Showing posts with label AQA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AQA. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Exam Performance - diagnostic and tips

Have you recently received your exams results?

I have made a short list of some of the best tips that will help you to improve your exam results in the future. How many of these strategies DID you follow (or not) in your recent work?
  1. Employ short blocks of time for work.
  2. Develop a balanced workload between all subjects means variety.
  3. Select days off work for leisure.
  4. Write down a list of reasons to be motivated.
  5. Reward yourself for doing the hours planned.
  6. Starting to revise too late in the process.
  7. Don't just rely on your revision sessions run by your school or college.
  8. Summarize your notes.
  9. Create Mindmaps or other visualizations to aid recall.
  10. Devise your own mnemonics or memory games.
  11. Read and study past exam papers.
  12. Ensure that you know what the examiners are looking for.
  13. Practise timed answers and exercises.
  14. Draft model opening and closing paragraphs for essays.
  15. Learn 50 impressive new words to use in discussions and topics.
  16. Work with your teachers to explain what's not clear.
  17. Collaborate with friends by working in pairs or teams.
  18. Revise throughout the year, not just at the end! 
  19. Reduce stress by planning well-ahead.
  20. Good luck! Stay positive!
Further Information

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.


He has recently published 11+ English (Primary to Secondary English Skills)
GCSE SOS

More advanced Students: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Dr Ian McCormick's other recent publications include chapters on Romanticism and Gothic Literature inThe English Literature Companion, edited by Julian Wolfreys  (London and New York: Palgrave Student Companions 2011).

His chapter on 'Teaching and Learning Strategies' was published as an Appendix to The Eighteenth-Century Literature Handbook, edited by Gary Day and Bridget Keegan (London and New York: Continuum, 2009). It is is available for free online (download the pdf) but you will need to complete a very straightforward and short registration.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

GCSE - SOS Q&A - What to do next

Can I improve my exam and/or revision technique?

Absolutely. You can typically improve your exam performance by working on technique, and by having a better revision strategy. Seek out the other tips on this site for more information. You might be able to improve your grades by 5-25%. Try this programme.


How important are GCSEs ?

It depends. Our culture is traditionally dominated by paper qualifications. Typically you will need Maths and English for career progression, plus 3 other subjects.

But GCSE performance does not predict success at A-level or at University, unless you've scored 10 X A* .

Remember that life skills, social skills, volunteering and other experience are also valued by employers.

I have to confess that despite my C in English Literature, I went on to receive the class medal, and first class honours in this subject.

What should I do if my results are not up to scratch?

Consider re-taking key subjects such as Maths or English.
Seek advice from your teachers
Sort our your exam technique and your revision strategies.

Is it worth having a re-mark?

Re-marks seldom result in significant grade shifts. But you may be able to find out where you went wrong and therefore have a better idea of the areas where you need to improve.

Should I write to my MP and complain about political interference?
From time to time this is a question last year. New exams in English Literature, for example, will be closed book, which means that you cannot take the book into the exam.
Ofqual head tells MPs qualification will remain vulnerable to inconsistencies until arrival of remodelled GCSEs in 2015. Here.
Girls could be disadvantaged by plans to axe mid-course tests as boys were often 'more confident' at end-of-course exams. Here.


Should I change schools?

Undoubtedly some schools gain better results than others. But the final responsibility for your performance is YOU.
Did you do enough to perfect your exam technique?
Did you revise thoroughly, efficiently, and effectively?

It is possible to check your school's inspection report and their league table position. But these tables often mask the work of poor or brilliant teachers.

Some parents even seek private tuition as a supplementary solution. (And even children at the most prestigious private schools also have private tutors...) An expensive option, but perhaps a decent investment in a world of unequal wealth and mixed opportunity?


Other options?

Perhaps it's time to consider a more vocational qualification, work-based learning, or an apprenticeship?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Comedy: famous quotes





“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
--- Charlie Chaplin.

"Dramatic comedy, from which fictional comedy is mainly descended, has been remarkably tenacious of its structural principles and character types."
(Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism)

"The days of Comedy are gone, alas!
When Congreve's fool could vie with Moliere's bete:  
Society is smooth'd to that excess, 
That manners hardly differ more than dress."
--- Byron

"Man is the merriest species of the creation, all above and below him are serious."
--- Addison
“This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.”
--- Horace Walpole.

“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”
--- Peter Ustinov

“The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them.”
--- Moliere.

"In the hands of a comic genius the pretence of stupidity is the triumph of irony."

"In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter."
--- Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. 9 March 1748.

    "For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug,—push it a little—crowd it a little—weaken it a little, century by century: but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand."
---  Satan, in Mark Twain's "The Chronicle of Young Satan" 

 “As the purpose of comedy is to correct the vices of men, I see no reason why anyone should be exempt.”
--- Moliere.

“The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part.”
--- Miguel de Cervantes.
"The principle of the humor is the principle that unincremental repetition, the literary imitation of ritual bondage, is funny. In a tragedy - Oedipus Tyrannus is the stock example - repetition leads logically to catastrophe. Repetition overdone or not going anywhere belongs to comedy, for laughter is partly a reflex, and like other reflexes it can be conditioned by a simple repeated pattern." (Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism)
"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
--- Albert Einstein

“One always writes comedy at the moment of deepest hysteria.”
--- V. S. Naipaul.

“In tragedy every moment is eternity; in comedy, eternity is a moment.”
--- Christopher Fry.

“Comedy, we may say, is society protecting itself - with a smile.”
--- J. B. Priestley.

“Humor is properly the exponent of low things; that which first renders them poetical to the mind. The man of Humor sees common life, even mean life, under the new light of sportfulness and love; whatever has existence has a charm for him. Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius. He who wants it, be his other gifts what they may, has only half a mind; an eye for what is above him, not for what is about him or below him.”
--- Thomas Carlyle, in 'Schiller" (1831)



Honoré Daumier: Louis Philippe Transforming into a Pear
(Le Charivari, 1835);  “Poire” (pear) - French slang for “simpleton”

“It is not funny that anything else should fall down, only that a man should fall down ... Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.”
--- G. K. Chesterton, "Spiritualism", in All Things Considered (1908)


“The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense for the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires true authority in the use of the comic, an authority which by one word transforms as by magic the reasonable creature one calls man into a caricature.”
--- Søren Kierkegaard, in Stages on Life's Way (1845)

"Laughter, while it lasts, slackens and unbraces the mind, weakens the faculties, and causes a kind of remissness and dissolution in all the powers of the soul; and thus far it may be looked upon as a weakness in the composition of human nature."
 --- Addison

Parody is critical intelligence in humorous mode.
“A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”
--- Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in "A View from the Asylum"

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

“Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith.”
--- Christopher Fry

“The perception of the comic is a tie of sympathy with other men, a pledge of sanity, and a protection from those perverse tendencies and gloomy insanities in which fine intellects sometimes lose themselves. A rogue alive to the ludicrous is still convertible. If that sense is lost, his fellow-men can do little for him.”
--- Ralph Waldo Emerso

“Comedy naturally wears itself out -- destroys the very food on which it lives; and by constantly and successfully exposing the follies and weaknesses of mankind to ridicule, in the end leaves itself nothing worth laughing at.”
--- William Hazlitt

"Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humour is not joy but sorrow. There is no humour in Heaven."
--- Mark Twain 



‘Laughter, while it lasts, slackens and unbraces the mind, weakens the faculties, and causes a kind of remissness and dissolution in all the powers of the soul; and thus far it may be looked upon as a weakness in the composition of human nature. But if we consider the frequent reliefs we receive from it, and how often it breaks the gloom which is apt to depress the mind and damp our spirits, with transient unexpected gleams of joy, one would take care not to grow too wise for so great a pleasure of life.’ 
--- Addison


“A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.”
--- Ernest Hemingway.

"The onset is sudden, with attacks of laughing and crying lasting for a few minutes to a few hours, followed by a respite and then a recurrence. The attack is accompanied by restlessness and on occasions violence when restraint is attempted. The patient may say that things are moving around in the head and that she fears that someone is running after her. The examination is notable for the absence of abnormal physical signs. No fever was detected, although some reported that they had had fever after a few days. The only abnormalities found were in the central nervous system. The pupils were frequently more dilated than controls, but always reacted to light. The tendon reflexes in the lower limbs were frequently exaggerated. There were no tremors or fits or losses of consciousness. The neck was not stiff." 
--- Rankin, A.M. & Philip, P.J. (1963). An epidemic of laughing in the Bukoba district of Tanganyika. Central African Medical Journal, 9, 167–170.


“A pleasant comedy, which paints the manners of the age, and exposes a faithful picture of nature, is a durable work, and is transmitted to the latest posterity. But a system, whether physical or metaphysical, commonly owes its success to its novelty; and is no sooner canvassed with impartiality than its weakness is discovered.”
--- David Hume

“The comic spirit is given to us in order that we may analyze, weigh, and clarify things in us which nettle us, or which we are outgrowing, or trying to reshape.”
 ---Thornton Wilder.

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
--- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

“The comic and the tragic lie close together, inseparable, like light and shadow.”
--- Socrates.

“Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.”
---  Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

"If we may believe our logicians, man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter. He has a heart capable of mirth, and naturally disposed to it. "
--- Joseph Addison

"Laughter relieves us of superfluous energy, which, if it remained unused, might become negative, that is, poison. Laughter is the antidote. "
--- George Gurdjieff

"In the vain laughter of folly wisdom hears half its applause."
--- George Eliot

"But whoever gives birth to useless children, what would you say of him except that he has bred sorrows for himself, and furnishes laughter for his enemies."
--- Sophocles

"The sound of laughter is like the vaulted dome of a temple of happiness."
---  Milan Kundera

“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.”
---  Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

“Humor is also a way of saying something serious.”  
---  T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965)


Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

FLASHCARD LEARNING:


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Character Definitions and Creative Techniques



An Examination of the role of CHARACTER in literary texts

Superficially ... “A person in a story, someone we can relate to, or identify with ...”

But Note:

Caricature – 2-dimensinal, simple, represents one value, e.g. the angry man, jealousy = related to allegory and satire = distortion for effect of one quality, or exaggeration of certain features; stereotypes

Narrative functions – hero/villain, trickster, false hero, magician, father/son, mother/daughter, outcast, rebel.

In real life people that we come to know well are seldom just functions or caricatures.

Real living people in the media, or celebrities, often have an assumed character or role that might be quite different from how they are in their personal life. In texts, an assumed role is called a persona, in the media we even talk about ‘personalities’ to express the public projection of a role. Perceptions of role or character can also be manipulated e.g. spin doctors and propagandists may want to present a politician with ‘strong leadership qualities and empathy.’

First person – autobiographical, “I”, my story.

Third person – author/omniscient narrator may provide insights into what they are thinking and feeling – free indirect narrative (author comments). “ ‘Yeah,’he muttered, feeling guilty about what he had done.”

You do not have to describe a character in full at the outset – you can build up the sense of a character through the accumulation of details, observed behaviour, speech patterns ...

Historical – based on real people
Realistic – true-to-life, psychological, inner life and physical appearance;
3-dimensional, complex
Fantastic – imaginary – don’t even have to be human.


Development – some are static, others grow and develop from birth through childhood and adolescence to adult life. A Bildungsroman has the development of a central character across his/her life as a central preoccupation. An example of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations or David Copperfield.

Leading or primary characters – occupy key roles and focalise points of view. Often linked to the idea of the hero/heroine.

Supporting / secondary characters – help to illustrate the main theme, or to develop sub-plots.

Note the key role of dialogue to SHOW and REVEAL characters and their relationships

- accent/dialect                           
- lexis
- grammar                                
- colloquialisms, slang, blasphemy, coarse
- polished and elegant, urbaned and civilized
- tone
- monosyllabic or oratorical (speeches)

Conflict and relationships are essential for building character, and for moving the story forward.

The hero’s JOURNEY / progress involves – threats, obstacles, reversals, tricks, irony, metamorphosis, tests, deviations. Many stories have these structural elements.

Too much inconsistency leads to incredulity (disbelief) in the mind of the reader.

Wider Contexts:

characters display causation as a result of factors such as environment/ family/ social class; these aspects allow the development of ideas and themes.

Avoid confusing a character’s voice, or that of the narrator, with the author's. Don't try to guess authorial intentions! This called the inentional fallacy!

Remember that some characters are ironic – perhaps the narrator/author is having a laugh at their expense?

In Gulliver’s Travels, author Jonathan Swift manipulates the voice of Gulliver so that the reader sometimes supports, and at other times opposes Gulliver's point of view.

This means that there is a degree of inconsistency, and perhaps we should refer to Gulliver as a satirical persona, mouthpiece, or rhetorical device, rather than a character in the tradition of the realist novel.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Art of Description: 25 Tips

'Scott has spent pages and pages upon describing a country scene, this is very uninteresting, but it is intensely good literature.'

(The Newbolt Report: “The Teaching of English in England” (1921))




In popular literature description appears to have been devalued in favour of character and plot. Description can be enjoyable in itself, but often it relates to, and helps to build the plot, mood, character, or atmosphere.  In our busy modern world perhaps we feel that we don’t have time to wallow in description. I have heard some writers saying that they don't bother doing the scene setting any more. This is sad.

In fact, our age is one of immense (simulated) visual and sonic richness and variety. Never have we had such an immense range of sensory stimuli. Nonetheless, we are often so caught up in the flow that we lack either the creative engagement or the critical detachment that would enable the production of delightful or striking descriptive prose.

Descriptive writing vividly re-connects us to the world, and it stimulates deeper, more sustainable thinking and feeling about our lived and our imagined experiences.

What techniques are involved in effective description, and what should be avoided?

In my view, description should avoid

  1. writing that is dull and flat.
  1. lazy words: had, was, get, nice, good, bad, really.
  1. padding - unnecessary description
  1. simply listing words or items
Effective description


  1. selects key details to convey and focus the primary impression of the scene
  2. cultivates magic and mystery
  3. presents what was plain or the banal so that it stands out in a more vivid way
  4. chooses interesting words
  5. aims for specificity and clarity in word choice 
  6. develops creative writing skills by reading and critically dissecting literary texts
  7. makes the scene vivid to the reader: clear, strong, credible
  8. considers handling of time and place, and transitions between them
  9. use frames, snapshots, or photographs. These can then be placed in a logical sequence
  10. considers the reflective mood of the observer
  11. employs the five senses
  12. copes well with a sense of proximity and distance
  13. plans its ideas in advance (e.g. spider diagram, mindmaps, notes)
  14. prioritises and foregrounds key details
  15. varies sentence type and structures, with a consciousness of pace and rhythm
  16. considers rhetorical strategies
  17. employs striking figurative tropes such as simile, pathetic fallacy and metaphors
  18. borrows from poetry a sense of sound (e.g. assonance, alliteration)
  19. employs a beginning, a middle and the sense of an ending
  20. attends to the flow of thoughts by using connectives and transitional words
  21. checks accuracy of spelling, grammar and punctuation

Sadly, even the models of excellence (A*) outlined by the exam boards seem to lack flair and imagination. But here they are, in case you need to refer to them:

Content and organisation

· content is well-judged, sustained and pertinent, firmly engaging the reader’s interest

· the writing is well-crafted in an appropriate form with distinctive structural or stylistic features

· paragraphs are effectively varied in length and structure to control detail and
progression

· there is a sophisticated organisation of detailed content within and between paragraphs

· a wide range of appropriate, ambitious vocabulary is used to create effect or convey
precise meaning

Sentence structure, punctuation and spelling

· there is appropriate and effective variation of sentence structures 

· there is a sophisticated use of simple, compound and complex sentences to achieve
particular effects 

· accurate punctuation is used to vary pace, clarify meaning, avoid ambiguity and create deliberate effects 

· virtually all spelling, including that of complex irregular words, is correct

· tense changes are used confidently and purposefully

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

SMART Revision Planning for Exams - 16 Tips





You have probably come across the SMARTER model as a way of organising a project. 

It works like this

S          Specific
            Significant, Stretching, Simple
M         Measurable
            Meaningful, Motivational, Manageable
A         Attainable
Appropriate, Achievable, Agreed, Assignable, Actionable, Ambitious, Aligned, Aspirational, Acceptable, Action-focused
R          Relevant          
Result-Based, Results-oriented, Resourced, Resonant, Realistic
T          Timely
Time-oriented, -framed, -based, -bound, -Specific, -tabled, -limited,
Trackable, Tangible
E          Evaluate, Ethical, Excitable, Enjoyable, Engaging, Ecological

R          Reevaluate, Rewarded, Reassess, Revisit, Recordable, Rewarding

In order to apply these practical strategies to your revision work for exams, I would also recommend:
  1. Short blocks of time for work
  2. A balanced workload between all subjects means variety 
  3. Days off work for leisure
  4. Writing down a list of reasons to be motivated
  5. Rewarding yourself for doing the hours planned
  6. Not starting to revise too late
  7. Summarising your notes
  8. Creating Mindmaps or other visualizations
  9.  Devising your own mnemonics or memory games
  10. Reading past exam papers
  11. Ensuring that you know what the examiners are looking for
  12. Doing timed answers and exercises
  13. Trying out model opening and closing paragraphs for essays
  14. Learning about 50 impressive words to use in discussions, arguments, or concepts
  15. Working with your teachers to explain what's not clear
  16.  Working with friends collaboratively in teams
  17. Good luck!
Further Information

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.


Dr Ian McCormick's other recent publications include chapters on Romanticism and Gothic Literature inThe English Literature Companion, edited by Julian Wolfreys  (London and New York: Palgrave Student Companions 2011).

His chapter on 'Teaching and Learning Strategies' was published as an Appendix to The Eighteenth-Century Literature Handbook, edited by Gary Day and Bridget Keegan (London and New York: Continuum, 2009). It is is available for free online (download the pdf) but you will need to complete a very straightforward and short registration.