By the time you reach the Paper 1 exam, you will want to have practiced working with unseen texts in multiple ways. In fact, you can already prepare for Paper 1 from the first day in the English A: Language and Literature classroom. As the exam requires many  Skills, from outlining to vocabulary building, you will want to break down this larger task into several smaller ones. Here is a list of tips to help you practice for Paper 1.

  1. Look at the unseen text(s) and brainstorm together as a class. What would you expect to see in a good (comparative) commentary? After you have created a checklist, read a sample response. Did you find all of the items in your checklist? Were there points in the commentary that you missed? Compare your list with the ‘Marking Notes’.

  2. Read a very good sample (comparative) commentary. After you have read the commentary, put the commentary away. Now it’s your turn to write a commentary on the same texts. Do you find yourself writing similar ideas, using similar language?

  3. Read a very good sample commentary and write an outline for it. If the student had written an outline before writing this commentary, what would it have looked like? 

  4. Compare a good and bad commentary. Draft a list of traits that are characteristic of good commentaries, and a list of pitfalls to avoid.

  5. Take three different-colored highlighters. With one color, highlight all of the points or statements made in a good sample commentary. With another color, highlight all of the illustrations. With the final color, highlight all of the explanations. Do you see a pattern?

  6. Find all of the vocabulary (adjectives) used in a sample response to describe the tone of the texts. Rank the words used from most effective to least. What words would have been better to describe the tone of the piece?

  7. Read a good sample response. Create a table with several boxes: sequencing words, expanding words, explanation words, contrasting words, comparison words, concluding words. Find examples to put in each box.

  8. Find examples of how quotes and illustrations are set up. How many different strategies can you find for embedding quotes and illustrations in a commentary?

  9. Use the assessment criteria to assess a sample response. 

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