reflexives etc), up to adjectives, nouns and adverbs and then up to types of noun (abstract, concrete, proper etc.), adverb types (time, manner, place etc.) you should be heading up to the 15 or 16 out of 20 area. If you can then explore tenses and aspect (e.g. present progressives, past tenses), modal verbs, types of adjective (superlative, comparative, evaluative etc.) you'll be hitting the top of the mark scheme.

You don't need to look at clause structure or types of sentence on this unit (so don't waste time looking at simple, compound, complex and subordinate or coordinaate clauses) and no marks are awarded for doing this.

Revising this part is fairly straightforward and you should try to look back through the early pages of your text book and class notes, making sure you're clear on how different word classes function in sentences and how they can affect meanings in different ways. The knack then is to pick out the features in the text that have a significant impact on the way the text works, and explain those effects.

Your model should be the "analytical sentence" in which you pick out a feature, illustrate it, linguistically label it and then explain its possible effects. An example might be as follows: The use of a modal auxiliary verb in the second paragraph ("He could have been very successful in this field") demonstrates the potential that Gary Barlow failed to achieve, linking to earlier points about his ever-decreasing chart positions.

For AO5 it's a less exact science, but you should try to read a range of past papers to get a feel for the nature of the texts set. Get used to the broadsheet register and try to build up an understanding of the vocabulary that's often used. Try to engage with how an idea is presented and the ways in which writers express their own attitudes towards their subject matter. At its simplest, AO5 is all about interpreting the material in an intelligent way and engaging with meaning.

The next time round, we'll have a look at the essay questions.

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