How to respond to questions on the language paper
An essay should be an argument that uses evidence from the text to clearly make points and should draw a conclusion.
Essay questions might focus on:
- themes and ideas
- language form and structure
Identify the focus of the task, then find evidence that specifically supports your response to it.
A good essay is a structured argument with a clear conclusion.
The next stage is to annotate your extract, or find evidence from your longer text to support your answer. Keep the question in mind as you do this.
- the narrative voice
- how characters are presented
- what the main themes of the text are
- what the structure or shape of the text is
- what language devices are used
- who the audience for the text is and how that affects the way the text is written
Planning an essay response
When you’ve read the text carefully and annotated it, make your essay plan. Start with a bullet point list with all the ideas you can think of that relate to the question. Link your ideas to specific parts of the text. Then pick the points you’re going to use. Aim for at least four to five main points in an essay. Finally arrange your points in a logical order.
Example question one
This extract is from a key moment in a novel. How is the theme of conflict presented here? Support your views with detailed reference to the text.
This sort of question asks you to focus on different examples of a theme throughout a text. In this case you would ideally find four or five examples of conflict to write about in your essay. As well as picking obvious examples of arguments between characters, you would also seek out moments of internal conflict, conflict in setting and conflict between appearance and reality.
For each example, choose a few words or lines from the text that demonstrate the theme. Explore how language, literary devices and structure work together to create effects. Think about how important the theme is to the overall message of the text.
Example question two
A student, having read this extract said: “The writer creates a sense of quiet tension here. I feel like the scene is calm, but there’s also something unsettling.” Do you agree?
This question is asking for a more personal response. Your main task is to explain the extent to which you agree with the student…