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This question is a tough one! I think it’s probably the hardest on the whole paper. It counts for 16 marks, which is 20% of your overall score for this paper. So, make sure you know how to do it! A lot of my students get a bit intimidated by the idea of having to write a comparative essay or plan and write under time pressure. So, I’ll break it down for you in easy steps below – and then provide sample exam questions so you can see how they’re structured.

If you’re looking for a link to all the questions and papers, you can find it here.

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AQA English Language Paper 1

AQA English Language Paper 2

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AQA Language Paper 2, Q4: Comparative Essay 

The purpose of a comparative essay is to find deep, meaningful comparisons and / or contrasts between the texts. A comparative essay needs an introduction and a conclusion, as well as a minimum of three comparative middle paragraphs. If you have simple ideas that compare in a basic way, you’ll end up with a mid-level grade. If you make comparisons that are random and not really helping to open up understanding of the text, then you’ll get quite inconsistent feedback. You want to fully understand the question before you start planning, then plan in detail before you start writing. Practise this question a lot – it’s one of the hardest on the paper! 

HOW TO APPROACH THE QUESTION:

How to approach English Language Paper 2

  • Underline the keywords – the most important ideas 
  • Find the focus – this will be a single word or phrase that is the main idea of the question 
  • Develop a few basic thoughts in your head on the question, before you go back to the texts 
  • Spend time finding detailed, precise evidence in both of the texts that relate to your question 
  • Finally, start to match up the evidence into meaningful points of comparison or contrast – you only need 3 or 4 key ideas, so if you have more than that you should narrow it down and choose the most intelligent, sophisticated thoughts. 
  • Develop an academic register. This is the style that you use to write essays and analytical answers to questions – your essay writing style should be totally different from how you speak, using complex and sophisticated vocabulary and more advanced pieces of punctuation  – such as colons and semicolons. Learn good essay words and phrases (transition words are a good place to start). Learn how to accurately use every piece of punctuation, and use the more formal ones in an essay (- : ; . , “” … ‘). If you’re aiming for a B-A* grade (L6-L9), the academic register will make a huge difference to your answers. 
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EXAMPLE QUESTIONS
(the focus of each question has been highlighted below)

Compare how the different views of childhood are expressed in the two texts. In your answer, you should:
Compare the different points of view of the writers.
Compare the methods used by the writers to convey these points of view.
Support your ideas with quotations from the texts

For this question, you need to refer to the whole of Source A, together with Source B, the father’s letter to a family friend. Compare how the two writers convey their different attitudes to parenting and education. In your answer, you could:  
Compare their different attitudes 
Compare the methods they use to convey their attitudes
Support your ideas with references to both texts.

Compare how the writers convey their different perspectives on surfing. In your answer, you could: 
Compare their different perspectives on surfing 
Compare the methods the writers use to convey their perspectives 
Support your response with references to both texts.

For this question, you need to refer to the whole of Source A, together with the whole of Source B. Compare how the writers convey their different attitudes to the two schools. In your answer, you could: 
Compare their different attitudes
Compare the methods the writers use to convey their different attitudes 
Support your response with references to both texts.

Thanks for reading! If you need help with this paper or AQA GCSE English Language in general, you can access our full online courses here:

AQA English Language Paper 1

AQA English Language Paper 2

All our English Language, Literature and Essay Writing courses

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