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2009 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre – English Extension 1



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in English Extension 1. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2009 Higher School Certificate examination, indicating the quality of the responses and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.

This document should be read in conjunction with the Stage 6 English Syllabus, Stage 6 English Prescriptions 2009-2012, the 2009 Higher School Certificate examination, the marking guidelines and other support documents which have been developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning of English Extension 1.

Teachers and students are advised that, in December 2008, the Board of Studies approved changes to the examination specifications and assessment requirements for a number of courses. These changes will be implemented for the 2010 HSC cohort. Information on a course-by-course basis is available on the Board’s website.

General comments

Candidates need to be familiar with the Board’s Glossary of Key Words which contains some terms commonly used in examination questions. However, candidates should also be aware that not all questions will start with, or contain, any key word from the glossary. Questions such as ‘how?’, ‘why?’ or ‘to what extent?’ may be asked, and verbs which are not included in the glossary may be used, such as ‘design’, ‘translate’ or ‘list’.

Candidates were directed to ‘write an essay’ exploring the interplay between the two terms. Most candidates chose to use the formal structure and the concise and impersonal language typical of the traditional essay written in an examination context. Others chose to vary those conventions, in particular adopting a more personal voice, and still managed to perform well.

To support their discussion in these critical responses, candidates were asked to refer to ‘TWO prescribed texts and texts of your own choosing’. Although the number of texts of own choosing was not specified, the great majority of candidates understood that the plural form of ‘texts’ required them to use two or more texts of own choosing. Most candidates referred to only two texts of own choosing, a sensible choice given the time constraints of the examination.

In their preparation for the examination, candidates should study a variety of texts to give them enough scope for developing an in-depth critical response and evaluation. They should be discouraged from having only two other texts to choose from as those texts may not be useful for the specific focus of the question. It was evident in the more sophisticated responses that candidates had individually and carefully selected other texts that would enhance their discussion. Some candidates referred to other texts that had only a tenuous connection to their elective or were simply not substantial enough to support a complex critical response. Weaker responses tended to treat other texts superficially, relying on fleeting references to a text in support of their ideas.

For questions requiring imaginative responses, candidates were asked to compose ‘a piece of imaginative writing’ that incorporated part or all of a provided text. Candidates used the provided text in a variety of ways. Stronger responses seamlessly integrated the text, or part of the text, into their imaginative piece; weaker responses tended to tack on the text, or part of the text, to what was very likely a prepared piece. Most candidates used elements of the text in a literal way; some candidates developed more sophisticated responses by using elements of the text metaphorically.

Although the imaginative response questions allowed candidates the choice of writing in any form they chose, many opted to write a conventional narrative. While candidates could perform well using traditional structures and language, others showed their originality by writing in non-narrative forms or by varying the conventions of narrative in imaginative ways.

Some responses borrowed heavily from other sources, such as films, television shows, or stories to varying degrees. These candidates were rewarded only when they demonstrated original ideas, language or other features in their imaginative responses.

Candidates are expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the relevant elective in their imaginative response question. By showing rather than telling, successful responses subtly conveyed a profound grasp of the elective without compromising the integrity of the narrative.

The specificity of both the critical and imaginative questions deterred most candidates from using a prepared response. However, the determination of some candidates to use a prepared response rather than apply themselves to the question at hand prevented them from achieving their best.

Candidates sitting the English Extension 1 examination are expected to display a skilful control of language, including correct and effective spelling, punctuation, grammar and expression. Such skills are essential to ensure that candidates are able to communicate ideas precisely and convincingly. However, markers recognise that the responses they are marking are first drafts composed under examination conditions – perfection is not required to gain a very good mark.

Better responses demonstrated:

  • a detailed and sophisticated knowledge and understanding of the texts and their relationship to the module and elective rubric
  • an insightful grasp of the concepts implicit in the elective rubric and echoed in the texts
  • agility and perception in their thinking about the elective and module
  • a high level of personal and intellectual engagement with texts
  • insightful awareness and discussion of how ideas, concepts and meaning are shaped in texts
  • original and perceptive interpretations of texts and concepts and a strong awareness of context and values
  • evidence of independent investigation and wide reading/listening/viewing in their selection and discussion of texts, especially ‘texts of own choosing’
  • evidence of prudent choice of appropriate and substantial ‘texts of own choosing’
  • effective integration of texts to advance the overall thesis of the critical response
  • ability to be evaluative and critical and to adapt knowledge and understanding to new contexts
  • individual and original responses to the questions
  • engagement with all aspects of a question
  • a high standard of writing and literacy skills, clarity of expression and a sophisticated structure supporting the complexity and depth of ideas
  • well-integrated textual references and quotes in support of arguments
  • a clear sense of the candidate’s own voice and individual response, and evident ‘ownership’ of their work
  • relevant understanding of literary theory, historical background and context
  • obvious enjoyment of the texts and enthusiasm for their experiences in this course.

Weaker responses demonstrated:

  • a failure to engage with all aspects of a particular question and a tendency to neglect or ignore the provided text
  • a lack of a cohesive response to a specific question
  • the use of prepared responses to fit the specific question
  • inadequate or inappropriate selection and/or integration of ‘texts of own choosing’ and no referencing of these texts where relevant/necessary
  • a tendency to recount, summarise and describe rather than evaluate, analyse and interpret
  • some inappropriate storytelling
  • little demonstration of detailed and specific knowledge of the set texts
  • limited understanding of appropriate literary or critical theories to support their responses, or over-analysis of theorists at the expense of detailed textual reference
  • problems with written expression, organisation of ideas and structure of responses; poor control of paragraphing; incorrect spelling and syntax
  • misinterpretation or poor understanding of the elective rubric and its relation to the texts studied
  • a sense of having studied texts separately and not having integrated their study of texts within the elective/module
  • poor development of issues raised and poor integration or use of evidence in support of ideas
  • lack of independent thinking or reflection about the elective studied
  • weak understanding of how meaning is shaped and inability to integrate analysis of a composer’s techniques with analysis of ideas.

Module A: Genre

Critical response: Questions 1, 3, 5

General comments

The critical response question for Module A, Genre required candidates to explore the ‘interplay’ between two features of each elective. The term ‘interplay’ enabled students to demonstrate their understanding of the conventions of their genre and its associated ideas and values. The instruction to ‘write an essay’ stimulated a wide variety of approaches to the way understanding of the notions of genre could be articulated. Candidates could emphasise exposition, argument or evaluation in the composition of their essays.

The most sophisticated responses adopted an evaluative strategy that integrated explicit identification of the meaning of the terms and how their interplay could be explored both within and among the prescribed texts and other texts of their own choice. These responses demonstrated the ability to create a thesis about the genre based on insightful discussion of the problems and opportunities faced by composers in each genre. Candidates could focus on how composers achieved their purposes by writing in a chosen genre. The most sophisticated responses demonstrated understanding of the ways composers engage their audiences in their interests and also engage their audiences in dialogue about the genre itself. Candidates responding at this level demonstrated thorough and accurate knowledge of the history of the genre. They integrated this knowledge with understanding of how the theory of the genre exists within wider theoretical frameworks and how theory can inform deeper understanding of the interplay of the two terms. Candidates could organise their material to match their own understanding and show a control of language that produces fluent, energetic and exploratory writing.

In many substantial responses, candidates deployed a vast amount of information about the genre, the theory and the content of the texts studied. Some candidates lost sight of the interplay of the given terms and did not demonstrate understanding of how the exploration of the links between the terms demonstrates understanding of genre. Many candidates relied on the identification of the comments of genre theorists to validate their interpretations of the value of the texts studied. Many candidates identified and discussed the two features in their texts without drawing connections between them. In these responses, substantial textual knowledge and a theory of each text was presented as the answer without careful consideration of the interplay of the terms in each text. Candidates with a very thorough knowledge of each text and extensive information about the history of the genre sometimes experienced difficulty incorporating their understanding of the values of the genre in an integrated way that illuminated the exploration of the terms.

Competent answers identified traditions in chosen texts and asserted differences between texts as examples of innovation. These responses demonstrated sound knowledge of the genre and tended to rely on contemporary contexts of texts to explore the implications of the issues raised without extending their responses to include composers as actively engaged with their genre. Weaker responses did not demonstrate understanding of the terms on an abstract level. Many responses at this level used their prepared material without forming a clear thesis and therefore did not compose an essay that argued for a particular view of the interplay of the terms, substituting the identification of the interplay for exploration of the interplay. The more limited responses showed little evidence of understanding the texts studied and offered only a few comments on the conventions of the genre with no reference to values.

Virtually all candidates composed essays that discussed the terms in relation to the specific elective. The two terms could be treated flexibly in direct opposition and in apposition depending on the strategy chosen by candidates. With four key terms – ‘explore’, ‘interplay’ and the two specific terms – most candidates exploited the opportunity to develop original responses.

Candidates are reminded that they should choose from a wide range of related texts and choose from the texts they have studied those that best represent their understanding of genre. Drawing on a limited set of related texts limits the ability of candidates to demonstrate the depth of their understanding of notions of genre. Candidates are reminded that control of language includes accurate spelling and careful punctuation, as well as employing conventions of citation of the texts used in the responses.

Specific electives

Elective 1: Life Writing

The better responses demonstrated a very high level of understanding of the theories to support exploration of the interplay of ‘fact and fiction’. The most insightful responses tended to focus on literary theory and demonstrated a clear exposition of the conventions of the genre. Candidates should ensure they can demonstrate thorough understanding of the relevance of a literary theory to the specific genre.

Some weaker responses demonstrated some uncertainty regarding references to theory and some limitations of textual reference to support analysis of the interplay of fact and fiction.

Elective 2: Crime Writing

In the most sophisticated responses, candidates demonstrated their understanding that the origins of the genre involve innovation. They then successfully explored the interplay of innovation and tradition in terms of conservation of the integrity and familiarity of the genre to responders. They also showed how innovation can be achieved both at levels of content and form by composers.

Less insightful responses relied on the history of the genre, the contemporary contexts of crime or omitted a sound link to the values of the genre and neglected the audience expectations to see justice served. The choice of related texts could reflect a wider variety of crime writing and writers. Weaker responses relied on identifying film techniques without linking the concept of how we ‘see’ crime in film to an exploration of how we ‘look’ at crime writing as an interplay of innovation and tradition.

Elective 3: Science Fiction

The most sophisticated responses offered analysis of the genre and sound knowledge of the context of each text used to explore the interplay of ‘technology and morality’. The strongest responses explored the way the contexts of composers determine the values of the genre and argued effectively the moral issues arising from the circumstances of the imagined world.

Weaker responses sometimes confused humanity with morality and relied on description of the technology rather than building an insightful thesis about the imagined technology.

Imaginative response: Questions 2, 4, 6

General comments

The requirement to reflect their understanding of the genre studied allowed candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of conventions, ideas and values of the genre with varying degrees of success. The provided text allowed students to access the question through a range of different approaches.

Better responses demonstrated an understanding of the conventions, ideas and values associated with the specific generic form studied in the elective. Some of the better responses experimented by subverting aspects of the genre, thereby contributing to more engaging and less predictable responses. Expression in these responses was often controlled and succinct, rather than verbose. Language used by these candidates was purposeful, and stronger responses often established and sustained an authentic voice.

Most candidates chose to write in the form of a narrative. The structure of better responses was characterised by purposeful and controlled plot development and a satisfactory conclusion within the framework of the genre. Narrative techniques were chosen by these candidates to fulfil a specific purpose within the short story. The establishment of a credible context against which the ideas of the genre were set was often a characteristic of better responses. Such responses often demonstrated a variety of perspectives through which values could be explored.

Better responses reflected active engagement in independent reading, research and learning. Candidates connected the provided text to the broad range of exotic settings and situations they created. In some stronger imaginative responses, there was an implicit understanding and appreciation of the prescribed texts studied for the elective.

Weaker responses were characterised by very little connection to the given question or the provided text, or consisted of ‘top and tail’ appendices to a prepared narrative. These responses often demonstrated a limited grasp of the values and conventions of the genre. They also failed to explore a range of ideas. They were sometimes unsure of what values to present or how to present them.

Better responses to Questions 2, 4 and 6 demonstrated:

  • seamless integration of the given text and a clear engagement with the question
  • comprehensive and sophisticated knowledge and understanding of the conventions, ideas and values of the genre
  • an understanding of the values of the genre, and an incorporation of these, sometimes implicitly, into the short story form
  • the development of characters, settings, dialogue and narrative progressions appropriate to the genre
  • evidence of a nuanced and reflective application of the genre to their own writing
  • considered language and structural choices that fostered engagement
  • a willingness to experiment with or subvert the conventions
  • an ability to ‘show’ conventions, ideas and values rather than ‘tell’ them
  • evidence of independent investigation beyond the prescribed texts.

Weaker responses to Questions 2, 4 and 6 demonstrated:

  • a prepared response that failed to address the requirements of the question
  • limited understanding of the conventions, ideas and values of the genre of the elective
  • simplistic and predictable narratives, often with an unresolved or partially resolved conclusion
  • the overuse of fragmented and split narratives which often resulted in a confused narrative structure
  • hackneyed use of clichéd subversions
  • gratuitous use of violence and gore and explicit language which often served to undermine the textual integrity of the response
  • ineffective spelling, punctuation and syntax
  • a failure to explore a sufficient range of conventions or ideas.

Specific electives

Elective 1: Life Writing

The provided text generated interesting narratives which made use of a number of structural devices. Many of these were very effective. Some of the more successful responses demonstrated a clear and confident grasp of the conventions of Life Writing.

Weaker responses in Elective 1 relied on an overuse of clichéd and generalised life narratives.

Elective 2: Crime Writing

Candidates found many opportunities to embed the given text as they reflected on the role of the detective. Most candidates demonstrated a clear understanding of conventions and ideas though some struggled to address the values of the genre.

Weaker responses in Elective 2 were predictable or implausible, often with an over-reliance on gratuitous violence and expletives.

Elective 3: Science Fiction

Some students managed to synthesise all or part of the given text with the notion of progress as directed in the question. Popular ideas developed in short stories included dystopian societies, environmental issues, bio-ethics, totalitarianism, the nature of progress, the value of science and technology.

Weaker responses frequently relied on technical jargon to establish the alternate world rather than addressing the question.

Module B: Texts and Ways of Thinking

Critical response: Questions 7, 9, 11

General comments

Better responses explored the interplay between the two terms in an explicit, purposeful and fluent way, and in a manner appropriate to the concerns of the elective and the possibilities inherent in prescribed texts and texts of their own choosing. Stronger responses yoked the two terms together in a lucid, sustained and purposeful expositional framework which integrated theoretical and contextual references relevant to the ways of thinking. Such arguments used fluent academic discourse to support the development of convincing theses, fleshed out through a sophisticated synthesis of appropriate textual knowledge, technique identification and pertinent analysis.

In the better responses, candidates selected related texts with a strong link to the periods specified in the elective rubrics and showed the ability to analyse and discuss these texts with the same thoroughness as the set texts. They also showed excellent understanding of the ways composers shape meaning through visual, aural, literary and cinematic techniques. While an increasing number of candidates are selecting aural and visual texts – for example, paintings, popular music and classical symphonies – candidates need to analyse such texts with the same degree of knowledge and technical expertise as is appropriate for more traditional types of texts.

Weaker responses displayed difficulty engaging with the question. In these responses, candidates often resorted to recount with little or irrelevant textual detail and appeared to lack basic essay writing skills, such as using topic sentences. Such responses often featured a tokenistic use of the key terms that was not underpinned by a strong, purposeful argument and employed textual references without apparent connection to the argument. On occasions, potentially strong texts were marred by a serious imbalance of content, a lack of detailed analysis of related texts, or inappropriate text selection. There were also a significant number of responses which wrote about only one text of their own choosing, despite the requirement to refer to ‘texts of your own choosing’.

Specific electives

Elective 1: After the Bomb

Stronger responses successfully explored the relationship between the political and the personal, displaying a capacity to adapt their argument appropriately for different texts while framing their argument with an effective over-arching thesis. They recognised the political complexity and scope of the period, acknowledging a diversity of personal responses. Candidates synthesised references to appropriate theorists and personalities of the period.

Unfortunately, some candidates, who had composed responses featuring a solid expository framework and strong contextual analysis, did not provide detailed, supporting textual analysis and technique identification.

Weaker responses resorted to contextual descriptions and generalised recount that was not linked to the question or effectively substantiated with textual analysis. These responses also tended to only address one key term or addressed one term in a perfunctory manner.

Elective 2: Romanticism

The better responses interwove explicit references to the ways of thinking in the body of a strong argument that was supported with detailed and insightful textual analysis. They also expressed a clear knowledge of the different strands of Romanticism, making pertinent references to appropriate thinkers and critics. Many of these responses also included appropriate usage of 20th century texts with substantial components related to the Romantic period and focused on the Romantic context of representation in their analysis.

Some candidates provided a detailed literary analysis without a strong link to the ways of thinking. Some candidates marred their responses with references to 20th century texts that did not relate to the period defined in the elective rubric, despite the implication of some relevant values. Please note that suitable related texts should be from or about the time frame specified in the rubric.

Some weaker responses lapsed into narratives that employed key terms in a superficial manner, failing to address the question in a meaningful way.

Elective 3: Navigating the Global

Better responses incorporated a balanced vision of the relationship between the local and global, suggesting an awareness of blurred global boundaries, along with the complexity of local/global values. These responses threaded references to appropriate theorists throughout well-substantiated arguments that engaged fully with the concept of the interplay between choice and circumstance.

Mid-range responses resorted to textual reference that was largely paraphrased, limiting their capacity to present a convincing and well-supported argument, or selected texts that, in their analysis, suggested only a tenuous relationship with the ways of thinking.

Weaker responses followed the pattern of recount, especially in relation to filmic texts, representing simplistic notions about the ways of thinking.

Imaginative response: Questions 8, 10, 12

General comments

Candidates approached the task of imaginatively responding to their electives – within the parameters of the question – in a variety of ways. The most successful responses were firmly grounded within their given context, had a sophisticated control of language and structure, and demonstrated deep knowledge of the elective. The ability to deeply embed both the given term and the provided text within the response was a key discriminating factor.

Stronger responses tended to engage with the ways of thinking of the elective particularly well. They also demonstrated a strong awareness of context and were able to embed it thoughtfully in the response in original and creative ways.

Some of the features of particularly strong responses were:

  • sophisticated use of language and structure
  • successful use of the language of the particular context, often with a very highly developed sense of the historical details of the period
  • fluent integration of the given term – ‘anxiety’, ‘natural world’, ‘changing realities’ – into the response
  • an intelligent, thought-provoking and/or original use of the provided text
  • thorough preparation for the demands of the examination.

Weaker responses often struggled to establish a sense of context in their narrative.

Candidates are reminded that the electives in Module B deal with specific periods of literary history and ways of thinking. The importance of defining, locating and recreating a particular context of the elective in an imaginative response is paramount.

Some of the features of weaker responses were:

  • not successfully integrating the stimulus
  • limited understanding of the paradigms central to the electives, as reflected in simplistic/overly concrete scenarios
  • failure to establish a clear and immediate sense of the elective that has been studied
  • ineffective use of a particular form of imaginative writing
  • not successfully anchored in the context/period of the elective.

Specific electives

Elective 1: After the Bomb

Stronger responses in this elective established a clear social/political context and used this to reflect the values of the period. A strong sense of this specific historical context was clearly identifiable through authentic experiences of characters.

Some candidates composed rather amorphous and generalised train settings and/or spy stories which failed to register a strong sense of the social or political context of the After the Bomb elective. There were a number of responses that attempted to address the concerns and values of absurdism as an abstract concept, rather than demonstrating their understanding of the contextually specific reasons why this movement arose.

Elective 2: Romanticism

Many responses clearly established Romanticism as a way of thinking that was a response to urbanisation/industrialisation in the late 18th/early 19th century. The use of historically accurate elements such as settings, buildings and people was often an effective method of demonstrating an understanding of the way of thinking. Better responses explored sophisticated concepts rather than more literal or physical experiences in nature.

Candidates are reminded that Romanticism as studied here is defined within a specific historical period. Responses must therefore reflect an understanding of that context. Some candidates seemed to believe that their study of Byatt’s Possession – as a late twentieth century response to Romanticism as a way of thinking – provided them with an imaginatively fruitful way of constructing a response in the examination.

Elective 3: Navigating the Global

Stronger responses explored specific cultural, economic or technological concepts, rather than generalising about an expanding world, demonstrating that they had engaged more fully with the ‘navigating’ elements of this elective. They investigated points of difference between different cultural contexts without necessarily offering judgement. Candidates are reminded that ‘Navigating the Global’ is a contextually specific way of thinking that reflects the concerns and values of a particular period of time. It is useful for teachers and candidates to think in terms of the publication dates of the set texts as a historical guide to the elective.

While many students used the economic paradigm of globalisation as a way of demonstrating knowledge and understanding of this elective, there were also other candidates who successfully – and perhaps more imaginatively – explored other paradigms.

Candidates are reminded that while this elective certainly has the protection and enjoyment of the natural environment as one of its concerns, there must be an understanding that this concern takes place within a specific context and reflects certain values. Weaker responses offered clichéd migration or generational stories. There were many travel stories that overlooked the political/economic/cultural aspects of globalisation.

Module C: Language and Values

Critical response: Questions 13, 15

General comments

Stronger responses to Questions 13 and 15:

  • addressed all the key words of the question
  • explored the prescribed texts and related texts, maintaining a balanced discussion
  • referred to key theorists in their essay and related the theories to the discussion in a meaningful way
  • analysed language forms and features in an appropriate and insightful way
  • wrote a sophisticated and clever response which synthesised theories, texts and language analysis relevant to the question
  • chose related texts that were highly suitable to the course
  • demonstrated an understanding of how language shapes and reflects culture and values
  • showed an understanding of the role that values play in both electives
  • linked their ideas to their texts and were able to see connections and concerns between their texts
  • wrote essays that were highly original and reflected a genuine understanding of the rubric and elective.

Weaker responses to Questions 13 and 15:

  • failed to address key aspects of the question and/or spent too little time on some aspects of the question
  • often dealt with only one of the two key terms, especially in Language and Gender where some candidates focused on ‘identity’ and almost ignored ‘concealment’
  • displayed little, if any, real knowledge of theorists relevant to the elective
  • wrote essays that were prepared and hence failed to answer the question
  • failed to include their own thesis or line of thought throughout the response
  • chose unsuitable related texts that were clearly not appropriate for the discussion
  • displayed a lack of understanding of the elective and its rubric in Stage 6 English Prescriptions 20092012
  • spent too much time simply recounting the details of their texts, both prescribed and related
  • failed to discuss or imply the values inherent in the elective
  • wrote essays that were poorly constructed or too brief to properly analyse the key aspects of the question.

Specific electives

Elective 1: Textual Dynamics

Better responses were characterised by astute selection and use of texts of own choosing. Most candidates also focused on both key terms in a balanced way.

Weaker responses often struggled to show the interplay between insight and transformation.

Elective 2: Language and Gender

Stronger responses reflected a keen understanding of this elective and demonstrated this understanding through a genuine engagement with the question.

Some responses focused on the gender component of Language and Gender and failed to discuss, and hence demonstrate understanding of, the crucial role that language plays.

Imaginative response: Questions 14, 16

General comments

While the majority of responses took the form of a narrative, they varied considerably in terms of style, structure and the degree to which theory was emphasised. A substantial number of candidates integrated the concerns of their elective with interesting, creative responses that strongly incorporated both the provided text and the key word of the question. Most scripts were characterised by controlled and competent use of language.

Better responses used the provided text in a meaningful manner. Often, several aspects of the quote were seamlessly woven throughout the script or featured as significant motifs. In some cases, successful responses explored a specific segment of the quote in depth, using it as an integral aspect of the story and as a springboard into the concerns of the elective. In the more sophisticated responses, the key term of the question – ‘playfulness’ in Question 14 and ‘convention’ in Question 16 – clearly underpinned the entire composition.

Stronger responses established and maintained a strong sense of language and values and sustained an authentic authorial voice. Many candidates, especially those responding to Question 14, composed complex plots that were both entertaining and characterised by controlled structure and use of language. Some of the better responses used complex structures that featured multiple narrators and fragmented narratives. Descriptive and figurative language was incorporated in a meaningful way. Better responses sustained a focus on language.

Weaker responses either treated the concerns of the elective in a superficial and clichéd manner or under-emphasised the role of language in the elective. This weakness was more evident in Question 16 than in Question 14. Many weaker scripts ‘topped and tailed’ their responses with aspects of the quote and lost sight of the quote for most of the response. Often, particularly with regard to Question 16, the provided text was treated only on a literal level. While it was still possible to access the top band while using the quote in a literal manner it was necessary to use it in a sustained and meaningful way that indicated deep understanding of the concerns of the elective. In many weaker responses, candidates were overly reliant on prepared responses and failed to sustain focus on the key terms of the question.

Better responses to Questions 14 and 16 demonstrated:

  • strong, deep and sustained engagement with the provided text and the key term (‘playfulness’ or ‘convention’)
  • sophisticated knowledge and understanding of the theory and concepts underpinning the elective, conveyed through the imaginative response with skill and originality
  • an ability to compose a sustained and imaginative response with strong control of language
  • originality of both concepts and expression, even where the underpinning concept of the response was derived from a prescribed text
  • imaginative use of language, structure, characters and symbols
  • a sustained, authentic and appropriate voice or voices
  • thoughtful and fitting openings and closures.

Weaker responses to Questions 14 and 16 demonstrated:

  • limited engagement with the provided text or key terms of the question
  • superficial understanding of the concerns of the elective
  • little understanding of the theories underpinning the elective
  • use of clichéd characters and situations that lacked insight
  • use of a prepared response that failed to address the demands of the question
  • limited grammatical structures, simple cliché-ridden language and predictable scenarios
  • too much emphasis on values to the detriment of language.

Specific electives

Elective 1: Textual Dynamics

Stronger responses engaged in a complex and sophisticated exploration of the dynamic relationship between and among texts, between texts and responders and how these relationships reflect values in texts. In these responses, significant aspects of the provided text were integral to the imaginative piece. They were characterised by an ability to explore the processes of composition and reception. Playfulness and experimentation were sustained while often incorporating references to theorists or prescribed texts in unexpected ways. Often these responses comprised complex narratives written from multiple perspectives. Language and structure were tightly controlled. Such stories were often interesting of their own accord, not just in terms of responding to a specific examination question. The overwhelming majority of responses exhibited a firm control of language.

Weaker responses to this elective usually made insufficient use of the provided text or did not take a playful approach to the exploration of textual dynamics. Some candidates composed imaginative pieces that featured aspects of the provided text and key term but demonstrated superficial understanding of the elective or lost sight of the concerns of the elective.

Elective 2: Language and Gender

Stronger responses took a variety of forms and used a range of scenarios. Many responses created authentic characters that were placed in situations in which the interrelationship between language codes and gendered social identity were essential to the narrative. While the narrative form was the most common text type, some imaginative responses successfully incorporated aspects of the lecture format into the narrative. This enabled candidates to explicitly address aspects of language. Some strong responses placed authors or theorists in settings and situations in which they pondered ‘convention’ pertaining to language and its link to social identity and gender. Other approaches included the playful interrogation of the use of language in myths, fairytales and canonical texts, often in an attempt to subvert traditional values.

Stronger responses integrated the quote, or aspects of it, seamlessly into the imaginative piece. Often, the ‘borrowed dress’ was used metaphorically, although some sophisticated responses centred on the link between clothing or costume and language and gendered social identity. Better responses sustained a sophisticated style and voice, dealt with language and gender rather than gender roles and displayed an understanding of the complexities of gender and language, moving away from stereotypes.

Weaker responses tended to focus on gender roles rather than language or relied on stereotypical settings, plots and characters. Even some responses that were skilfully written still relied on character, setting, plot and symbolism to convey concepts of the elective rather than upon an interrogation or use of language. Many weaker responses used the ‘borrowed dress’ clumsily or in a literal manner or used the quote as a ‘top and tail.’ ‘Convention’ often came down to clichéd patriarchal behaviour or very clumsy attempts to describe or subvert traditional gender roles.


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