Examiners’ Reports – Formal Oral – Higher & Standard Level

A summary of key ideas from the last 5 years



Begin by briefly putting the passage into context by explaining how this extract fits in with the plot, characterisation, atmosphere, tone or theme of the rest of the text / other poems. The best uses of context, however, will point out how this extract illuminates ideas that run through the rest of the text or how it is crucial in terms of the development of a particular relationship, theme or idea. This kind of literary context is far more important than any social, cultural, autobiographical context that you might wish to include. Make sure that you cover all of the extract – if something is tough, don’t skate over it. Instead spend some time on trying to engage with it. Even if your interpretation is off the mark, you will get more credit for trying to do this than you will for just pretending the tricky bits don’t exist. In addition, you must remember to:

·         avoid forcing characters or events to have one simple meaning – often a character will change and develop as you progress through an extract and a sensitive analysis will realise this and avoid forcing the character into an overly simple box

·         include context in the body of your oral rather than just as part of the introduction




While it is important to consider the effect of a wide range of literary features in your oral, the key thing is not just to point out that these features exist in the passage but instead to make it clear how they have been used by the author to create a given effect. The point of the oral is for you to demonstrate your understanding of how the writer has crafted this extract in order to evoke a particular response. Remember to focus on features like narrative perspective in prose and poetry or upon the visual and aural effects (the stagecraft) that would accompany the words in Shakespeare’s plays. In addition, you must remember to:

·         avoid summarising or paraphrasing what happens in your extract

·         try to demonstrate that you are engaging with the text by offering a personal interpretation of it or perhaps evaluating what you feel is particularly successful, effective or powerful – don’t just regurgitate what we have discussed in class

·         remember to explore features such as rhyme, rhythm, voice, line-length, stanza form, variation in clause lengths, etc and the effect that these have on the reader

·         create an overall integrated analysis or interpretation rather than a ‘patchwork’ of unrelated ideas of comments – one approach might be to begin by claiming that this extract is a microcosm of the poet’s whole work or is important because of x and then go on to demonstrate why and how this is the case

·         avoid assuming that the poet is the same as the persona




A third of the marks are available for this, so you must make sure that there is a clear structure to your oral. Avoid going through the passage line by line unless this particularly appropriate for the extract that you have been given. Instead use an organising principle (or series of them) to structure your oral as this will help make the structure of your oral relevant to the particular extract that you have been given. In addition you should remember to:

·         sound as enthusiastic, persuasive and engaging as you can

·         leave yourself enough time to conclude – you will be cut off at 12 minutes




The examiners want to hear you talk about the literary conventions of each genre (prose, poetry, drama) so you should use words like narrator, persona, protagonist, subplot, foreshadowing. The also want to hear technical terms like: foregrounding, syntax, onomatopoeia, juxtaposition etc. but it is important that you sound comfortable with the terms that you are using. In addition you must remember to:

·         avoid being reductive – for example by using phrases like ‘basically this means …’ or ‘what the writer is saying here is …’

·         speak formally

·         avoid trying too hard for sophistication at the cost of clarity