Examiners’ Reports – Paper One – Standard Level

A summary of key ideas from the last 5 years




Make sure that you read your text through two or three times before you start to write so that you have an overview of what it is about. In your essay you must make sure that you do not paraphrase what happens in the text but instead talk about the impression created on the reader and how this has been achieved – this is particularly a danger in the prose. In addition, you should remember to:

·         avoid linking this text to other texts that we have studied in class

·         avoid using a single guiding question as the basis for the entire commentary – instead use the guiding questions to identify key parts of the text that should be integrated into your overall answer

·         allow texts to be complex – forcing a character to be just caring or just domineering doesn’t allow for the more subtle understanding that they can be both caring and domineering and a really good analysis will consider both sides of the character without forcing them to be one thing or another

·         pay attention to the time and setting of the text, although only if it is relevant to the content

·         consider the genre of the piece – is it dialogue, narrative, travel writing, a letter, etc – what effect does this have?



Make sure that you explore the whole of text in your answer: don’t try to build up an entire reading of the text based around just one or two small details. Your interpretation must be relevant to every part of the prose passage or poem and you can’t ignore things that ‘don’t fit’ with your reading. If something ‘doesn’t fit’ then perhaps it is an indication that your interpretation is heading off in the wrong direction. In addition, you should remember to:

·         make your interpretation personal, although don’t do this by including personal experiences from your own life or phrases like ‘My personal interpretation of this is …’ Instead personal engagement comes through in your tone of voice and perhaps also your ability to pick out features which are powerful, effective or moving for you

·         avoid hunting for a ‘deep’ message or ‘comment on the human condition’ – not every text will have one of these and if it is not there then you should not try to force it in

·         spend time on the parts of the text that are confusing or ‘tricky’ – understanding these (or at least having a good bash at them) will be what distinguishes you from the other candidates who just skate over them because they are not confident enough to have a go



Appreciation of Literary Features:

Avoid structuring your essay by literary features and don’t introduce them in the introduction. Instead remember that the literary features are second to the meaning of the text and so you should refer first of all to the main ideas of the text and then explore how different literary features have been used to create or convey those ideas. In addition, you should remember to:

·         avoid too much detailed focus on small features like commas or other punctuation marks – realistically speaking there is only so much effect a comma can have

·         avoid just pointing out that a literary feature exists – you must always go on to talk about the effect that it has

·         avoid saying that rhyme or enjambment makes the text ‘flow’ or that imagery enables the reader to ‘see more clearly’ what the author is talking about or that this ‘engages the reader’s interest’ – these statements are too general to really be of analytical interest

·         avoid hunting for your ‘favourite’ literary feature and finding a role for it at all costs – if it’s not there, it’s not there




Your introduction should be short and begin with a focussed overview of the ideas in the text or the intent of the piece. The main body of your essay needs to be clearly paragraphed with related ideas grouped together into one paragraph or at least a series of paragraphs that are next to one another. These ideas should progress in a logical order from one another rather than jumping around at random. In addition, you should remember to:

·         plan carefully before you start to write so that your essay has a clearly logical structure – underlying your overall interpretation you need a series of smaller points that are going to lead to cogent analysis

·         integrate quotations smoothly into your text

·         don’t use your conclusion to just summarise the ideas that you have already raised – if this is all you are going to do then it might be better not to have a conclusion at all




Write legibly, avoid slang and colloquialisms and keep it clear and simple. In addition, you should remember to:

·         use quotation marks correctly

·         use the word ‘quotation’ instead of ‘quote’

·         avoid the words ‘transitioning’, ‘impacting’ and ‘flow’