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6EN03 Exam tips and advice

June 14, 2016

We have spent the last few lessons exploring examiners’ reports, example answers (see this page, check you’re looking at 6EN03) and considering our own feedback on the last mocks for 6EN03.

Themes that have emerged:

  • Always give plenty of evidence — we saw that this lends the work much more weight, reads well, and gains marks in the exam
  • Avoid a deficit model with children’s language; and similarly don’t judge the writer in language variation and change: we are descriptivists, not prescriptivists!
  • Explore the texts, and get it on paper — show that you are considering alternatives, discovering things, trying out different frameworks; if you only think this through in your head, it won’t be there for the examiner to reward.
  • Use technical terms at every opportunity; avoid the word ‘word’ or ‘phrase’ (unless you mean Noun Phrase or something otherwise specific)
  • Mark up your text to gather patterns of evidence and ideas — make this visually distinctive so you can pick out your evidence quickly. Don’t mark up already superficially dazzling material, like graphology features!
  • Save up the ‘obvious stuff’ till later — seek grammar, discourse structuring, pragmatics, which are highly rewarded, and drop in graphology to secure ‘range’ later on.
  • Be flexible — be ready to be surprised, especially in section A, and think on your feet, writing as you go; you can draw on everything from the AS year, and you can and should speculate (with evidence, and showing that you’re tentative) about possible contextual influences.
  • Argue for and explain your points — don’t just mention and move on; so, not just ‘this links to Giles’ theory/Chomsky’s theory’ but ‘this demonstrates Giles’ accommodation in action, as the speakers converge, with A taking on B’s accent in line 4′, or ‘the three self-corrections (lines 3 & 4) as the child progressively tries out past tenses, without any outside help or reward, seems to support Chomsky’s idea of an innate ‘LAD’ at work’.
  • Pay attention to the steer in the question — they’ll often ask you to focus on a particular aspect, whether it’s a specific sort of feature, something about the genre or context, or particular distinctions to be made. Be sure to address these in all your discussion! You can also make side comments, but mark them as such. (‘As well as genre differences as discussed, there are some more general differences… [list them] … These have an effect not only on this genre, but others too: for example, you could see… as affecting…’)
  • Don’t over-claim: cut intensifying adverbs and claim simply – not ‘this totally changes’, just ‘this changes’; not ‘there are adjectives throughout the text’ but ‘adjectives are frequent, eg in lines 4, 10 and 13 and several together in 15’. Under-claim and/or support with full evidence!

There are many more little tips we could mention. Some past students’ top tips can be found here: A2 exam Top Tips group 2 A2 exam Top Tips group 1

Ultimately, this synoptic exam is there to give you a ‘workout’ — space to make a range of comments, some of which will be secure, familiar and central, others unfamiliar and requiring more careful weighing-up of possibilities, stretching to tentatively apply what you do know. Be ready for a surprise and embrace ambiguity — uncertainty is the opportunity for two paragraphs of weighing the evidence!

It’s not a ‘knowledge dump’: you get marks for being selective (evaluating), realistic and honest about what the evidence might suggest.

There’s no ‘right answer’ to divine: if you use accurate descriptions and solid, descriptivist linguistic methods for describing the data and suggesting contextual influences on it, then you’re doing what’s required.

Just give the examiner enough evidence to be sure that you know what you know; help them to read your work by using paragraphing and linking; follow up your ideas by following your nose to what comes next.

They want to give you marks! Get it on paper so that they can.

Best of luck!

 

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