Sunday, June 9, 2013

How to Get Top Marks for Composition - Narrative in IGCSE English

Nardvark is quaking with fear. He has been practising his writing and thinks he can write a pretty good narrative (that's a story, if you weren't sure), but will the examiner agree?
An exciting illustration
 from Nar's story

Let's take a look at the marking guide and find out! If you want to read Nardvark's story, Attack of the Giant Anteater from Mars first, click here: Nardvark's story.

IGCSE compositions are marked out of 25. You can get 13 for "Content and Structure." Remember you have six choices on the Composition (writing) paper, from three different types of task: Argumentative/Discursive, Descriptive, or Narrative. To get top marks in "Content and Structure" for Narrative writing, you need to produce writing that fulfills this:
"Band 1" or 11 to 13 out of 13 for Narrative Writing
Let's look at this in some detail:


COMPLEX - It has many parts; it is complicated. They go on to suggest that you may include "devices" such as sub-texts (subplots, or a minor plot running alongside the main plot -- in Nardvark's story, his main plot was that he fought the Giant Anteater from Mars. The subplot was that he was struggling with feelings of social inadequacy, due to people always running away from him, screaming), flashbacks (in the middle of the story, you take the reader back in time to tell part of the back-story) and time lapses (Your story doesn't have to be exactly linear or chronological. You can jump ahead or backwards. That makes it more complex.)

COGENT - It is persuasive; it is reasonable. Ok, maybe a giant anteater from Mars isn't reasonable, but Nardvark gave details to persuade the reader's mind that it was possible: a hovering space-craft with red dust on it, people screaming in terror, a description of the creature to allow the reader to build up a persuasive image in his/her mind...

BALANCED - Give equal attention to developing character, setting, and plot. Voice, style, dialogue, etc are important but without the above, you don't have a story. Balance your beginning, middle, and end -- too abrupt of an ending can be a let down. 

CLIMAX - The events of the story lead up to this moment. In a romance, it is the moment when Hugh Grant's character confesses his love for Julia Roberts.  In an action/adventure, it is when the hero blasts the elusive enemy to smithereens and saves the universe.  In a sports story, it is when the unlikely underdogs make the final play in the last second of the match and carry their club to a one-point victory over the league champions.  You get the picture.  You need to build it up and make it unpredictable and exciting. Nothing worse than an excellent build-up with Then my mom was shaking me... "Wake up, Harold; it's time for school!" It was all a dream. as the final paragraph. Puh-lease! It's a fictional story; we know. Let us indulge in your fantastical musings for the moment without ruining it, will ya? 

You also get up to 12 marks for "Style and Accuracy." This is the same for all kinds of composition in IGCSE English.
Style and Accuracy marking grid - Band 1 out of 12
CONSISTENT - You keep the same style, vocabulary, point of view, etc throughout the whole story.

FLUENT/ACCURATE - You don't make errors in tenses, spelling, punctuation, etc.  (spend a few minutes re-reading your work, correcting errors, before you hand your paper in. Everyone makes mistakes. That's why newspapers have editors.)

AUDIENCE - A story is written to be entertaining. Therefore your audience wants to be entertained, and you should write in an entertaining way.  That might mean you are writing it in an amusing/comical way, a thrilling/intense way, an eerie/horrific way, etc; as long as it is consistent and suitable for the content of the story, you need to show that you are aware of your audience.

AMBITIOUS - Don't describe something as 'big' or 'nice' when there are so many more effective words you can use! Better yet, throw in a few literary tools.


Thanks for reading! Phew! Nardvark says it's time for a study break!