Understanding AO1 (A Level English Literature)

Uploaded by freeeschool on 25.08.2012

Hello and welcome to the second of the videos focusing on the assessment objectives in AS
and A2 English Literature.
In this video we are going to look at assessment objective 1. It’s probably the most vital
of all the assessment objectives because it focuses on your ability to use the language
of English Literature criticism and analysis, your ability to structure your response and
use language appropriately to create an effective argument that shows your depth of understanding,
knowledge and skill when addressing these different texts across a range of different
responses. So for that reason I’ve called AO1, The Glue That Holds Together Every Top
Grade Response.
AO1 focuses on the use of appropriate language, the structuring of an effective argument and
using appropriate written style to clearly and coherently respond to the task you have
been set. It’s the glue that holds everything together because it’s assessed in all of
your tasks from synoptic examinations to creative coursework responses and you find that it
is assessed by all Exam Boards. Every year it is reported on by the Chief Examiners and
the Chief Examiners often identify certain problems. So here are the three major problems
that are often found with candidates’ works when dealing with AO1.
Firstly, candidates’ use of language and grammar. The Exam Boards are all looking for
an excellent use of the correct critical language and the correct grammar structures when responding
to a task. Too often in a response students will fall into colloquialisms and slang and
so the language tends to become conversational rather than analytical and clear. So for example,
someone might make personal comments about a particular character but these aren’t
linked in any way to any ideas about how that character has been used by the author and
it might seem more like they’re talking about a friend or someone they know, rather
than a fictitious character created by an author for a particular reason.
The second problem Examiners often come across and complain about is the structure of essays
and creative responses. AO1 is very much focused on deploying your ideas in a logical and coherent
manner. Coherent and sophisticated are used many times in Examiner’s reports and they
are often disappointed when students fail to create logical arguments that build up
their ideas and responses to a particular question or activity. Later on in this series
we’ll be looking at how we can craft essays that meet the requirements of this particular
element in the AO1 and will help you plan effective responses, not only for coursework
but also for examinations.
Structuring really links to the third and final point that if ideas aren’t put down
clearly in the how and the why of the text and the how and the why of the question are
not addressed clearly, then arguments become confused and unsure and candidates can talk
about ‘maybe’ and ‘this suggests’, rather than actually putting forward their
own points of view using evidence from the text to back it up and show their depth of
knowledge and understanding.
Looking now more specifically at the problems we can see that in use of language there’s
often an improper use of technical terms so that people are not specific enough about
how language is used. So for example, students may use technical terms in a way such as spotting
metaphor similes and alliteration, rather than explaining how they are used and building
them into the points they are making in their essay. So such technical terms seem to float
free of the arguments you are making and don’t really make sense. It’s a kind of GCSE response,
where you’re asked to discover certain things about a poem but not really asked to analyse
it in great depth using technical language as a way into showing your understanding.
Examiners really do not like this. Use of slang words that are not specific, such as
‘vibe’ to talk about the feelings or the sensations of a character, or sentences which
are not analytical enough, they do not build, do not really explain what you’re trying
to say and so they seem to be like fragments of conversation. This links of course to the
third point here, that sentences can be ungrammatical and poorly punctuated and that shows that
there’s not a clear grasp of the language by the student and if your essays are like
this you will lose marks. You will not achieve the marks that you should and it also clouds
the sense. They talk about the ungrammatical and that’s where ungrammatical points, where
a sentence isn’t clear or seems to be self-contradictory or seems to be falling into a conversational
style that just basically gives a narrative of a plot and so what tends to happen is sense
is lost, coherence is lost and it’s not analytical, you’re not explaining how and
why, you’re not justifying the point of view you have made.
Looking in more detail at the structure of essays and creative responses you can see
that in order to create an effective structure a student needs to focus on planning, needs
to link paragraphs together and make them coherent through the use of discourse markers;
otherwise known as connected, such as ‘therefore’, ‘on the other hand’ and so on and the
effective embedding of quotations to support further points and lead onto other arguments.
Quotations we’ll come onto, as with planning, in more detail later in this series of videos
but it’s very clear that these are key areas in AO1 and if these fall apart, your marks
overall will fall apart as well because AO2 and AO3 as well as AO4 cannot be delivered
in your essays or in your exam responses if you do not plan clearly, if you do not make
your points of view and argument clear and logical and sophisticated through clear links
between paragraphs and developments of ideas and you cannot be seen to be understanding
a text if you do not use quotations effectively.
So here again, AO1 shows that it’s everything, it holds everything together and it’s vital
that you grasp this in order to move through the different AOs and present them effectively
and get your top marks.
And again, finally, here we have this logical and coherent argument. So that means you need
to have that knowledge that I talked about in the first video. You must understand your
material; you need to take your position, which means you have to have a point of view
about the text. Now if that point of view is your own that’s fine and you need to
make it a strong point of view.
When you’re putting together your AO1 – that’s your planning and your coherent argument and
your analysis – what you’re doing is you’re presenting almost a lecture in essay form
to the Examiner and that means you need to argue your points and that’s where the coherence
comes in, so it’s a vital skill that you’re undertaking here and the essay form that you
will learn you can use in any other A level or even degree subject where you have to argue
a point or a position. And then not only do you have to take a position, you have to understand
the alternatives, that’s counter-arguments. These are very useful in an essay because
they can show that you’ve considered other points of view but you have the arguments
and evidence of the quotations and the contextual understanding – the AO4 which we’ll come
back to some other time in some other videos – to enable you to show how strong your
argument is and how well developed it is.
I have an example here for you of an A* response that uses AO1 very well. So for example if
we look at this first here, we have this contextual knowledge is built in, the language is very
focused, we have this idea that materialism – so the concept shows that the candidate
really understands how the car works as a symbol, it doesn’t say it’s a symbol,
isn’t actually technical language spotting but actually talks about the car as an example
of materialism, so the word symbolism doesn’t come into it but this is obviously quite clear
and sophisticatedly put that the candidate understands that.
The quotation is embedded, which supports this previous point, this excellent point
here. So we have here the actual point and again, these paragraphs can be constructed
very much in a way that you’re used to because of course, all the way through from Key Stage
2, 3 and 4 – that’s GCSE – you might have been using point example and explanation
but this is made in a more sophisticated way. So the point is made here basically saying
that Gatsby’s car is a symbol of materialism. This is then supported by a quotation, then
the candidate goes on to unpack the points they’ve made by giving a detailed analysis
linking it to the characters in the novel and then linking it to the reader’s expectations,
talking about the idea of materialistic objects and displaying the Great Gatsby, and again
here we have this nice use of discourse markers subsequently and emphasising the point in
an analytical way as relevant symbols of wealth and display. So the point isn’t just that
Gatsby’s car is a symbol, the whole idea is explored, analysed and then evaluated finally
in this final sentence by the candidate using quite high level language. Notice how the
sentences are complex sentences. Notice how the quote is embedded. Notice how it logically
moves from the chief point all the way down to this evaluation at the end.
So it shows you to get an A* you need quite a high level of understanding of AO1 and structuring
your essays. We can help you with the videos but you must help yourself by reading essays
by academics to see how they structure their arguments. You need to read deeply around
the subject and look at as much critical literature as you can to get a feeling for the way these
things are put together.
In the next video we’ll look at AO2 and how AO1 and AO2 can work together to create
very sophisticated and analytical responses. 1