Small Steps to large improvement: Unseen paper

Unseen paper: Marginal gains… small steps to big improvements.

A resource written as a give-back aid for this paper which I wrote as an Edexcel Unseen paper – Lit 2.

mock lit paper 2_ unseens

marginal gains unseen paper

This file contains the text below and a little picture embedded to help…

ZOOM IN: Ensure that when you analyse you always show a direct link to the key words or phrase which are relevant. This is a key element of the PEARL technique. Without zooming into these phrase, it is almost impossible to convince an examiner that you have a detailed or perceptive understanding of the language used.
FULLY DEVELOP: Try not to leave anything unstated. Too often students write “ this helps the reader to share the writer’s emotion”. If you think about it, this tells me little that proves that you understand the effect or how it is created. Ideally, explain the actual emotion… “the author’s sense of frustration is shown by…” is so much more effective.
STRUCTURE FOR CLARITY: Remember SCASI? Your essay will be much more effective with a short introduction which places the passage into context. Avoid the “in this is essay I will analyse…” school of repetition and aim for something more like this: “In this poem about the experiences of a recently arrived immigrant in post-war London…” or “This passage in which a young protagonist is in danger and on the run…” is useful because i) it shows that you understand the passage and ii) it gives you a context in which to make the analytical points you wish to raise.
EXPLAIN DON’T ASSERT: Try to explain every point. Too often I read paragraphs which simply tell me that the writer is “upset” or “angry”. This is linked to FULLY DEVELOP, and requires the same process- never leave the examiner hanging by failing to show your working. IN maths you would explain fully even a simple response such as finding the angle in a right-angled triangle… do the same here. Zoom into the key word(s) and make your thought process clear. Sometimes the best ideas are personal and take quite a lot of explanation. In an exam, the examiner has a mark scheme with useful ideas on it and the instruction to reward any “valid” thought. Make sure your idea is seen to be valid.
PICK THE BEST EXAMPLES: In order to get maximum credit, ensure you choose well. If asked to find evidence of dramatic effects, look at the clearly dramatic. In terms of the passage here – the knife, the short sentences, the subordination during the chase. Ideally you will find an example which allows you to clearly refer to the question (see below) when answering. A poor choice will be much harder to link in this way.
TERMS OF THE QUESTION: In a PEARL paragraph, the R should be understood to require you to RELATE to the question, probably more than to the reader. If you are asked to track “dramatic effects”, make sure all you points do this clearly – use the term in your response on a regular basis. The risk is that you slip into a form of generalised comment and lose the chance to be seen as perceptive, or even thorough!

photo wheel

A useful resource for increasing the range of responses to emotions… no more happy…sad… angry!

A mark scheme can be found in this booklet:


A model response… model for unseen response.



Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, IGCSE support, teacher training, writing skills

2 responses to “Small Steps to large improvement: Unseen paper

  1. Your small steps are also relevant to the unseen text in IB philosophy.

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