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:
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.
Primary source - Where wriiten tasks are connected to Parts 1 and 2 study, they need not, but may benefit from, being rooted in a primary source. For Parts 1 and 2, written tasks may be rooted in a topic option. However, for written tasks connected to Parts 3 and 4, these must 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, it may be useful to comment on a primary text. If, for example, 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.
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.
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.
- Which pitfalls has the student fallen into?
- How could the 'three right ingredients' be used to steer this student in the right direction?
- 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
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.