Writing tips

from In-thinking English B

The lists

Paper 1 Text types by level

HL

  • Article, column
  • Blog
  • Brochure, leaflet, flyer, pamphlet, advertisement
  • Essay
  • Interview in any form
  • News report
  • Report
  • Review
  • Set of instructions, guidelines
  • Short story, novel, poem
  • Written correspondence
**  Note that the only difference is that “Short story, novel, poem” will not appear at SL.

 

Paper 2 Text types by level

HL – Paper 2, Section A requires students to produce text types from the following list.

• Article

• Blog/diary entry

• Brochure, leaflet, flyer, pamphlet, advertisement

 • Interview

• Introduction to debate, speech, talk, presentation

• News report

• Official report

• Proposal

• Review

• Set of instructions, guidelines

• Written correspondence

(p.41)

** Note the only differences:

– Essay appears at SL, but not at HL

– Proposal appears at HL, but not at SL

Written Assignment

At both levels, students should refer to the list provided for the Paper 2 appropriate to their level.

SL – “Students produce a piece of writing that may be chosen from the recommended text
types listed for paper 2 in this section.”  (p.33)

HL – “Students produce a piece of creative writing that may be chosen from the recommended text
types listed for paper 2 in this section.”  (p.42)

Core descriptions

The Writing Purposes are arranged in pairs. This structure was deliberate, and based on the prescriptive aim of the original document (see A Historical Note, below): to contrast generic types of text in order to make clear the essential approach required. The descriptions that follow set out to explain the fundamental contrast between the two types of purpose in each pair. These descriptions are intended to form a basis for the instructions and advice that we give to students when they set out to write specific types of text.

In addition, I point out comparisons and contrasts between the seven principal categories – for these descriptions are principally aimed at helping students understand the appropriate essential approach to apply when they set out to write.

Description

  • ‘Describing something’ primarily involves creating a recognisable model for the reader. For instance, a good description of a person should enable the reader to pick out that person in a crowd.
  • Factual Description bases this model on objective featuresEvocative Description includes subjective elements as well. For instance, a Factual Description of a house will include dimensions, number of rooms, layout, etc, while an Evocative Description will include overall impressions (“shabby, run-down”) and personal responses (“depressing”).
  • Description is, in a sense, static as compared with Explanation – it sets out to show the basic form or structure of what exists, rather than to explain how something works, its dynamic process.

Narration

  • All narration involves showing how events are linked together in a sequence in time – “first A happened, then B, and lastly C…”
  • Factual Narration sets out to be as accurate as possible to a real sequence of events in order to inform the reader; whereasFictional Narration invents and selects the sequence of events in order to involve the reader.
  • The importance of time in Narration means that these Purposes have more in common with Explanation (‘how it works’) than with Description (‘what it is’) – but Narrations are essentially specific and particular (‘the French Revolution’), as opposed to the generalised nature of  Explanations (‘the revolutionary process’).

Written Interaction

  • The term ‘Written Interaction’ is intended to cover all forms of messages and letters addressed to a known, specific reader. In a sense, all writing has at least a notional reader, but Written Interaction types of text include the idea that the reader will reply – hence ‘interaction’.
  • Informal Interaction uses colloquial language to suggest a conversation with the reader, while Formal Interaction usesconventionally correct language to suggest the clarity and authority of a written statement.
  • Because of its ‘conversational’ element, Written Interaction has aspects in common with Spoken Interaction, but there areforms and conventions in messages which do not apply in normal speech. In addition, Written Interaction may share aspects with Argument: Controversial, in that a polemical speech, for instance, may be aimed at convincing a known, specific audience through direct address.

Spoken Interaction

  • These Purposes are written to record exactly words that were spoken. (That at least is the understanding, although in practice journalists tidy up what is said in interviews (the Reported type), removing “ums and ers”, while in the commonest types ofTranscribed writing – plays and movie scripts – the words were never actually spoken, being invented, and are also conspicuously tidy without the “ums and ers” of real speech.)
  • The Reported type is in a sense embedded in Description and Explanation – and really only occurs within the context of the journalistic (or historical) interview.
  • Accordingly, the Reported Spoken Interaction has something in common with the use of evidence in Argument and Analysis & Critique – the quotations are used to support an overall view.

Explanation

  • To explain something involves demonstrating cause and effect – “if this happens, then that happens”
  • The distinction between the two types of explanation is that Factual Explanation explains something that has happened(i.e. a report), while Argumentative Explanation explains something that could happen (i.e. a prediction or a proposal).
  • Explanation may draw on elements of Description or Narration, but these are used as evidence of links in a logical chain.
  • This sense of logical clarity connects the Explanation Purpose to the Argument Purpose – specifically, Factual Explanation aims to record exactly as in Balanced Argument, while Argumentative Explanation aims to present convincing possibility as does Controversial Argument.

Argument 

  • The essence of the Argument Purpose is that the aim to present a chain of ideas that are logically linked in order to convince.
  • However, the two Purposes should be recognised as fundamentally different in that the Controversial type aims to use argument and evidence selectively in order to present a distinctive interpretation (e.g. the political speech), while theBalanced type aims to use argument and evidence objectively in order to present an agreed understanding (e.g. the academic essay).
  • Both aim to convince, but by different means, usually involving aspects of other Purposes. The Controversial type tends to use the more subjective Types of Description, Narrative and Explanation, while the Balanced type tends to use the more objective Types of Description, Narrative and Explanation.

Analysis & Critique

  • To analyse and comment involves close examination leading to evaluation – “this is how it works, and that is how effective it is”.
  • Once again, the two Purposes can be distinguished by how subjective or objective they are – the Subjective Analysis & Critique (e.g. a review) places emphasis on personal response (which should be based on sound factual knowledge); while theObjective Analysis & Critique (e.g. a literary commentary) aims to achieve detailed, accurate understanding (which may lead to considered value-judgement).
  • The two Types may draw on elements of other Types of Text in the same way as the Argument Types (q.v.).
  • [Note that Objective Analysis & Critique (or commentary) is not to be set as a task in Paper 2. While it will not be examined, it has value as a written task during course work, requiring a more disciplined and methodical approach to criticism than is expected in Subjective Analysis (or review).]

 

This is a REVISED reference page: it contains summaries of particular ways to approach the marking of each specific text type – i.e. things to look out for, in order to guide analysis.

marking & teaching … To analyse how you mark a particular text type involves analysing what is important about each text type – and to decide what is important is a good way of deciding what is significant to teach. So, this page is intended also to give indications of key teaching points for each text type.

You may also wish to consult the related page Conventions forum, which sets out to list the defining features of these text types – and so decide what needs to be taught.

For rapid reference, use the Page Contents box to the right – Show the list and click on the text type you want to consult.

Important !

This page has been revised entirely to conform to the ‘NEW’ Marking Criteria, for first examination use in May 2013. The previous version of this page was based on the ‘OLD’ Marking Criteria – i.e. those in the out-going Subject Guide.

NB – For simple convenience, the list below is based on the list of Paper 2 text types given in the new Language B Subject Guide (first examination 2013); it is organised by alphabetical order.

Deploying the Criteria

The guidance is intended to amplify and clarify the overall descriptions of the marking Criteria, and to indicate how the Criteria may be applied in the specific tasks involving each text type.

Criterion A: Language

In practice, assessing the fundamental command of the language system is not much affected by text type: incorrect grammar, for instance, is detectable whatever the text type. However, range & choice of language may be significant.

Criterion B: Message

This Criterion should focus on how well the specific needs of the task are answered, in terms of the developing, structuring and controlling of ideas, according to the expected approach of the text type.

Criterion C: Format

This Criterion refers to the formal requirements of the text type – in terms of whether the use of conventions make the text type recognisable, and are appropriate.

NOTE – In revising this page, most of the elements of the Language and Message Criteria have remained essentially the same. Criterion C Format, however, appears to have a more restricted scope than the ‘old’ Criterion B Cultural Interaction. Criterion C Format only refers to ‘conventions’ – does this then cover register / rhetoric / cohesive devices, as specifically mentioned in the old Criterion B ?

Until this issue is definitively resolved, I have retained the references to ‘old’ indicators, but …

> Inset them, and put them in this type face, in blue

*********************

Article

The term ‘article’ applies to a very wide range of styles and approaches. Clearly, it carries the notion of a journalistic discourse, but the context – which includes where it is to be published, and to whom it is to be addressed – will have a powerful influence on how it is written (see NB, below).

Criterion A

> range? How much vocabulary & phrasing specific to the text type (+task?) can be detected ?

Criterion B

> Is the task to :

Inform ? In which case, is the flow of information methodical and clear?

Discuss ? In which case, is there a reasonably balanced coverage of different points of view?

Give opinion ? In which case, is a clear point of view presented? And is it coherent / consistent?

> ‘Duty to inform’ ? A defining element of any ‘article’ is that it sets out to inform – does the script actually tell people something?

Criterion C

> Form / format? How many conventional features of journalistic articles can be detected? Title / headline? Appropriate / typical structure of paragraphs ?

> Address? Is there a sense of effective address to the public ?

> Opening & closing? Is the opening, in particular, attractive / attention-catching ?

NB A basic problem of the ‘article’ as a task is that articles appear in many contexts, and these contexts may define style and approach. Unless the question specifies publishing context very carefully, one should beware of jumping to conclusions – for instance, a ‘school magazine’ may be written in many different ways, from jokey / colloquial to formal / serious. Usually, accept any approach which is credible and consistent.

Blog/diary entry

A distinction: both text types typically present personal experience and comment, but a blog is more of a public statement, whereas a diary is more of a private reflection.

Criterion A

> issue of range: a blog may be expected to use slightly more sophisticated language, as a public statement … whereas a diary is likely to be slightly more informal

Criterion B

> relevance – even if these are to be seen as ‘loose’ forms, the student still has to deal with the specific task set. Does clear attention to the task clearly predominate over any informal digressions ?

> organisation – What should govern the effective organisation of these text types?

– if a blog is a ‘public statement’, ideas can be expected to be organised to show some evident + consistent purpose

– even if a diary is a (more) private reflection, an exam script can still be expected to show a clear and organised flow of ideas. This may include :-

> control of narration – the diary is usually set to address a narrative of some sort, so effective explanation and control of the events is expected

> narration plus comment – what distinguishes the diary from other forms of narrative is that the diarist reflects on the events and draws personal conclusions.

Criterion C

> Conventions : are there conventions for the relatively new blog – or for the anarchically personal diary ?

> register : informality enriched with sophistication – if both text types are personal, some informality can be expected in register and rhetoric, but higher marks will go to scripts which combine colloquialism with dashes of complex phrasing and effects

> basic paragraphing applied with clarity : while one can think of examples of real diaries which ignore basic paragraphing, students writing an exam script should be expected to show that they understand that sensible paragraphing aids clarity.

Brochure, leaflet, flyer, pamphlet, advertisement

What all of these formats have in common is that they are concerned to disseminate information quickly and concisely. The task may define an emphasis on informing (e.g the health leaflet) or on promoting (e.g. the publicity brochure).

Criterion A

> range? How much vocabulary & phrasing specific to the text type (+task?) can be detected ?

> sentence structure? Short, sharp ? Clear and effectively controlled? Not rambling or over-winded?

Criterion B

> succinct, efficient explanation : individual concepts / ideas are presented clearly and quickly

> lucid step-by-step argument : individual points are linked together into a convincing sequence of ideas

Criterion C

> format – does it look like, for instance, a brochure ?

1. titles, headings

2. use of sections – bullet points, stars, etc

> ‘address’ – all of these text types include the idea of a form of direct address to a target audience … are there indications that the student understands this, and expresses such address?

> ‘promotional language’ – usually, these text types are all hortatory, they encourage the target audience to agree with what is being presented, to ‘buy the idea’ … so to what extent does the style + rhetoric achieve this effect?

Essay (SL only)

The Essay is one of the commonest forms that teachers mark – but is there really agreement on what is meant by ‘a good essay’ ?

Criterion A

> Range of vocabulary – How much ‘formal academic’ vocabulary is used? (And how appropriately and/or correctly is it used?) However … good essays can (and perhaps should) be written in clear, straightforward, unpretentious language, so lack of ‘sophisticated’ language should not necessarily be penalised (especially at SL).

> Language of logical linkage – Modals? … ‘X leads to Y’ ? … modifiers (‘usually’, ‘rarely’, ‘in general terms’ ?) … etc. Does the use of language enable a clear understanding of the logical connections of the argument?

Criterion B

> sense of purpose / aim – How effectively is the text directed at a clear issue or question?

> introduction + conclusion – These should effectively embody the ‘sense of purpose’.

> range of aspects considered – There should be a sense that different arguments are explored – if only to refute some of them. Actual balance between, say Pro & Con, will depend on the task specified.

> clear organisation – both in terms of the individual steps of the argument, and in terms of the overall pattern of the argument.

Criterion C

> Conventions – There are many different conventions for many different types of essay – which are expected, if any in particular, and how are the conventions to be recognised ? … to say nothing of how much can be expected from SL students. Will the elements below be recognised as ‘conventions’ ?

> Register – Tricky, this, because teachers seem to have differing expectations as to how formal / impersonal an essay should be – for instance, some encourage and some discourage the use of the pronoun ‘I’. Best to reward consistency, rather than penalise for expectations that may not be valid.

> Rhetoric – Touches of rhetoric expected, rather than the full-blown regular effects more typical of a speech … ?

> Cohesive devices – Clear and appropriate paragraphing, emphasising the logical steps of the argument + good use of sequence markers – all expected in a good response.

Interview

There are two common varieties of ‘interview’: the ‘transcript’ and the ’embedded’. The Transcript reads like a script, being an accurate transcription of the words used, without commentary or description. The Embedded variety is essentially an article, based on description and commentary, with liberal quotation (which may be either direct quotation or reported speech).

NB for IB examining purposes:-

the OLD Subject Guide (until Nov 2012) – requires the Embedded and NOT the Transcript
the NEW Subject Guide (from May 2013) – requires the Transcript and NOT the Embedded
HOWEVER … see the latest clarification about the use of the Interview text type on the page P2 sample questions – the Transcript is officially likely, but the Embedded might also appear. So teach ’em both !

Embedded

Criterion A

> range: Does the candidate have the resources to show both (fairly formal) written prose, and colloquial speech?

Criterion B

> interview details + context of interview + background of interviewee How skilfully does the candidate move between these three elements?

> Point of the interview: Does the script lead to some sort of overall conclusion (which is likely to have been specified in the question) ?

Criterion C

> register: Are the changes between written prose and colloquial handled effectively?

As with the Article text type …

> Form / format ? How many conventional features of journalistic articles can be detected? Title / headline? Appropriate / typical structure of paragraphs ?

> Address? Is there a sense of effective address to the public ?

> Opening & closing? Is the opening, in particular, attractive / attention-catching ?

Transcript

Criterion A

> range: Does the candidate remain with a simple colloquial range, or are there more sophisticated elements, appropriate to the (presumably) serious purpose of the interview?

Criterion B

> relevance + development How skilfully does the candidate handle ideas, relevant to the task set in the question? This will be seen in (a) the questions asked, and (b) the way that the dialogue develops and explains ideas.

> overall organisation Is a clear pattern of argument detectable, despite the ‘division of labour’ between the characters?

Criterion C

> format: The basic structure will be defined by the ‘alternating speeches’ of the characters, but … are there complex interactions, such as interruptions, completions of questions, etc ?

> register: Does the dialogue reflect a sense of whatever degree of formality may be implied by the task?

> rhetoric: How lively / entertaining is the sense of dialogue? This may be suggested by humour, and elements of personal response such as surprise.

Introduction to debate, speech, talk, presentation

This text type involves the written form of a discourse to be presented orally. The task may emphasise clear explanation (talk, presentation), or convincing argument (introduction to debate, speech).

Criterion A

> sentence structure: Apart from the usual evaluation of competence, good candidates will have the skill to combine long and short sentences for deliberate effect.

Criterion B

> ‘MAP’ Does the candidate aid the audience’s understanding by giving an early summary, or ‘map’, of what is going to be said?

> lucid development: How carefully does the candidate handle ideas in order to explain, and/or impress?

> opening & closing: How well does the candidate catch the audience’s attention at the beginning, and leave a clear impression at the end?

Criterion C

> ‘address’: Does the candidate use the pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’ to establish direct links with the audience? … and/or, how consistently?

> rhetoric: To what extent, and how effectively, are common rhetorical techniques used? Such as – rhetorical question … references … metaphorical tropes … irony … exaggeration (understatement?) … etc etc

> cohesive devices: How clear is the use of sequence markers to guide the audience?

** Maybe common rhetorical devices and sequence markers are part of normal conventions ?

News report

The essence of a good news report is that it efficiently conveys a lot of real facts about a real situation – how is this to be achieved by students? Would they have to invent a situation before they started reporting it ? The marking values for this text type are not yet clear to me … watch this space !

Criterion A

Criterion B

Criterion C

Official report

The essence of this text type is the ability to present a clear explanation of a given subject – which involves (i) analysis, (ii) summary and (iii) organisation.

Criterion A

> range – How clear and effective is the choice of vocabulary + sentence structure?

Criterion B

> What is meant by ‘official’ would presumably be defined in the question, but the fundamental skill in handling this text type must be to organise explanation in a cool, objective, lucidly logical way.

> organisation: How the text should best be organised will again be determined by the precise nature of the task, but these main elements should probably be recognisable : background … overall description … description of important details … concluding summary.

Criterion C

> format: headings … bullet points … clear, purposeful paragraphing?

> register: How well, and consistently, does the candidate use (basically) formal language? Or is this covered under Criterion A / range ?

Proposal (HL only)

The essence of this text type is to ‘sell’ a concrete idea (rather than to ‘win’ an abstract argument, as in a debate or an essay task). This will usually involve suggesting specific practical changes to a given situation; and the notion of ‘selling’ will involve address to a specific target audience.

Criterion A

> range: clarity will be important: effective choice of vocabulary + lucid sentence structure.

Criterion B

The following main elements are likely to be needed for a sound proposal, but this does not mean that these are mandatory, or that a specific order is required :-

> summary of aim / purpose

> present context > future result

> advantages (+ possible drawbacks?)

> conclusion + recommendation

Presence of most or all of these will probably indicate a high mark.

Criterion C

> format: How well does the candidate use (as appropriate) … headings … bullet points … clear, purposeful paragraphing?

> ‘address’: How well does the candidate direct the proposal to a clear audience?

> register: How well, and consistently, does the candidate use (basically) formal language?

> rhetoric: How effectively does the candidate persuade?

Review

This text type is really a journalistic form, which aims to combine objective information with subjective opinion. The (dominant) element of ‘opinion’ should involve analysis and evaluation – while the journalism context usually demands that the overall impact should be interesting and entertaining. A review is not the same thing as a commentary (which implies an academic context).

Criterion A

> range … will probably be indicated by the ability to express liking and disliking effectively + best candidates will have some technical vocabulary.

Criterion B

> Essential content – will involve basic facts plus (fairly detailed) commentary. To what extent is there too much ‘telling the story’ or lots of opinion without necessary information?

> Fundamental approach – reviews are usually either ‘balanced’ (deliberately seek both positive and negative) or ‘one-sided’ (take strong position / opinion either for or against). Unless the question specifies one or the other, either approach must be acceptable.

> ‘Angle’ – does the candidate have a clear overall point of view, and does this inform the structure of the argument?

Criterion C

> format – elements of journalistic format: title, byline, short paragraphs – perhaps subheadings/titles

> ‘address’ – How well does the script establish lively, direct communication that will interest the audience? This is likely to involve a semi-formal register (for clarity and concise explanation) with dashes of informality to convey the personal tone + vivid coment / rhetoric.

Set of instructions, guidelines

The essence of these two related but distinct text types is that they both aim to give precise guidance as to how to handle a practical situation. The key to good instructions is that they give concrete explanation in a precise sequence, whereas the key to good guidelines is that they give general explanation, which may or may not involve precise sequence.

Criterion A

> control of language – * plain & clear i.e. functional and efficient * explanation of technical terms – where technical terms have to be used, are they explained / defined ?

Criterion B

> clear sequence (for instructions) – a sense of logical steps

> attention to detail + control of essential, useful information

> anticipation of difficulties – understanding which parts of the process may cause problems for the uninformed

> empathy with audience – most easily detected by the ability to anticipate difficulties, (e.g. explanation of technical terms, above), but may also involve use of encouraging, helpful comments

Criterion C

> format – a good response is recognisable by the use of some or all of these: headings, numbered sections, short paragraphs

Written correspondence

This group of text types involve writing directly to a specific reader – as opposed to the other text types, which all involve writing for a generalised or notional audience. The fundamental distinction between ‘formal and ‘informal’ is that in the formal type the purpose of the letter is more important than the relationship with the reader, whereas in the informal type, the relationship between writer and reader is at least as important as the purpose.

Formal letter

Criterion A

> range: Is wide range of vocabulary indicated by use of little-used formal phrasing?

> sentence structure: careful, clear, tending towards short & simple

Criterion B

> relevance: How consistently is the text focused on the set task / purpose?

> development of explanation: How succinct + clear/forceful is the presentation of the ideas?

Criterion C

> format: Are the standard conventions of the formal letter handled effectively? Since precise conventions vary widely, any clear, considered format should be accepted.

> register: nature of ‘formal’ tone – What address + attitude to the recipient is expressed ?

Informal letter

Expectations for Informal letters and for Emails are very similar – but it may be useful to look at the small but significant differences between the two sets of recommended features.

Criterion A

> range of vocabulary: colloquialism mixed with sophisticated vocabulary has to be accepted … but see comments on ‘register’, below

> grammar: clear mistakes should be penalised as usual, but some tolerance should be extended to standard malformations such as ‘gonna’ for ‘going to’

> sentence structure: similarly, some tolerance needs to be extended to sentences which wander on for several lines – provided that there is some suggestion that the candidate is attempting to use punctuation efficiently to indicate digressions, asides, etc.

Criterion B

> relevance & organisation: Contrast with Email: is it fair to say that written letters may be produced rather more slowly, and so with more consideration? If so, would be require more careful attention to structure? That said, we would still apply the same basic analysis to control of content :

> focus on task: Since the question will always propose a task, does most of the message deal with the task? And if so, how effectively?

> control of digression: One key could be to assess whether the ‘digressions’ are purposeful or accidental – for instance, chatty asides, jokes, personal references (see concept of ‘dialogue’ under ‘address’, above) may actually indicate good control of attention.

Criterion C

> register: To what extent is there evidence that the candidate has command of a range of register – informal combined with formal … colloquial with sophisticated ? (‘command’ means ‘moving deliberately from one register to another’)

> ‘address’: To what extent is it clear that the email is addressed to a specific person? (Contrast with Email , below – less sense of ‘dialogue’ is expected since letters do not receive such rapid replies !)

Emails

The email is a relatively new form of text, and no generally-agreed codes of formal expectations have yet evolved – quite apart from the fact that there are vast variations in how the type is used in practice. That said, for marking purposes there are a few ground rules that can be advanced, based on a common-sense approach to the communicative function of the type.

The basis of the following suggested ‘rules’ is that any email produced in an English B exam will be produced in response to a question, and that question will always have a specific task – candidates will never be asked simply to produce idle chat.

Criterion A

> range of vocabulary: colloquialism mixed with sophisticated vocabulary has to be accepted … but see comments on ‘register’, below

> grammar: clear mistakes should be penalised as usual, but some tolerance should be extended to standard malformations such as ‘gonna’ for ‘going to’

> sentence structure: similarly, some tolerance needs to be extended to sentences which wander on for several lines – provided that there is some suggestion that the candidate is attempting to use puntuation to indicate digressions, asides, etc.

Criterion B

Emails are perceived as being inherently rambling – so how then can we mark for structure?

> focus on task – Since the question will always propose a task, does most of the message deal with the task? And if so, how effectively?

> control of digression – One key could be to assess whether the ‘digressions’ are purposeful or accidental – for instance, chatty asides, jokes, personal references (see concept of ‘dialogue’ under ‘address’, above) may actually indicate good control of attention, if handled clearly and with discipline.

Criterion C

> Format: The standard heading of ‘from / to / date …etc’ may be expected – but how important is this in demonstrating that a student knows about writing an email, given that these elements of format are automatically generated?

> register: To what extent is there evidence that the candidate has command of a range of register – informal combined with formal … colloquial with sophisticated ? (‘command’ means ‘moving deliberately from one register to another’)

> ‘address’: To what extent is it clear that the email is addressed to a specific person? This may be extended to include a sense of ‘dialogue’ – direct questions, comments which require an answer – since it is inherent in the email form that replies can be received very rapidly.

*************

‘General’ applications

Consideration of the following overall aspects of good practice in writing may be applied to all of the tasks, to a greater or lesser extent.

> Language command: ‘first be clear, then be clever’ – How effectively does the candidate choose and use language in order to communicate ideas?

> Language errors: Not all errors have the same importance – some errors affect the communication of meaning significantly, and others don’t. Also, some errors indicate a fundamental lack of command of the language, while others may simply indicate a moment of forgetfulness. Consider these three categories:-

SLIPS – mistakes at all levels of difficulty, but erratic and occasional – e.g. the candidate normally forms past tenses well, but occasionally forgets ‘-ed’
FLAWS – errors occur more regularly, particularly in certain structures – e.g. past tenses are formed correctly quite often, but are not really reliable, and there may be basic confusions (e.g. past simple v. present perfect)
GAPS – some structures are rarely correct, or simply don’t appear – e.g. the past tenses are needed, but don’t appear !

What does the overall pattern of language mistakes indicate about the candidate’s underlying command of the language?

> Introductions / openings: Does the candidate have a sensible strategy to introduce what the text is going to be about, and catch the reader’s attention?

> Conclusions / closings: Does the candidate have a sensible strategy for closing off the text? By summing up? By rounding off? By referring back to the introduction? …etc

> The thread: ‘random jumps versus intelligible links’ – To what extent do the ideas embodied in the writing connect lucidly with each other, or are there breaks in the flow of thought ?

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