From A Jack To A King [From a B to an A*]

I was asked the other day just how a student could  get his work from a B grade, which he was consistently getting from his teacher in the 6th form, to an A grade or even [in GCSE terms] above.

In the end, we went to the Mark Scheme for the syllabus he was studying and looked there, so I strongly recommend you do the same thing. Here is his example:


I believe wholeheartedly that the above is important to look at for you to try and understand, it is not what you write, but HOW you write it.

If the B grade is “accurate” and “appropriate” then it is a good thing that someone is writing like this, in an accurate manner, mentioning key elements in an answer and using the right kind of text or evidence to get the answer right. But that only goes so far to get you the B. It could be that you have a thousand and one ideas in your head based on the inserts or texts that you see. Then you try to write about them and simply do not have the time to develop your essay past the rather good effort that is enough to get a B, but not for the magical A grade.

Then you get this:


Words like “conceptualized” [and I know this is an A Level example so do not shoot the tutor] and “discerning” show us that there has to be that something rather special in your answer to get the A grade or the A* regardless of the level you are at; GCSE or AS/A2.

What I suggest is that you get a dictionary and look up some of these words. For you have to understand the idea of “concept” within what you are writing. Thus, if you had to answer the questions based on the insert showing Jamie Oliver with his school dinners visit a few years ago, as a mock, then you would possibly have to try and think conceptually; about how his vision was to change the bad meals we give our children, about how such values maybe came from his upbringing as a son of a publican [not in the text insert], about the way that such a new thing as this will help the children in the area he is serving meals. It is the depth of your answer that will get you the A*.

What this means is that you have to: WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

Then add in the third thing that an A Level Language exam paper 1 would be marked on and you begin to see why all this is important. In the AO3 element you have to do this:


Any answer you give that is “perceptive, analytical and insightful” is bound to get the A grade. But what does each one mean, or suggest?

Perception is something that is down to the individual. Your perception is valued. But, so is that of the other members of your class and so, you need to write something that suggests that there is more than one way to look at something.

Using the Jamie Oliver example again, what that means is to parents, his intervention into the school meals delivery [wherever it was] was wrong and so they challenged it because they wanted to give their children the chance to eat junk food if they wanted. If they wanted pizza, then it is their right; that was their argument. The perception was that they did not support Oliver’s activities and indeed, in the news, were seen passing bags of chips through the iron railings to eager children in need of fatty foods.

But then there is the perception of the Headteacher, who no doubt, was very supportive, because he [or she] believed that better food equals more ‘on task’ children. Less e-numbers means children able to learn more etc. His perception would no doubt be different to that of the parents. And the same would be true of the children, the Borough officers, the press etc. Your answer to any suitable question would need to cover all those areas to get an A grade.

Words like “analytical” and “insightful” refer to how you can see something and then see into it. For example, a 9 year old writes something that is far and above the norm for a normal, typical 9 year old and it is then used as an insert in an exam script/question paper. It uses adverbs for effect, is spelt generally correctly, shows irony and sarcasm, a huge sense of humour and then you have to write about it.

“Analytical” means being able to analyse every word and its meaning, semantically and pragmatically, but “insightful” then goes that one step further by showing how much insight you have into and about such a text. So, mentioning that there are hints towards social class of writer, age, whether home schooled, state schooled, or more likely, private schooled make the answer more insightful than the usual B grade answer.

I wonder how many would mention left or right handed writer?

Not sure what I mean? Read this below and consider everything about the writer:


Words like “ignite” and “hastily” from a 9 year old?

Assuming he [or she, but handwriting suggests male] did not get any help, that is a very articulate young man, someone who in my opinion, is clever, private schooled, possibly extra tutored, a future PM in the making. He is accurate, fixatedly so, able to show irony well, so has a deep sense of humour for his sister and also a massive love for her as well. As humans, we only do this to our siblings because we adore them. Suddenly, you are writing about something in real depth and the wide ranging essay becomes something that has fewer items to write about, but is a much deeper analysis.

Got it?

Good, now go and do likewise……in your next assessment [or exam].