The Definitive Guide to Discovery Section 1

So our previous guide covered essay writing, but there’s a little more to English than just essay writing so today, the focus is on paper 1,  in particular section 1, the unseen texts.

So you can’t study for unseen texts right?

The simplicity of section 1 spells the downfall of many talented students. Most students, maybe even you believe that unseen texts can’t be studied for and you should probably spend time doing something else(procrastinating).

However, with a little bit of work and a systematic approach to tackling unseen texts, it’s possible to practically guarantee you full marks in section 1.

Let’s start by breaking down section 1.

In section 1 you’ll be given 3-4 texts to read/view, analyse and then answer some questions on. Each text will be in a different form, so novel extract, poem, picture, etc. These will all be linked to the area of study, so in your case discovery.

In total, the marking scheme will follow this pattern: Each text will have 1 question worth 2-3 marks and then final question will be a 5-6 mark question which will require you to do a comparative analysis of 2-3 texts. Most people can breeze through the 2-3 mark questions but the 5-6 mark questions prove to be major mark killer.

Approaching the exam

Step 1: The First Reading

Analysing the texts in section 1 is the same as analysing your modules and discovery texts. Due to the short length of each text, it is even more important that you pay close attention to the text and its nuances.

When you first read the text, look for the following:

  • Structure
  • Tone
  • Atmosphere
  • Setting
  • Point of view
  • Character voice
  • Themes
  • Techniques

The first reading should be done in reading time and you should identify any apparent language techniques. A good trick to remember to mark things on your paper is to use your finger nails (just don’t get caught by the hall monitors), then once you are allowed to pick up your pen go back and underline them properly.

Step 2: The Questions

Once you’ve read all the texts once, flick over to the questions. You should still be in reading time at this stage.  When reading the question associated with each text, find the key words in each question. This will help you draw similarities between what you observed before in your initial reading of the text. Also note how many marks the question is worth, this will give you the number of techniques and quotes expected for a full mark answer. Finally, choose which texts you’re going to do for the last question.

By now reading time should be done so go back and make sure you underline/highlight the stuff that you found the first time you read the text (you should ideally have at least 10 quotes/techniques available per text). Once you’ve done this, read the text again specifically looking for the key words you identified in the question. So for example the question is: “how is fear demonstrated in this poem” you’ll want to look for instances of fear throughout the poem.

Step 3: Answering the Questions

So now we’ve done the hard work of actually analysing the texts, answering the question should be fairly easy right?

Theoretically yes, practically no.

Most students believe that the most convoluted answer will get them the most marks. However, like I mentioned before the simplicity of section 1 leads to the downfall of many students.

Instead of answering the question with flowery language, it’s better to use simple and straightforward language to convey your answer as quickly and as efficiently as possible. By adopting this approach you’ll be able to save yourself from the next mistake a lot of students make which is repeating their points. Many students will understand the question but when it comes to answering it will state the same point two different ways. This is potentially due to the convoluted language and also the time pressure element. Thus by using simplistic language, you can answer the question quickly as well as ensuring that you don’t make the same mistake twice.

Another common mistake is not answering the question. For the sack of sounding intelligent through complex language etc as above, many students completely miss answering the question and venture down their own path. This is again solved by using simple language and also deconstructing the key words of the sentence.

Finally, the most common mistake made by students is overwriting for questions that don’t require such a long answer. For example, a 2-mark question simply requires you to make 2 textual references with two bits of analysis and associated language techniques. Instead in an effort to make sure they get all the available marks students over emphasise their points and write 5 sentences instead. This wastes valuable time in the exam and can lead you to start repeating your points. Again the solution is to use simplistic language, note how much the question is worth and answer accordingly.

So the moral of the story: Simplistic language = More Marks + Answering the question given not the one you want to answer.

Step 4: The Dreaded 5 Marker.

If we think of section 1 as a video game, then the 2-3 mark questions are the basic levels and the 5 mark is the boss level.

As appropriate of a such a high value question, the approach to 5 mark questions changes slightly. Your answer needs to be a little more structured and a little bit more insightful.

Let me expand on that a bit. So the 5 marker is going to ask you to compare a couple of the texts together to answer the question. Hence your answer should be structured like a mini essay. So something like this:

  • Introduction – 1-2 lines highlighting which texts you’ve chosen and your thesis.
  • Analyse text 1- Structured in the same way as a normal essay paragraph you need to have a topic sentence, at least 4 quotes, techniques and analysis and end with a linking sentence (Use your classic essay writing acronyms here: PETAL, STEEL etc)
  • Analyse text 2 – Same as above, remember to draw similarities or differences with text 1
  • Conclusion – a simple 1-line conclusion, practically restating thesis.

Again, simplistic language is probably best if you do tend to repeat yourself, otherwise appropriate complex language is not going to harm your response. As for the quotes, make sure you try to use different quotes from what you’ve referred to in the previous questions however at the end of the day, your marker won’t really care if you’ve used the same quote twice.

Overall, Section 1 of Paper 1 is pretty much free marks that are yours to lose. Follow the techniques listed above and that should put you in good stead to ace section 1.



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