S5/S6 Higher English
The course involves developing skills in reading, writing, talk and listening. Pupils will build on the skills they have already and tackle many tasks which will be familiar to them from the National 5 course. Higher is a very challenging course and pupils will need to work hard to achieve their best. Pupils are often surprised by the increase in expectations from National 5 to Higher. Teachers are there to offer support and guidance but the motivation to achieve success must come from pupils. Higher requires an independent approach to studying and a willingness to work hard.
How is the course assessed?
There are two types of assessment:
- Internal assessment
- External assessment
- In order to sit the final Higher exam, you must first pass internal assessments in reading, writing, talk and listening. You will do these at an appropriate time during the year; your teacher will discuss this with you.
- They can be done in a number of ways e.g. your talk could be a solo presentation on an issue you have also chosen to write about for your writing assessment, or part of a group presentation on an area of a literary text you are studying. If you do not manage to reach the required standard first time, you can try again. The internal assessments do not contribute to your final mark.
External assessment. There are two elements of this.
- Writing Portfolio. (Worth 30%)
- You will write two pieces, one creative (imaginative or personal/reflective) and one discursive (argumentative or persuasive). Each is worth 15% each of your final mark
- You will receive some support from your teacher but it must be your own work. Your teacher is not allowed to give you a plan or correct eg punctuation errors. That is your job. You may redraft your portfolio pieces.
- It is important that you meet the departmental deadlines for folio pieces as this ensures that the work is your own. Guidance form the SQA states “at all stages of the preparation for and the production of the piece there should be careful monitoring to ensure that it is entirely the candidate’s work. It is important that confidence in the authenticity of a candidate’s work is established before the finished piece is handed in. Where there is doubt over the authenticity of a piece of writing it should not be accepted for portfolio submission.”
- The SQA require folios to fit a template which they provide. It is advised that you make use of this template as early as possible in the writing process.
- The maximum number of words is 1300; suggested minimum is around 650.
- Your portfolio will be sent to the SQA for marking.
Exam ( worth 70% of the final grade)
Paper 1 (worth 30%) is Reading for Understanding, Analysis, Evaluation (U,A,E). This used to be called Close Reading.
In Paper 1, pupils will read two non-fiction passages on a related topic. They will be asked questions on the first passage for 25 marks. There will be a final 5 mark question which asks pupils to compare the ideas between both passages. Pupils will develop their skills in summarising, comparing, contrasting, analysing and understanding to build their confidence in tackling this paper.
(a) Paper 2 (worth 40%) is Critical Reading. This is the study of literature.
Paper 2 has 2 parts, each worth 20 marks and each worth 20%
- One part of Paper 2 is the Scottish Text Question (STQ). For this pupil will study one writer/text from the SQA list of Scottish texts.
In the STQ exam, they will answer questions on a text or extract from a text. 10 marks will be on the text printed in the exam. The other 10 marks will test their knowledge of the wider text or other works by the same writer.
- One part of Paper 2 is the Critical Essay. Pupils will write one essay on a literary text they have studied. This will not be the same text as their STQ text. Pupils cannot write on the same genre for their essay and their STQ.
Some teachers may choose to study two texts from the SQA STQ list. If so, he/she will explain.
(b) External Exam (Worth 70%)
- Paper 1 (worth 30%) is Reading for Understanding, Analysis, Evaluation (U,A, E). This used to be called Close Reading
- In Paper 1, you will read 2 unseen non-fiction passages and answer questions on passage one and answer one 5 mark question in which you compare both passages.
- You will develop your skills in summarising, comparing, contrasting and analysing to build your confidence in tackling this paper.
- Paper 2 (worth 40%) is Critical Reading. This is the study of literature.
- Paper 2 has 2 parts, each is worth 20%
- One part of Paper 2 is the Scottish Text Analysis (STA). For this you will study one writer/text from the SQA list of Scottish texts.
- In the STA exam, you will answer questions on a text or extract from a text. 10 marks will be on the text printed in the exam. The other 10 marks will test your knowledge of the wider text or other works by the same writer.
- One part of Paper 2 is the Critical Essay. You will write one essay on a literary text you have studied. This will not be the same text as your STA text. You cannot write on the same genre for you essay and your STA.
- Your teacher may choose to study 2 texts from the SQA list. If so, he/she will explain.
Reading for Understanding, Analysis and Evaluation
The following main command words are generally used in this question paper:
- explain : used to assess understanding of a writer’s ideas (usually followed by ‘in your own words’ or ‘use you’re your own words)
- explain the function of : used to assess the skills of understanding the writer’s line of thought and analysing the structure of the argument
- analyse: used to assess the skills of analysis, ie exploring the writer’s use of language to create effects, convey ideas and/or engage the reader (eg. word choice, sentence structure, tone, imagery, punctuation)
- evaluate : used to assess the skill of considering how effective a part of the text is (eg. how effective the final paragraph is as a conclusion to the text)
- identify: used to assess the skill of selecting key points or ideas (usually followed by ‘use your own words’)
- identify three key areas : used in the final question (on both papers) to assess the skill of comparing two passages and identify key areas in which they agree or disagree. (own words not necessary here, although it is often easier to use these)
The following command words are generally used in section 1 of this question paper:
- explain: candidates are asked to demonstrate understanding of eg characterisation, narrative, theme
- analyse : candidates are asked to analyse a writer’s use of language, ie explore how the writer uses language to convey ideas or create impact (eg word choice, imagery, sentence structure, punctuation, sound, etc)
- evaluate : candidates are asked to consider how effective an aspect of the text is (eg how effective the final lines of a poem are as a conclusion to the poem)
- discuss : candidates are asked to consider how the writer explores a given topic, or uses a literary or linguistic technique, across more than one poem/short story, or a longer text in its entirety (the final 10-mark question)
Candidates must choose a different genre from the one selected for section 1. The essay should be relevant to the question throughout, and should achieve minimum requirements for technical accuracy.
The following main command words are generally used in section 2 of this question paper:
- explain (how) … and discuss
- explain (why) …and discuss
- explain (the circumstances) … and discuss
These three commands are usually used in prose fiction, drama and poetry questions.
- discuss how (usually used in non-fiction or media questions)
- identify … and discuss (usually used in language questions)
All of the above command words invite candidates to demonstrate their skills of understanding, analysis, and evaluation. Each question includes the instruction: ‘with reference to appropriate techniques’, which serves as a reminder for candidates of the need to demonstrate skills of analysis.
The following aspects of a critical essay are assessed:
- Knowledge and understanding of the text
- Use of textual evidence to support your line of thought
- Relevance to question
- Analysis of techniques
- Evaluation of the text
- Technical accuracy
Recording & Reporting
Specific Home Study tasks will be distributed on a regular basis by individual class teachers, but pupils are also advised to revise English skills independently. It is expected that pupils devote at least 2 hours per week completing independent study and/or English Home Study tasks.
Self revision/Home Study exercises that pupils are recommended to undertake should include:
- Consolidation of knowledge of class texts and close reading skills
- Close Reading practice assessments
- Reading quality newspapers using close reading skills
- Preparation for presentations
- Writing essays for folio