Examiners’ Reports – Paper Two – Higher Level

A summary of key ideas from the last 5 years



Understanding of the Texts:

The best way to be prepared for the exam is to re-read the texts as many times as possible. Ideally, candidates should go into the exam with them relatively fresh in their minds. In addition, you must remember to:

·         clearly support your answer with detailed references to the texts

·         remember that plays are meant to be staged and performed so bear in mind the theatrical effect of what is written down on the page when you are analysing the texts

·         make sure that you answer a question from the right section



Response to the Question:

At all costs you must avoid going into the exam thinking that there are a few standard ideas about your texts that you are definitely going to get in to your answer somehow. The key thing in this exam is to make sure that you answer the question you are set, even if that means you have to think about the text in a way that you never have before. In order to help you do this you should:

·         make sure that you know the texts well and develop your own point of view or interpretation of your texts as this will enable you to respond personally and creatively to the question that you have actually been asked

·         do plenty of practise Paper 2 questions so that you get used to looking at the texts you have studied from a variety of different angles in response to different questions

·         if you are given a two or three part question, make sure that you answer all of the parts

·         avoid forcing the questions in the exam to be like one of the questions that you practised before the exam – they are never going to be exactly the same, so make sure that you attend to the differences

·         avoid simply re-telling the examiner what happens in the story

·         choose a question that can be sensibly applied to the texts that you are going to write about

·         spend time exploring which texts were more powerful or effective, but remember to justify your claims

·         define key terms early on in your essay to give you a clear sense of direction – the kinds of things that will need to be defined are not simple things like ‘asyndeton’ but instead they are more likely to be vaguer phrases like ‘change of status’ which could mean financial, social, romantic, spiritual, etc … each of these four definitions is valid and, if you spend some time at the start working out what key phrases like ‘change of status’ mean, then that can give you some good ideas for interesting directions to take in your essay



Appreciation of Literary Features:

The purpose of this criterion is to measure your ability to analyse how a variety of literary features have been used by the author of a text to evoke meaning. Strong candidates will be able to explore how a variety of features work together in the text to create a gradually unfolding series of ideas. In addition, you must remember to:

·         bear in mind that any given literary feature, for example the motif of light in ‘Streetcar’, does not always do the same job throughout the text. In ‘Streetcar’ light is sometimes used to create a sense of seductive magic (Blanche’s the colour of butterfly wings), a sense of sexuality (Stanley’s coloured lights) or a sense of exposure and vulnerability (when Mitch removes the lampshade to get a good look at Blanche in order to see her true age) – good candidates will appreciate that this feature does different jobs at different times and will explore those differences

·         explore specific examples of each feature, e.g. Stanley’s ‘coloured lights’, rather than just talking about light in general

·         use quotations or specific references to the text to support every point you make

·         repeatedly use the author’s name and talk about the effect that ‘Miller’ or ‘Williams creates’ so that you can demonstrate to the examiner your awareness that the text is constructed by the authors in order to have a particular effect




Candidates need to ensure that they spend a significant period of time at the start of the exam planning their answer to the question. Shorter, more focussed essays will score more highly than longer essays which do not consistently address the question. In addition, you must remember to:

·         avoid writing down everything you know about the texts. Think carefully about what is relevant to the question you have been asked and spend time grouping these ideas together into a coherent whole

·         write a comparative essay where you switch back and forth between the texts that you are comparing rather than writing half an essay about text 1 followed by half an essay about text 2




Most students manage to score at least a three in this section. However, in order to help you improve upon this you must remember to:

·         avoid writing in an overly verbose style: succinctness and concision invariably scores over verbosity

·         make sure that you spell the names of the authors, the texts and main characters correctly