1123 English Language June 2009
The topics in this component of the syllabus presented candidates with the opportunity to respond with personal interest and imagination on subjects that were readily accessible across the ability range and across the different geographical regions. It was obvious that both teachers and candidates had worked hard in preparation for the exam. Examiners were impressed by the confidence and enthusiasm of the responses and commented both on the interest of the content and the slightly improved level of communication achieved.
The questions set achieved the required differentiation across the range, from a number of excellent scripts, with some highly impressive writing, to some relatively much weaker and more uncertain presentations. It was pleasing to see that some candidates could produce high-quality writing within the time span of the examination. Familiarity with the nature of the paper over the years and careful practice, in preparation for the examination, meant that candidates were well trained in what to expect and what was required. Many candidates planned and developed their essays at some length, sustaining a fair level of accurate writing and relevant content, although some seemed to spend too long on plans that sometimes ran to two pages, leaving too little time to develop the fair copy fully or accurately. It was noted that there were fewer very long essays this year; candidates have realised that over-long answers often deteriorate in accuracy and presentation or leave insufficient time for careful and finished responses to Part 2, forfeiting marks that would have been gained with better use of the time available.
In Part 1, the two narrative choices, Questions 3 and 5, were by far the most popular, Question 3 having a particularly wide appeal. Perhaps these questions were appealing as narratives in themselves or maybe it was simply that many candidates found themselves able to adapt stories that they had written before to suit the topics, some very successfully, others rather less so. The factually based discursive titles of Questions 1, 2 and 4 demanded greater awareness of the subject matter and a more specialised vocabulary. Nevertheless, there was something for every candidate’s level of interest and an opportunity to select a topic according to their particular skills and enthusiasms. The task in Part 2 and the familiarity of the context allowed many candidates to achieve a higher mark in this section. Linguistic errors were, as ever, the usual range of tense and verb-form errors, faulty idiom and sentence structure, over-use of co-ordinating conjunctions, especially to begin sentences and the frequent use of the comma instead of the full stop in sentence division. Some errors were seen so widely across the whole entry as to merit special mention:
(1) careless spelling, even of words given on the Question Paper – many speeches were written to ask that ‘Ladies and Gentlement’ would take the ‘oppurtunity/oppertunity’ to help with the School’s ‘activites’ and if they wanted to be’ involed’ and have ‘benfit/benifit’, should show their ‘intrest’ by ‘filing the form’ in the ‘Principle’s ofice’! All these errors were frequently seen – but not all at once! (2) poor punctuation and paragraphing, particularly in direct speech, often confused with reported speech by the tendency to preface the spoken words with ‘that’: ‘I said that ’What is your problem?’ She told that ’I must go to her boss with my parcel’ or ‘I asked myself that why had she done it’ or ‘I asked him that what help do you need?’ (3) misuse of learned, high-tariff vocabulary in inappropriate contexts: ‘The arrangements for the party were completely so seraphic that it had allured our eyes in an instance.’ ‘Nobody in our primary School had seen such a naughty boy who always revolted...
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