The logical continuation of the post about Paper 3 is to write about Paper 4 of the A Level English language course (9093, Cambridge). The papers are very different in the expectations and the approaches to the preparation, let’s have a look.
Question 1: English in the World. The topic includes such sub-topics as:
– lingua Franca and how to become one
– language and power
– varieties of English in the world (inc. British and American; what native and non-native speakers do with standards and how it looks, pidgin and creole, etc.)
– language dominance and language death
+ languages in business, religion, education and other spheres, popular languages and not so much
Question 2: Language and the Self. This is the broadest possible topic somewhere at the crossroads of linguistics, sociology and psychology. In general terms it includes what can be combined into the following sub-topics:
– language and culture (how one reflects the other)
– language and society and social class (the influence of the social class, accents, prestige + political correctness + pragmatics in general + standards)
– language and gender (do men and women speak differently? yes)
– language of inclusion and exclusion (anything from international to personal level; language online, teen language)
Unlike paper 3, you don’t have any starting point or particular task to focus on in common sense. Instead, you will see a perfectly structured and nicely written, full of examples and, maybe, even theories text which often happens to be an article, but can be a blog, a post, a script of an interview or a combination of any. The task is always the same:
Discuss what you feel are the most important issues raised here relating to (the changing
use of English as a global language). You should refer to specific details from the text as well as
to ideas and examples from your wider study.
The task poses two problems. First of all, many do not have particular feelings regarding the text or topics, they would prefer to have a clear question, for example, to explain a linguistic theory, instead of playing the guesswork regarding what they feel is important. And then, there is the requirement of a wider study, with examples and additional ideas. Considering that the coursebook already provided everyone interested with plenty of theory, what else do they possibly want?
Unlike Paper 3, where you need to look very closely at specific examples from the task, now you need to do the opposite: look at the task and connect it with the big concepts and ideas covered in the course.
Look at the texts as if looking for small hooks and topic-starters and make sure to highlight them when you annotate the text in preparation for the exam. You will need them later.
- No matter how wide your study is and how far from the original text it might take you, make sure to always connect everything with the original text. It is not an open essay with a general prompt; therefore, your reading skills play their (big) role too.
- Long before the exam (hopefully, during the year), start arranging your notes from the wider study you do. Of course, you can easily find ready knowledge organisers with lists of names and theories, but if not worked through properly, they quickly get mixed up and eventually forgotten.
Use any methods of taking notes which work for you; personally, I’d recommend index cards, mind maps or simple notes in the notebook with colour-coding to know what belongs where.
- Go over as many past paper questions and mark schemes as you can. If you do enough practice, you’ll eventually notice that the topics for discussion are always the same. The moment you realise it for yourself will be the moment when all those tiny pieces of the puzzle finally fall into their places and you will see the whole picture. Unfortunately, it often happens after you finish covering the syllabus; luckily, it’s before the Cambridge exam.
- Make sure to include different aspects of the main topics and show the examiner your awareness of all major theories (if you think that it’s automatically assumed – no, only the text in the answer booklet is graded).
- Be careful with time management. With such open tasks it’s easy to lose track of time. If you still have a lot to say but it’s time to move to the next question – leave a page and move ahead. Remember that both questions have an equal weight of 25 points and trying to get a lot for the first question and almost nothing for the second is a bad idea.
So, where do you get your wider study from? Most likely, your teacher will provide you with some materials. You can also search for ready revision guides compiled by someone with unknown sources and, likely, some mistakes. Or, even more probable, without enough context from those short notes you’d misinterpret the material and then include those mistakes in your response.
With google at hand, though, you have everything you need. Start with a topic of your interest, something from the coursebook or lessons. Try Google Scholar for more scientific articles, articles in modern magazines and news websites for real-life case studies and examples, Youtube for samples of different accents and more. Save it all to revise later.