2014 exam tasks from Section B [H & F Tier]
There were a number of tasks that appeared on the 2014 June 3rd exam. This little blog piece looks at how it is possible to plan each one in turn and then write it, given either the 25 minute or the 35 minutes time scale in the exam.
The first one we look at is the one about social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. A number of inserts were read and then you was asked to write the following piece.
Social networking sites should be banned. Write an article for a magazine, arguing for or against this statement. [25 minutes only]
The first thing to notice is that there is a statement that you need to keep referring back to; whether or not social networking sites should be banned. The second thing to notice is that the task asks you to write either for or against the statement. You are required to choose one side and stick to it, whilst maybe here and there, mentioning ideas from the other side of the argument.
With that in mind, let’s assume that you choose to disagree with the statement. If you do so, then the best thing is in 5 minutes, to write down 3 really good reasons why something like Facebook is a social freedom and should not be banned. At the side of each idea, put others that support it and so on. From 3 ideas you may easily get 9 things to write about.
Then, choosing the most important first, you begin to write your one sided argument. But the task also says it is for a magazine, but fails to say which magazine or which audience, so this is your choice. My advice is pick a magazine you now well, or read often. You know the style and content. You know how to write the article. Copy the style of your usual writers. For example, one of my students this year loves Top Gear Magazine, as well as the TV show, so I advised him beforehand, that if something like this comes up, he is to be a writer like Clarkson or May. I hope he did it and did it well. He says he did okay.
And most importantly, keep to the time. If it is a 25 minute task, it is 5 to plan it and 20 to write it. You are not going to write a lot in 20 minutes, but let that be 20 minutes of classy, sassy quality rather than 20 minutes of boring dross. Show your writing skills off! Be the show off for this time. Have fun!
The next task that I managed to get written down when I saw the paper after the exam was over, was this one…
There is a local Summer Festival in your area to be held this year. Write to the event organizer, persuading the reader in your letter what you think should be in the summer fayre. Explain why you make your choices. [25 minutes only]
Once again, there are a number of things to look at in the task title. The first thing is the audience of your piece of writing. It is an events organizer, someone possibly older, who is used to getting what they want in life. Chances are it is a female organizer, so assume away. Then there is the form, a letter to an events organizer, sharing some ideas. If you are writing a letter, then it has to be set out right; your address at top right, the date 2 lines below that, the person receiving it [name and address] on left down 2 more lines and a Dear Sir/Madam 2 lines below that. By this time, you are more or less half way down the page, ready to begin underneath the ‘m’ of Madam.
Then it says you are to persuade and explain – so like the above, choose 3 good things, possibly one family event, one for the young and one for the youth age range. Offer breadth of ideas into your writing and plan it in the same way as the first one above. Then write the thing, explaining why your choices are worthy of comment and inclusion in the summer fayre. Then, you have to choose between ‘Yours faithfully’ and ‘sincerely.’ Look it up which one you should use because opinions differ and I do not wish to advise you wrongly. Old fashioned English writers like me go for one ending and the younger ones go for the other. In essence it does not matter so long as you leave a 6 line gap and then add your full name [not at the top of the letter!!!] in capital letters. In the gap that exists, you add your signature. As regards addresses, make them up! And have fun doing so! Originality is good.
With those 2 tasks done, you have finished. But then, when I looked between the H tier and the F tier, I came across 2 more tasks. [NB. If I have them opposite way round, then apologies. It is not an issue]. One of the tasks follows:
“Nearly half of British children can’t swim – and it is their parents’ fault.” Rebecca Adlington
Write a magazine article, persuading parents of the importance of teaching children to swim.
Let me ask you a serious question to those who sat the exam, that if you answer wrongly, will no doubt terrify you before August comes round. The question is this. When you saw this task, did you think about it for a few minutes, or did you think ‘oooh that is a good one’ and go for it, without planning it?
If you went for this without planning it, then the chances are that you may suffer if you got it wrong and possibly end up with a D. You see, the first thing is a statement from a British Olympic swimmer. She knows therefore, what she is talking about. Then it says write a magazine article but what does one of those look like? Yours needs to look the same. Again, choose the magazine, explain which one it is in a 3 line introduction before it and then write the thing!
This is a one sided argument and nowadays, advertising plays on our fears, so if I was sat there, I would appeal to the parents out there that unless they do encourage their little ones to enter into swimming there will come a time when they may need the skill and without it, will drown etc. Once again, in the 5 minutes at the beginning, choose 3 really good reasons why parents should get their children swimming lessons, expand a few ideas from them and write about them in reverse order, number 3, then number 2 and then the top reason why it is important. It makes the reader tune into what you are saying in your writing! It also makes it more compelling to read! Now that will get you the A* grade!
And the final one in the 2014 exam was this:
Write a short piece of travel writing explaining how you coped with a challenging journey.
Travel writing and writing to explain! [35 minutes only]
This is something that can be written without much planning. If you can tell a story and have a travel visit from hell, to a place where something went wrong, then you should be able to think and write/type at the same time and tell the story. Travel writing is just that; storytelling about places of interest.
I have done an answer to this that is already on the blog. Check it out. But understand that once I had the story chosen, all I had to do was retell it. Now that is a skill that takes time to master so some planning is advised. Bullet points are good here for organizing your thoughts. Then write it, but always have the task and the dilemma firmly in your mind.
If you have not got a holiday from hell story in you, then make it up. Do a Peter Kay, describing what the rooms were like, the mess on the walls, the “and we came here for our holiday and got distemper and hard pad” comments using extreme sarcasm, but above all, mention how the place itself made you make the decision to overcome the problem that existed. If you have not seen the Peter Kay clip, find it on Youtube and see. “Peter Kay, holidays” should be enough to locate it if it is there.
This one would be so enjoyable for me, for I love telling stories, especially daft ones. The more it is daft, or funny, or just odd, the better for me, especially if there is a punch line at the end. Above all, enjoy this one and have fun getting over how you overcame the problem. Do not make it too serious either, unless it relates of course, to something grief laden.
The one thing you need to remember, when writing this and the others, is that you are being timed. If it says 35 minutes, it means it. Get the watch in front of you [if you are doing November resits for example] and time yourself. Make it so you know when each question or task ends and the next one begins. This is so important to time manage the exam correctly so you have those five minutes at the end to check things through for errors. Then you will do well. Then you will pass this exam with C grade or above. And then you will find that you alone have made the difference, especially if you have goofed the exam up in the past, as some of us do.