AQA English Language paper 2 question 2 is
a very difficult question, in the sense that the wording of the question doesn’t really tell you what you need to do to maximise your marks. In this video we’ll look at the key skills of synthesis and inference. AQA English Language Paper 2 question 2 is
a summary question worth 8 marks, assessing both bullet points of A01: Identify and interpret explicit and implicit
information and ideas Select and synthesise evidence from different
texts For the synthesis element of this question,
you have to show understanding of information from both sources, and you’ll actually be
capped at half marks at best if you only write about one source, because you’re essentially
not synthesising information if you do that. So you must write about both sources.
Now this question might ask you to summarise differences, similarities or information about
a certain topic presented in both sources. It might, for example, be based on behaviour
or feelings, or a more concrete focus like summarise what you understand about the different
boats used by the fishermen in both sources. Now that might sound like a very specific
example, but Question 2 is likely to have a very narrow focus, partly to make sure you
don’t have any crossover with what you’re going to write about later in question 4.
Because of this, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to find a lot of material to use in
your answer. But this shouldn’t be a problem: as an 8 mark question, you only want to spend
approximately 10 minutes on question 2. The key thing about this question is that
it’s not enough to just pick out those differences, or similarities, or whatever the question
is focusing on: you need to infer. So let me show you how.
We’re going to look again at an example question from Mr Bruff’s guide to GCSE English
Language, available in paperback on Amazon or eBook at mrbruff.com: just follow the links
in the description to pick up a copy: You need to refer to source A and source B:
Write a summary of the differences between Andrew Bruff and Edgar Thompson. [8 marks]
Just to say: we are looking at a sample question on differences here, so everything else I
say in the video will be about differences, but remember: the question in your exam might
be about differences, similarities or details about a topic. Of all the question in papers 1 and 2 combined,
I think the wording of this question is the least clear, in the sense that it appears
to be a very simple question where you could just pick out simple differences like:
Bruff is a teacher, Thompson is a Headteacher. Bruff makes videos, Thompson does not.
Bruff is informal when talked to, Thompson behaves formally.
However, there is so much more to this question than simply picking out points of difference.
To boost your marks you need to be perceptive, which essentially means that you write something
that is not stated in the text, but that you’ve worked out for yourself.
so here’s a three step process you can follow to boost your marks in question 2:
Step 1: find a point of difference: ‘Bruff is informal when talked to, whereas
Thompson behaves formally’ Step 2: find quotations to back up your answer.
Now remember, this is not a02: we’re not analysing language, but we still do need to
back up our points with quotations from the text:
Mr Bruff has an informal attitude, as he often ‘laughs’ and ‘beams’,
Thompson, however, is much more formal, with the formal opening ‘I am writing with reference
to’. Now many students would leave it there, but
there is another key stage: Step 3: Given that this is the difference,
what does this lead me realise about what I’ve been asked to focus on? This is the
inference bit. So, to apply this to our question: given that Bruff has an informal attitude
and Thompson is formal, what does that lead me to realise about the two men? And THAT
is where the inference comes is, THAT is where you end up saying something which is not stated
in the text, but you’ve worked out for yourself. That is where you end up writing something
like this: Mr Bruff has an informal attitude, as he often
‘laughs’ and ‘beams’, emphasising his passion and sense of humour. This reflects
the non-controlling attitude Bruff has to education: he puts the students and their
needs before himself. Thompson, however, is much more formal, seen in his formality when
he is ‘writing with reference to’. This formal attitude is used to emphasises the
difference in status between himself and Mr Woolark to whom he writes. Thompson clearly
has a defined role of authority, which he is keenly protecting and projecting in this
letter. When you approach this question this way,
you’ll only write about differences that actually allow you to infer. So if I had chosen
the difference: ‘Bruff makes videos, Thompson does not.’ There is really nothing to infer
from this. In fact, how can you make an inference about Thompson not making videos, when videos
didn’t even exist when he was alive? And just to say: The June 2017 examiners’
report pointed out that referring to the time periods when the sources were written is not
of itself a valid difference to identify, and that Students who do reference the historical
differences need to do more than just point out that one is 19th century and the other
is 21st century. So, make sure you be selective about the points
you choose to write about in the first place, and only pick ones you can infer something
about. That’s the key to this question.