When producing an exam answer, you make use of the magic of writing: taking thoughts from your head and transferring them, via your chosen words and grammar, to another person’s mind. So, writing directly and clearly matters if you are going to deliver your ideas successfully. It’s no use having wonderful arguments if your prose on the page is too fuzzy to carry them into someone else’s brain. Assessment objective 1 (AO1) asks for responses that display ‘associated concepts and terminology, and coherent, accurate written expression’. It can be tricky to embed these terms and concepts while keeping your writing crystal clear. Let’s have a look at what works and what doesn’t.
You might think that nothing could be clearer in an exam answer than technical terms like allegory, anaphora, polysyndeton or volta. We’re drawn to them because they feel authoritative and expert — they are part of how we learn to analyse texts. They can be a helpful shorthand for naming formal features, though you have to be careful not to ‘feature-spot’ — that is, label elements for the sake of it without building them into an argument about the literary work you are analysing.
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