WT1 Tips

The written task 1 can be tricky. With so much freedom, there can be many pitfalls. The requirements ask you to imitate a writing style or construct a specific type of text. Here are some of the common pitfalls that students often fall into, followed by three tips on how to avoid them.

The common pitfalls

  • The written task is not an essay writing assignment. Unfortunately, many 'opinion columns' and 'blogs' end up sounding like essays.

  • The context of the text is not clear. If you write an opinion column, ask yourself how it is characteristic of an opinion column from a specific newspaper or magazine. Who does it target?

  • The content of the task has nothing to do with course content. For example, a brochure warning against the health dangers of bulimia, does not reflect course work that explored the role of advertising in shaping young women's sense of beauty.

The right ingredients

Although there is no one guaranteed recipe for a successful written task 1, you can avoid these 'pitfalls' by including all of the following ingredients:

  1. Text type - If you write a speech, your speech should look and sound like a speech. If you write a letter to the editor, it should look and sound like a letter to the editor. In other words, each type of text has its own set of stylistic and structural conventions. Ask yourself what characteristics define the type of text you plan to write. If you're not sure about these conventions, see the pages that define text types in the resource section of this Subject Site.

  2. Primary source - Your written task should be rooted in a primary source. If you are writing about a literary work for Part 3 or 4, the poem, novel or play is the primary source. Your task should reflect your understanding of it. For the non-literary parts of the syllabus, be sure you comment on a primary text. If you looked at the representation of women in advertising, comment on an actual ad. If you looked at a political campaign, focus on one ad, website or poster. 

  3. Secondary source - Since the written task is not an essay, you are not asked to give your personal opinion on a subject matter or literary text. Instead, you are expected to be knowledgeable on the subject matter or the literary text. Even the best opinion columns inform readers to a great extent. You want to prove to the examiner that you have understood the course work and you have done your homework! This can also be achieved through the rationale, where applicable terms and concepts can be explained. Find secondary sources that comment on the texts you have worked on. For example, if you read an article about John Fowles and existentialism, this may inspire you to write a missing chapter to his novel, The Collector. If you explored women in advertising, you will want to find some statistics or articles on the effects of these ads on women. 

Activity

Here is a draft of a written task 1 that a student wrote. It has multiple problems and requires help. Answer the following questions before reading the feedback.

  1. Which pitfalls has the student fallen into?
  2. How could the 'three right ingredients' be used to steer this student in the right direction?
  3. Look at the page on opinion columns in the reference section of this Subject Site. According to this definition, there are six defining characteristics of a opinion columns: voice, newsworthiness, call to action, humor, hard facts and logos. Where do you see evidence of these in the column below? How could these characteristics be added to the task to make it more successful?

Column on the advantages of being fat

‘Don’t you want to lose weight some day’?  Is the question I was asked about weekly. And then I replied with my happiest voice; No! The they gave me this kind of look like, okay, you must be crazy. And yes I am. There are so many advantages of being fat. Lets start by shopping. Sale. The thing I like best, and so handy when you’re fat, because almost 70% of all the woman are skinny, at least skinny to fit in the most common sizes. So all the big sizes are left over. How nice. So there I was, standing at the H&M, at the sale-corner. Nothing but big sizes. So as a child in a toy shop I started grabbing the things I liked and made my way to the fitting room. It was rather crowdie over there so I accepted the fact that I had to wait for some minutes. I heard the sound of an opening door and saw a skinny girl coming outside, at a glance she saw me and then continued looking in the mirror. Her friend, waiting for her, said she looked pretty and the girl asked her friend ‘don’t I look fat in this dress?’ No it’s lovely’ she replied. I laughed. I never had those kind of problems. For I already accepted the fact that I was fat, and it would never disappoint me when shopping. When the girls left I went in to the fitting room and started to change. This dress was lovely, I took another look in the mirror, turned around and smiled. Shopping is great, after like half an hour I was ready, with about 9 dresses hanging over my arm I made my way to the pay desk. Only 50 pounds for 9 dresses. Good job, I thought. As happy as I was I walked  to the bus stop I realized I was just in time because the bus was about to leave. I hastened myself to get inside the bus, and lucky as I was, there was one seat left over, a seat for 2, just for me. The whole trip no one came to sit next to me, for they probably thought they wouldn’t have enough space, sitting next to 1.5 person. Life is great, and so you see, being fat is too! (:
 

Feedback

First of all, this written task falls into is the pitfall of not reflecting course content. It is not clear what was studied in class from this piece. If the student studied obesity, its causes and effects, then this needs to be made clear. Where does the statistic on the percentage of skinny women (70%) come from? Are overweight people really happy for the reasons suggested in this column? If so, explain where this is supported.

Secondly, this opinion column sounds very informal, using words such as 'like' and the emoticon '(:'. Columns often contain something that is newsworthy and relevant to the target audience. The context of this text is not self evident.

Finally, this text must refer to another text or texts. If the student read an article about obesity, then she could explain its significance. It is suggested that this student start all over again with a completely new idea and set of texts. She may want to see the lesson on anorexia and the sample written task on the portrayal of women in the media.

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