When writing about texts, what are teachers looking for? You might have studied PEE (point, evidence, explain) or PQC (point, quote, comment), but what is it that makes the difference between low grades and high scores?

This checklist is designed to cover all areas that teachers are looking for with links to help you improve your understanding of each area.
  1. Do you understand basic stuff like what’s happening and why?
  2. Do you understand the feelings of the character(s), what they’re thinking – and why? Can you explain the narrator or character’s point of view?
  3. Can you find the language techniques that writers use, like imagery.
  4. QUOTE! for a level four to five, quote some > to move up, quote plenty > the next stage is to use short and embedded quotations > next, re-quote key words > finally, make links between them
  5. Explain connotations.
Here are some very brief examples. To gain the grade shown, you’d need to write MORE than I’ve shown in these examples. The text is Thura’s Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq, Thura al-Windawi (text not reproduced for copyright reasons, but it’s in the Galore Park ISEB 13+ English Practice Exercises).

Level 4
The writer makes a bad mood using the quote ‘angry’. This shows anger.

Level 5
The writer builds up an angry mood. She uses words like ‘angry’ when she describes the weather to create an effect of hatred about the war.

Low Level 6 (= GCSE grade C)
The writer builds up an angry mood using personification as if Mother Nature is ‘angry’. This makes a negative mood about the war.

High Level 6 (= GCSE grade B)
The writer builds up an angry mood using personification as if Mother Nature is ‘angry’. This dark tone builds up a negative attitude to the war as if war is so wrong that even nature becomes angry about it.

TOP Level 7 (= GCSE grade A)
The writer links the human destruction of ‘burning tyres’ to send up ‘thick black smoke’ with the naturally occurring ‘freak sandstormto show that this is an extreme environment and people are making a terrible situation (the war) even worse. The writer uses pathetic fallacy, personifying Mother Nature as if she is ‘angrywhich is negative, but also shows that she’s suffering. This suggests she’s being ‘hurt’ by the war. It’s so bad it’s damaging the earth, something vast, old, and apparently impervious (= can’t be hurt).

What’s good about this?
1. it makes links and compares things
2. it names both techniques used: pathetic fallacy and suffering
3. It explains the effect of key words very clearly: ‘hurt’ and ‘angry’, saying ‘which is’ and ‘to show that’ and ‘as if’
4. It has five embedded quotations which are all explained clearly and accurately

hyperbole = exaggeration for effect

Here’s more…
The writer uses the similelike you’re stuck in a burning building‘. The image is one of claustrophobia and terror, and extreme heat, of being trapped or ‘stuck in’ something. This could evoke her feelings of being trapped in the war. What’s even more horrible is that this sensation is something she feels outside in the air; there is literally no escape. The hyperbole of ‘no fresh air anymore’ almost suggests there’s no air. She moves from the air to the soil to show the scale of the damage. Pathetic fallacy in ‘hurt’ the soil shows how terrible the pollution has become that it has injured even the dirt.