Analysing Non-Fiction

Exam Wisdom

Exam Wisdom

Content and Structure

The contents of your essay, what goes into it, depends on the type of question you are asked. This guide has provided you with a lot of techniques to look at and other areas of analysis. However, you will not need to comment on every single aspect. There will not be much time in the exam so it is vital to use your time wisely and do not include unnecessary material.

Again, the structure of the essay will depend on the type of question. Here are the four main types of questions which could come up in the Reading Section:

Find Information

These questions ask you to find a specific piece of information in a text and to write it down. For example, List three activities which students like doing in their spare time. In this case, you would find the three activities and write them down. However, if there are more than 3 marks for this question, you may have to go into more detail:

List three activities which students like doing in their spare time and explain why the article says they are popular.

Find any three activities, write them down and use evidence from the text to give reasons why they are popular.

List the three most popular activities which students like doing in their spare time. Why do you think they are popular with young people?

Find the top three activities, write them down. Explain why they are popular activities, considering the target audience of young people. In this case, your explanation may include evidence from the text, as well as your own opinions and ideas.

List three activities which students like doing in their spare time. How do you know (from the text that) they like these activities?

Find any three activities, write them down. Explain why students like these activities. You must use evidence from the text.

If you quote directly from the text, use speech marks and quote the EXACT words.

Presentation Devices

Examine the use of presentational devices in a text and comment on how they are used and the author’s intended effect on the reader. Your answer (each paragraph except the introduction and conclusion) should include the following:

  • Description of presentational device and how the author has used it. Give a specific example.
  • Why the author has used this device?
  • Do you think it is effective? Think about whether another aspect of writing makes it more effective. How does it fit into the text?

What does the text mean?

CaptureThis type of question is very different to finding information. It requires you to analyse the text in terms of inferred meaning. This is what you understand to be the overall message of the text or how the writer feels about what they are writing. However, it is never stated outright. You pick up on inferred meaning through the writer’s use of words. For example, a writer may approve of building a brand new sports centre in a town. They will not say “I approve of this”. It will be easily inferred by the use of positive language, such as ‘wealth of health and fitness opportunities’ or ‘fun, vibrant place for people to get fit’, as well as the information given.

Writing Techniques

This is about examining a text and understanding how the use of writing techniques fits in with genre, audience, purpose and style. You will have to do the following:

  • Identify the use of writing techniques in the text, giving specific examples.
  • Explain the effect that the techniques have on the reader and why they have been used.
  • Decide if you think this specific example of a writing technique was effective, examining how it fits in with the whole article.
  • If you are comparing two texts, explain why different writing techniques have been used.

Exam wisdom

Here are a few tips on how to write the best answers for your exam.

  • Read the entire paper, including texts, before you answer the first question.
  • Highlight or underline the keywords in each question.

Look at the marks given for each question and plan your time accordingly. For example, for AQA English Language Unit 1:

2 hours and 15 minutes total exam time

15 minutes to read through the questions and text (underline and highlight keywords) and to plan your answers – a quick 1-minute plan can help you immediately structure your arguments

60 minutes for each section (40 marks per section)