Friday, January 16, 2015

Looking at IGCSE Paper 2 Question 1 with a mark scheme

Another day, another scything commentary on an innocent student's mock exam script from The Nerdvark. 

Here is the reading, from IGCSE course 0500 First Language English, May/June 2014:






Here is the question:


Paper 2

1.  Imagine you are Mrs Wilkie.
    Write a letter to the Public Health Department of the city, demanding that ‘Sammy’s Place’ be shut down.
    In your letter you should write about:
   • your concerns about the conditions at the hostel
   • the mis-management of the hostel 
   • the likely consequences of allowing the hostel to stay open.
   Base your letter on what you have read in Passage A. Address all three bullet points. Be careful to use your own words.
   Begin your letter:
   ‘Dear Public Health Officer I am writing to alert you to a health and safety hazard …’.
   Write between 1½ and 2 sides, allowing for the size of your handwriting.
   Up to 15 marks are available for the content of your answer, and up to 5 marks for the quality of your writing.

[Maximum Total Marks : 20]

This is the mark scheme for this paper on Content (Reading); if it's too small to read, try downloading it and opening it in your computer's photo viewer.


For "reading" I would give you band 3.  Your reading is competent, even thorough, but you failed to answer all three bullet points, which puts you automatically at best into band 3.

To remedy this, I recommend reading your question carefully and underlining what you are being asked to do in each bullet point.  Then go through the reading and use different styles of notation to mark the parts that will answer each bullet point. 

For example, the first bullet point is asking for Mrs. Wilkie's concerns about the conditions at the hostel, which you answered very thoroughly.  I highlighted that part with yellow in the reading.  In your letter, you added a few details of your own.  I don't think that's necessary in this question, as this question is meant to find out how well you can read.  You should only include what you gathered by reading the passage. 

The second bullet point asks Mrs. Wilkie's opinion about the mis-management of the hostel, which you have touched on but need to explore further.  I highlighted aspects of mismanagement in green on the reading. 

Finally, the third bullet point asks you to talk about what Mrs. Wilkie assumes will be the consequences of allowing the hostel to stay open.  You didn't mention this at all.  I didn't highlight much because there's very little in the passage to indicate what Mrs. Wilkie expects for the future of the hostel.  This is where you have to "read between the lines" or infer the information.  We can see from the line I highlighted in pink (I know you know your colours; I just love highlighting. - Nerdvark) that Mrs. Wilkie is very disturbed by the conditions of the hostel.  She likely foresees dire consequences for her daughter and future residents of the hostel.  As you read, you should make notes regarding this bullet point so you will be able to answer it thoroughly. 

Each bullet point should have equal treatment in your response.  That means you will need to reduce your answer to the first bullet point and add more to the second, then a full paragraph for the third. 

H. Mango's answer for this question is as follows :
This time, Nerdvark coloured his comments in lovely lavender, and his buddy H. Mango's words, which the comments refer to, in delectable tangerine.

Dear Public Health Officer,

I am writing to alert you to a health and safety hazard that could possibly inflict the environment of the area. A residence exclusive to (what?) has sprouted at King's Street, named "Sammy's Place" (Here the misplaced modifier named "Sammy's Place" leads the reader to assume that King's Street is named Sammy's Place), whose (generally whose is used for people.  Try "the venomous atmosphere of which") venomous atmosphere has led me to write to you.

The area of the residence itself is notorious for it's (as your word processor has probably already informed you, this is the contraction of it is or it has.  The word you are looking for is its, a possessive pronoun.) location, the area is inhabited by foreigners desperate to live at a cheap cost. The facade of the residence can be delusive, (Not sure what you mean by this.  As previously, you need to choose words that suit the "voice" of the piece, in this case, Sasha's mom, Mrs. Wilkie.) but it's (again, illegal use of apostrophe.  Yellow card.) insides assure that no such thing as "decent hygiene" exists therein. There is no reception nor a receptionist at the entrance, which perplexes the visitors. The shabby walls are littered with advertisements and the information board in the common room is habitat to the expired and repudiated job vacancies, (a comma splice: I think you know how Nerdvark feels about them.  If not, read "Comma Splices Suck" here.) the lifts are no different, designed with notices rather than wallpapers. The dormitories of the residents (extraneous: take it out.) are in poor conditions, the beds are uncomfortably thin and worn out from generations of use, and to invade on the already limited privacy the residents have, they are crammed together like an adhesive (weird simile: when is an adhesive crammed together?  Maybe something else is crammed together, like sardines, only that's cliche so don't use that, but you know what I mean.) to make room for others. The exhausted light bulbs flicker in a feral manner, like someone gasping for his few last breaths. There is little to no coordination among the residents, who are supposed to take turns cleaning the room and disposing (of) bins, but due to their egoistic (are you sure?  maybe it is due to their laziness, or due to their apathetic) nature, they fail to cooperate, to which no action is taken by the staff. The windows are thick with grime and covered with dead flies that could have lived eons ago. On closer inspection of the cooking facilities, which are closely related to health issues (what health issues?  be specific: which are likely harbouring thousands of diseases), the sinks overflow with remains of food from (the past several) months, the clatter of plates (are -- we need a verb in each item in this list, for consistency) shaped like a castle, awaiting the day they will be washed, (and) the sink (is) encrusted with layers of toothpaste. There is barely any tranquility in the corridors, which seem to emant (emanate?) disturbing melodies out of the ether. In fact, the food some residents are coerced to consume is left over from other's (plural: others') food and this is leading to growth of contagious diseases. The nature (lifestyle?) of the residents is not decent either, (comma splice!) they stay awake for (the) majority of the night, disturbing others with loud volume music turned on. And humans are not the only living beings to reside therein, there (comma splice!) is a plethora of rats too, which probably serve as the cause of the intoxicating (connotation: we usually like intoxicating smells.  Try "offensive" or "nauseating") smell in the air (of what?  Be specific to show that you understood the passage).

After your acute observations and inspections, i would request the residence entitled "Sammy's Place" to be shut down in order to refurbate (?) the serenity of the area.

Awaiting your reply, 
Mrs Wilkie

This is the mark scheme for "quality of writing."  



I would give you a band 3, because some of your vocabulary is off.  It does not give clarity of expression (wrong word or wrong connotation) and for the same reason it does not express ideas with subtlety and precision.  

Remember, choosing vocabulary is not just about showing off your vast knowledge of polysyllabic words. You have to choose the words that the character, in this case Mrs. Wilkie, would use, to "indicate the personality of the character."  In this case, your writing gives the character Mrs. Wilkie the personality of a university doctoral professor, but from the reading I got the impression that she is a hovering, uptight housewife in a middle-class family.  I think your Mrs. Wilkie would allow her daughter the experience of a gap year and the time spent in a cruddy, run-down hostel as she would know it would build her daughter's character, but the Mrs. Wilkie from the reading would not, and that is the kind of association you have to draw.

Finally, the middle paragraph of your letter is too long.  You need to begin a new paragraph each time you talk about a different aspect of the disgusting hostel.

Hope this helps!  Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for more of Nerdvark's vicious attacks on the bold and heroic student H. Mango, who risks personal attack to share his work with the world.

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