Subject content

Unit 1 - Understanding and producing non-fiction texts

Summary of what candidates have to do

Requirements: Candidates are required to read and understand a range of non-fiction texts, identifying the writers' crafts and transferring these skills into their own writing for a range of genres, audiences and purposes.

The functional elements of English reading and writing are embedded within this unit allowing candidates to demonstrate that they are competent readers and writers in their daily lives.

Reading texts will be drawn from a range of non-fiction genres. Some texts will be clearly functional in context (such as information leaflets) and others will be those which candidates can clearly expect to read in their daily lives including media sources (including texts with images, and/or other presentational devices) and literary non-fiction (such as travelogues and biographies). In preparing for this unit, candidates should draw on a variety of text types and transfer their reading skills.

There will be two writing tasks, one shorter and one longer. The shorter task will ask candidates to write to inform, explain or describe; the longer task will require more developed and sustained ideas which argue or persuade. Candidates will be required to adapt their style to fit audience and purpose

Summary of assessment

This externally examined unit is common to GCSE English.

Unit 2 - Speaking and Listening

Summary of what candidates have to do

Candidates will be assessed on three speaking and listening tasks although they may well do more than one performance of each activity during the unit. They will be assessed on one activity in each of the following categories:

  • Presenting
  • Discussing and Listening
  • Role playing.

In Speaking and Listening activities, candidates should:

  • present and listen to information and ideas
  • respond to the questions and views of others, adapting talk appropriately to context and audience
  • make a range of effective contributions, using creative approaches to exploring questions, solving problems and developing ideas
  • participate in a range of contexts, including real life uses of talk and audiences beyond the classroom.

Summary of assessment

This unit will be assessed by means of Controlled Assessment.

Task Setting (limited control)

AQA will provide guidance on the nature of tasks to be undertaken and you will then set tasks.  The tasks should be contextualised to meet the needs of the candidates and enable a variety of approaches. 

Some examples of possible tasks are listed below:

Within the Presenting strand typically candidates might:

  • individually talk to the class about a topic of interest and then answer questions
  • talk to the class about an argument/cause, etc as part of a paired presentation (which may include ICT support such as PowerPoint, visual media clips, etc) and then answer questions
  • interview (or be interviewed by) an adult, perhaps focusing on an aspect of occupation, local current affairs, etc
  • listen to a speech extract on television and represent its main points and biases or listen to a school assembly and re-present its main points and explain its methods of presentation
  • deliver a speech to a wider audience (such as school assembly or another teaching group) either as an individual or as part of a team.

Within the Discussing and Listening strand typically candidates might:

  • in a pair, work together to plan a presentation to the class
  • in a group of three or four, undertake a problem-solving exercise which is relevant to the local community such as congestion charging, public spending priorities, etc
  • in a group of three or four, discuss an issue of interpretation which arises from reading being undertaken elsewhere on the course
  • in a group of three or four, discuss the possible schedules for a television station from a range of given possibilities
  • listen to a speech extract on television and discuss its main points and biases or listen to a school assembly and discuss its main points and its methods of presentation.

Within the Role playing strand typically candidates might:

  • perform as a pair a media interview on a relevant issue, such as child welfare
  • perform as a pair an interview between detective and suspect based upon a narrative from literature that has been studied elsewhere
  • as an individual perform a 5-minute input for breakfast television called 'what the papers say today'
  • perform an improvisation based on literary texts being studied
  • in a group of three or four, undertake a problem-solving exercise which is relevant to the local community such as congestion charging, public spending priorities and improvise a public debate on the topic.

Note here that within the role playing category, the performance of a written script, even if that script has been learned, is not allowed.

 

Task Taking (medium control)

Assessment can take place at any point during the course of study. Candidates will need to be informed that assessment is taking place, but clearly all members of a class will not be assessed at the same time.

 

Task Marking (medium control)

You must mark all Controlled Assessments using the criteria published on pages 34-35 of this specification.

The criteria descriptors are banded under three headings:

  • Communicating and adapting language
  • Interacting and responding
  • Creating and sustaining roles.

These headings represent different skills that are part of Speaking and Listening, and how these skills can be assessed. It is important to stress that all these descriptors can be used in any single assessment – it is perfectly possible, for example, to identify aspects of creating a role, when the assessment is being submitted under the Presenting category.

Controlled Assessment will be moderated by AQA according to the procedures outlined in Section 7.

Your Controlled Assessment questions answered

How do I approach preparation and planning?

Having introduced relevant material and studied relevant speech genres:

  • you should give candidates the relevant task(s)
  • you may wish to provide stimulus materials for group discussions and role play or access to users of language beyond the classroom.
  • you are advised to give the candidates chance to practise speaking or listening in similar contexts to that in which they will be assessed and to prepare ideas after you have given them the task(s).
How do I prepare candidates for this unit?

Speaking and Listening underpins much of the work done for this subject at GCSE. It is important that you prepare candidates for the Controlled Assessment task by teaching approaches to the chosen context/task and by considering various speech genres before giving the task to candidates. You should ensure that candidates are familiar with the assessment criteria for the Controlled Assessment tasks that make up Speaking and Listening.

Can I give candidates feedback? 

Yes. You may give feedback to individual candidates during the planning phase.

How are candidates assessed?

Candidates must be assessed by a teacher either directly at the time of the response or by viewing an electronic visual recording of a candidate's response. 

Can candidates use prompts? 

Prompts or visual slides may be used in addition to any resources you provide. The Unit 2 record form allows teachers to record brief notes and details of activities undertaken. 

Do you have Controlled Assessment Advisers?

Yes. Speaking and Listening Controlled Assessment Advisers will be available to give advice on all aspects of the Controlled Assessment. A rota of advisory visits will include advice on marking of candidates' performance, task setting and record keeping.

Unit 3 - Part A - Understanding spoken and written texts and writing creatively

Summary of what candidates have to do

Candidates will submit one task.

Tasks will draw on candidates' study of one extended text from any genre, including non-fiction. An extended text may include a collection of poems, short stories or non-fiction. Candidates must make reference to the whole text. If using a collection of short texts, they must refer to more than one text, although comparison is not required. Candidates can also use any of the collections from the AQA Anthologies Moon on the Tides or Sunlight on the Grass. Candidates could use any of the texts being studied for GCSE English Literature. For example, candidates studying GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature may study Of Mice and Men for the GCSE English Literature examination and may complete their GCSE English Language Controlled Assessment task on this text.

You may contextualise tasks by choosing texts that meet the needs of your candidates.

Summary of assessment

This part of Unit 3 will be assessed by means of Controlled Assessment.  

Task Setting (high control)

Tasks will be set by AQA. Each year we will provide a bank of tasks under the topics covered in this unit:

  • Themes and ideas
  • Characterisation and voice

Task Taking (high control)

Candidates must produce work totalling about 1200 words in a period of up to four hours. 

Task Marking (medium control)

You must mark all Controlled Assessments using the criteria published on page 36 of the specification document. Controlled Assessment will be moderated by AQA according to the procedures outlined in Section 7.

Your Controlled Assessment questions answered

How much time should I spend teaching this part of the unit?

As the Controlled Assessment is worth 15% of the overall mark, you are advised to spend 15% of the teaching time available to you on the text and topic you have chosen for this unit. You should prepare candidates for the Controlled Assessment task by teaching approaches to the chosen text and topic and by studying style models before giving the task to candidates.

You should also ensure that candidates are familiar with the assessment criteria for the Controlled Assessment task and are aware of the weighting given to each assessment objective.

Which Assessment Objectives will the tasks address?

The tasks will address all three bullet points of assessment objective AO3 except the requirement to collate, compare or cross-reference from different sources.

What approaches will the tasks offer?

The tasks will offer a variety of approaches. Tasks will consist of a single generic title that you can contextualise. There will always be a number of exemplar tasks showing how you can adapt the task to meet the needs of your students. You may, for example, make the title more specific or add bullet points.

Can the assessment be based on parts of texts?

Candidates' responses must be informed by knowledge of whole texts but the main focus of the assessment can be based on part of a text (eg a scene from a play, a chapter from a novel, a small number of poems or short story from a collection). Where candidates use a collection of short texts, there is no requirement to make comparisons.

Do candidates need to address social, cultural and historical context?

No. The reading assessment for GCSE English Language does not require candidates to address social, cultural and historical context.

Will exemplars be available?

Exemplar texts will be provided to indicate how candidates can approach the tasks.

Can candidates use texts during the controlled assessment?

Candidates must use clean, unannotated copies of texts during the assessment period.

Unit 3 - Part B - Producing creative texts (creative writing)

Summary of what candidates have to do

Candidates will submit two pieces of writing prepared under controlled conditions chosen from two of the topics in this unit.

Summary of assessment

This part of Unit 3 will be assessed by means of Controlled Assessment:

Task Setting (high control)

Tasks will be set by AQA. Each year we will provide a bank of six tasks: two for each of the topics covered in this unit:

  • Moving Images (writing for or about moving images)
  • Commissions (responding to a given brief)
  • Re-creations (taking a text and turning it into another).

Candidates will complete two of these tasks. Each task should be taken from a different topic.

Tasks will predominantly expect candidates to write in a variety of non-fiction genres. The tasks are designed to develop candidate skills in writing for particular audiences and purposes. Some tasks will encourage candidates to produce multi-modal texts in which they combine written language with audio/visual devices.

Task Taking (high control)

Preparation and planning

You may choose to allow your candidates to do two tasks in the same period or to divide the total time available for this unit so your candidates do their two pieces at different stages of the course that are most appropriate.

Production

Candidates must produce two pieces of work totalling about 1200 words in a period of up to four hours.

The two pieces may be done in different time periods, for example at different times of the year, as long as the total time taken does not exceed four hours.

This word limit is for guidance only as it will vary with the nature of the task. The pieces do not have to be of equal length. 

Task Marking (medium control)

You must mark all Controlled Assessments using the criteria published on pages 38–39 of this specification. You will mark each task out of 10 marks and give an overall mark out of 10 for accuracy. The marks will be added together to give a final mark out of 30. Controlled Assessment will be moderated by AQA according to the procedures outlined in Section 7.

Your Controlled Assessment questions answered

How much time should I spend teaching this part of the unit?

As the Controlled Assessment is worth 15% of the overall mark, you are advised to spend a total of 15% of the teaching time available to you on the topics you have chosen for this part of Unit 3. You should prepare candidates for the Controlled Assessment tasks by teaching approaches to the chosen topics and by studying style models before giving the tasks to candidates.

You should also ensure that candidates are familiar with the assessment criteria for the Controlled Assessment task and are aware of the weighting given to each assessment objective.

Which Assessment Objectives will the tasks address?

The tasks will address all three bullet points of assessment objective AO4.

What approaches will the tasks offer?

The tasks will offer a variety of approaches. Tasks will consist of a single title and may have a number of bullet points which will help candidates to plan the structure of their writing.

Unit 3 - Part C - Spoken Language Study

Summary of what candidates have to do

Candidates will submit one spoken language study, in a written response, prepared under controlled conditions and chosen from the topics in this unit. The focus of this unit is investigative.

In terms of Subject Content, within the broad category Studying Language, learners should

Understand how spoken (and written) language evolve in response to changes in society and technology, and how this process relates to identity and cultural diversity.

More specifically within the Spoken Language Study learners should

  • Reflect critically on their own and others' uses of language in different contexts and how they adapt to different listeners and tasks, exploring these experiences in the contexts of wider language use and variation.
  • Engage with real life uses of talk and audiences beyond the classroom and consider aspects of spoken language, eg how language changes over time, attitudes to standard and non-standard forms and regional variations.

Tasks will be set on topics within this broad area.

Summary of assessment

This unit will be assessed by means of Controlled Assessment. 

Task Setting (high control)

Tasks will be set by AQA. Candidates will complete one task. Each year we will provide a bank of six tasks; two tasks for each of the topics covered in this unit:

  • Social attitudes to spoken language
  • Spoken genres
  • Multi-modal talk.

The tasks should be contextualised to meet the needs of the learners and enable a variety of approaches. Candidates should be encouraged to investigate topics that are of personal interest to them and collect their own data when possible.

Tasks will be based on the topics as follows:
Social attitudes to spoken language

This will provide candidates with an opportunity to think about the ways in which:

  • Certain types of speech are privileged in some societies, and others less so (for example, standard and non-standard varieties)
  • Identity is established and conformity resisted or influence shown
  • How attitudes vary over time and place.
Spoken genres

This will allow candidates to study talk in various genres, including the media. They could, in particular, look at aspects of speech in different modes and different genres.

Multi-modal talk 

This will allow candidates to talk study ways in which:

  • New technologies blur traditional distinctions between speaking and writing, producing new hybrid genres which have aspects of both
  • Online identity is established and negotiated
  • Online talk is seen is potentially ambiguous.

Although there is clearly much theoretical work in this field, it must be stressed that this piece of work, consisting of only 10% of the total assessment for this specification, should be practically based and enjoyable: it should be driven by student enquiry, and reflect upon what the data might show rather than by extensive academic study. It will serve potentially as an introduction to further study of language. 

Research

Although candidates should be encouraged to collect their own data, if this is not possible you may provide some raw data for them. The data that students have collected will both inform their thinking and then illustrate their Controlled Assessment response.

Typically such data might be in the form of a video and/or audio clip, a written transcript or a print-out of a messaging exchange. Suitable research material would include chat logs, television/radio programmes or extracts from academic sources on regional dialects, bilingualism, journalistic articles or comment about topical issues such as non-standard varieties of spoken language.

As candidates may undertake research under limited supervision, they are able to investigate language in use outside the classroom. Access to users of language beyond the classroom could be in the form of recorded interviews with relatives, for example. Any research of this type should be recorded on the Candidate Record Form.

Candidates may discuss topics or present findings as part of their preparation for this study. You may assess this for Unit 2, Speaking and Listening.

Task Taking (high control)

Candidates must produce one spoken language study as a written response.

The assessed piece will require data. The best data is likely to be in the form of speech transcripts (but without complex markings), questionnaire data, media recordings, etc but it may also be more anecdotal, especially where candidates are reflecting on aspects of language in use.

Final outcomes for candidates submitting written responses must be produced under formal supervision. Candidates may use research materials but these must not constitute a detailed writing frame or a draft response to the task. The final outcome should be written work totalling 800–1000 words in a period of two–three hours which may be divided to meet the timetabling requirements of the centre.

Research must be submitted with the final draft for assessment and moderation.

Task Marking (medium control)

You must mark all Controlled Assessments using the criteria published on page 40 of this specification and submit sufficient written evidence to justify marks awarded on the Candidate Record Form. Controlled Assessment will be moderated by AQA according to the procedures outlined in Section 7.

Your Controlled Assessment questions answered

How much time should I spend teaching this part of the unit? 

As the controlled assessment is worth 10% of the overall mark, you are advised to spend 10% of the total teaching time available when teaching this part of Unit 3. You should prepare candidates for the Controlled Assessment task by teaching approaches to the investigation, the chosen topic and possibly by studying style models.

You should also ensure that candidates are familiar with the assessment criteria for the Controlled Assessment task and are aware of the weighting given to each assessment objective.

Which Assessment Objectives will the tasks address?

The tasks cover AO2: Explain variations in spoken language; evaluate their own and others' uses.

Can candidates have access to the Internet during the Controlled Assessment?

If candidates need to access the Internet to collect data from MSN or multi-modal clips this should be allowed. Provided the assessment is based on the candidate's own data, access to the Internet can be allowed.

Task Setting
How often do tasks change?

Tasks will be replaced each year and the same tasks will be available for assessment in June.

When are tasks published?

Tasks for the following two years' assessment series will be made available to centres from 1st April. They will be published on e-AQA.

Task Taking: Preparation and Planning
How do I approach preparation and planning

Having taught the topic(s) and studied relevant style models you should give candidates the relevant task(s).

  • if you wish, you may give candidates a choice of tasks on the topic(s) you have taught
  • you are advised to give candidates the chance to practise writing in this form and to prepare ideas after you have given them the task(s)
  • during this time candidates may make use of any further resources available in the school or college, including the Internet, to inform their preparation
  • candidates must keep a record of all the primary and secondary sources (including websites) they use
  • candidates must keep a record of any style models they use to assist you in authenticating work
  • records should be kept in the form of a bibliography 
  • all this work should be completed under informal supervision.
Can I give candidates feedback?

Yes. You may give feedback to individual candidates during the planning phase. Where this goes beyond general advice, this should be recorded on the Candidate Record Form.

Can candidates work together?

Candidates may work with others during the planning phase. So, for example, they may discuss their ideas in small groups or share resources found on the Internet, but each candidate must produce an individual response to the task.

Task Taking: Production
Does the Controlled Assessment have to take place in one session?

No. The time allowed for the Controlled Assessment may be divided to meet the timetabling requirements of the centre.

Where there is more than one task, you may choose to allow your candidates to do the tasks in the same period or to divide the total time available for this unit so your candidates do their two pieces at different stages of the course that are most appropriate.

Can candidates take drafts or notes into the assessment?

Drafts may not be taken into the assessment. Brief notes made in the preparation stage may be taken into the assessment. These must be checked by the teacher to ensure that they are not plagiarised text and do not include a detailed planning grid or pre-prepared final draft. The notes should be submitted with the final piece for moderation.

Can candidates work together during the assessment?

No. While writing up their response, candidates must work independently and complete all work under formal supervision by a teacher or invigilator. You must record any feedback given to candidates during this phase on the Candidate Record Form.

What do we do if the assessment period is broken down into smaller sessions?

Where the total time is divided, the teacher or invigilator must collect all materials in at the end of each session and return them to candidates at the beginning of the next session. No feedback should be given on drafts prepared during the assessment period. Candidates may not bring any new materials into the room once this phase has started.

What is collected at the end of the assessment?

At the end of the Controlled Assessment, the teacher or invigilator must collect in all work, including the final piece of work for assessment and any drafts.

Can candidates use a dictionary or a thesaurus?

For parts a and b of Unit 3 candidates are not allowed access to a dictionary or thesaurus or to grammar and spell check programmes during the writing up of the Controlled Assessment.

For part c of Unit 3 candidates may have access to a dictionary and thesaurus and to grammar and spell check programmes during the writing up of the Controlled Assessment.

Can PCs be used?

The Controlled Assessment may be either handwritten or produced electronically.

Candidates using laptops/PCs to write their Controlled Assessment cannot have access to the Internet, e-mail, floppy disks or memory sticks as this could breach the controlled conditions. If the assessment period is divided into a number of shorter sessions, centres should ensure that work is saved securely to ensure that candidates cannot amend or add to the saved material between sessions.

Do you have Controlled Assessment Advisers?

Controlled Assessment Advisers will be available to give advice on all aspects of the Controlled Assessment including the marking.