Examiners’ Reports – Paper Two – Standard Level

A summary of key ideas from the last 5 years



Understanding of the Texts:

Make sure that you re-read the texts as many times as possible before entering the exam. You never know what will be needed in the exam and so the only way to really be prepared is to know the text inside out, have a whole barrage of quotations and be prepared to use any of it. In addition, you must remember to:

·         avoid making up quotations – if you can’t remember a quotation then a paraphrase will do … although it is not as good as the real thing

·         avoid simply telling the examiner the story – it’s not the story itself that matters but how it’s told and why it’s important (the overall message or concerns of the author) that you have to demonstrate an understanding of



Response to the Question:

Time and time again the key problem that examiners identify in Paper 2 is that students don’t answer the question that they have been given. Your essay is not expected to contain everything you know about the texts, instead it is meant to be a selection of details presented in a particular order so as to create an argument in response to the question. In order to help you do this you should:

·         choose a question that fits well with the texts that you have studied in class

·         avoid simply repeating what we have discussed in class – make sure you are answering the question you have chosen even if it means you have to think about the text in an entirely new way

·         avoid forcing the questions in the exam to be like the ones you practised in class – they will be different so make sure you notice those differences

·         avoid writing out everything that you know about the text – even if you’ve got something really clever to say about the texts don’t force it in if it doesn’t fit with the question: not every question about Oedipus Rex will require you to use the terms ‘hamartia’, ‘hubris’ and ‘anagnorsis’. Instead you need to be flexible and adapt what you know to suit the questions you have been given

·         keep an eye open for questions which have two or three parts and make sure that you answer all of the parts: don’t just see a key word that you know well and write about that, there might be other parts to the question

·         develop a personal response to the text so that you can write about it as an engaged and passionate student

·         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 words 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:

·         consider both the short term effects of a literary feature (e.g. how it creates a mood at this particular moment) but also how it contributes to the larger themes and ideas of the text

·         avoid talking about how a character is easy to ‘relate to’ – instead talk about how they capture an element of human behaviour / the human condition that many of us can understand

·         write about literary features even if you are not specifically asked to in the question




A one and a half hour exam is a long enough time for you to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes planning before you begin writing your answer. This will help you to focus on the question that you have been given and prevent your answer from turning into a ramblingly long list of things that you know. A precisely focussed, concise answer that makes carefully thought out points supported by precisely selected evidence is more likely to score highly than a long but directionless essay. In addition, you must remember to:

·         keep your introduction short, clear and make sure that it is directly focused on the question – you don’t need to make sweeping generalisations about life, the universe and everything

·         smoothly embed your quotations

·         ensure your transition sentences make it clear to the examiner how one idea is logically connected to the next

·         ensure that you are making comparisons between the texts not just in the opening sentences of each paragraph but also within paragraphs as you point out interesting connections, similarities or differences




Students need to remember that this is a formal exam and as such they should be writing in a suitably formal style throughout. In addition, you must remember to:

·         avoid jargon terms like ‘morphed’ or ‘feedback’

·         avoid using nouns as verbs – e.g. ‘transitioned’, ‘impacted’ or ‘referenced’

·         ensure that you spell the names of the authors, texts, key characters and key locations correctly