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8009 General Paper November 2008

Paper 8009/01 Paper 1

General comments As is the case every year, the range of response spanned the excellent and the very weak. Regarding content, exactly the same comments apply as in last year’s report. Too many otherwise able students ignore key words in the set questions which leads to digression and marginal relevance; they list points without analysing them; and they fail to support key points with appropriate and convincing examples. There were too many sweeping statements and a trend sometimes towards vagueness and generalisation. By contrast, more successful candidates took careful notice of the essay title, understood the requirements of the question and did not digress. Their responses were analytical rather than descriptive and were logically and systematically constructed. Key points were amplified by a good choice of apt illustration from local, national and international sources. Although their answers included ‘anticipated’ material, they were able to add additional points demonstrating a keen awareness and sometimes, a sophistication and maturity of thought. Many marks were lost, in many cases carelessly, for Use of English. One of the major contributory factors is the practice of writing major portions of text, in some cases the whole of the essay, as a preparatory draft, which is then copied out neatly as the final version. This usually means that time for a systematic, thorough check of the English is not available. When it comes to a plan (which is not assessed) brief plans or diagrams are far more useful than lengthy passages of prose. Those candidates who make use of effective plans or diagrams of varying kinds are able to present their points and structure their essays in a coherent fashion. They also have the time for a thorough check of their English. Targeted teaching and guidance are obviously an integral part of preparing candidates for examinations but candidates do need to practise the skill of matching their knowledge to the particular demands of the question. Too many offload all they know about the general topic area, often including unwanted descriptive detail, so that the question is only partially or implicitly answered. Rubric infringement was not a problem. Use of time As has been pointed out in previous reports, appropriate use of the first and last 15 minutes of the allotted time in the examination venue is crucial for candidates wishing to perform at their best. The selection of the most appropriate question and a careful scrutiny of the precise wording, in order to be certain of the demands of the question, are absolutely essential. The next step is to draw up the essay plan or diagram with a clear outline structure. At this stage the candidate should be able to see from the preparatory work whether the essay is feasible. If that is the case, it is time to start writing the essay. It is vitally important to reserve at least 15 minutes at the end of the examination period to carry out a thorough, systematic check of the English in order not to squander marks unnecessarily on careless, eminently avoidable errors. These tasks can be comfortably completed as the time allowance for this paper is more than adequate. Use of English Similarly, last year’s comments on the Use of English are just as valid this year. More able candidates write quite fluently but are still prone to careless, avoidable errors. The very best candidates are highly fluent and have a wide range of idiom and vocabulary at their disposal. The weakest candidates make very frequent basic mistakes, their expression is clumsy and awkward and often not readily understandable. The weakness in their English often dilutes the impact of their content. A characteristic of many candidates, excluding perhaps the top ten per cent, is that they have often acquired quite an extensive vocabulary in English but are often not able to use it effectively in the correct context....
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