Understanding AO2 (High band English Literature)


A LEVEL ENGLISH LITERATURE – UNDERSTANDING
AO2 Hello and welcome to the third video in the
series ‘Understanding Assessment Objectives in English Literature AS and A2’. In this
video we’re going to be looking at assessment objective 2. This assessment objective focuses on your
ability to use literary skills that is using literary techniques and understanding to analyse
texts closely and show a good understanding of what authors intended when they were writing
their poems, plays or novels. So objective 2 focuses on showing your critical understanding;
that’s using those technical terms, analysing a range of texts; so that’s looking at plays,
poetry drama, non-fiction, fiction and so on; talking about how they work and why they’ve
been written in the way they have and then analysing and evaluating – that’s weighing
up – how the writer’s use of structure, form and language shape the meanings within
these texts and create impressions and ideas in the mind of the reader. As I said before, as you can see here as well,
Examiners are really, really concerned that candidates understand the difference between
poetry, prose and drama. You should know these by now anyway if you’re embarking on AS
or A2 courses because you’d have learnt it in GCSE. Poetry obviously is verse – that
can be blank verse, sonnets, odes, epics and so on. Prose is written in paragraphs and
often involves informative speech so it’s novels, short stories, journals, recounts,
travelogue and so on, and drama which is written in scripts. It’s important that you understand
these areas and why writers use different techniques within the different genres. But
understanding it also means that you have to build on the knowledge that you gained
at GCSE, so it’s no good just reading these things and pointing out ‘oh there’s a
simile, there’s a metaphor’ and so on or ‘the writer has used personification
here’, you’ve got to have a deeper understanding of how they work within the form, why the
author has used them, what effects they were trying to create, how it reflects upon their
ideas and philosophy, how they’re trying to influence the reader and so on. So there’s
a lot of deep understanding that you need to gain and you need to be able to learn how
to analyse these texts when you’re shown them. Of course some of the AS and A2 courses
they give you unseen texts so they expect you to use this AO2 skill very well and in
depth and then use AO1 – which I talked about in the previous video – to express this
understanding and analysis. In AO2 Examiners identify three major problems.
So first of all, this often happens in coursework when students are asked to compare pieces
or in essays under exam conditions when they’re supposed to compare two poems for example,
or poems by the same author, or they’re given unseen writing and they are meant to
use in there synoptic skills – that’s the skills they’ve learned over the whole
of their course – able to analyse a whole range of texts – prose, poetry and drama. So the first problem that they indicate is
that candidates respond to the text in a narrative way, just telling the story, telling the Examiner
exactly what’s already happened in the story. You’re not being asked to write a summary,
you’re being asked to analyse, say how and why these things are there, why they’ve
been done. They have problems with technical terminology;
it’s not just metaphors and similes but also the language of grammar, the actual technical
language that identifies what’s going on in language; stylistics and so on. If these
terms are strange to you that means you need to go away and identify different areas where
you’ve got a lack of knowledge but mostly your teachers will show you how to understand
the way that language is used. You must keep notes and you must keep up. The whole idea
then is to not play ‘spot the term’. And some candidates have problems identifying
and analysing uses of form and structure. Why for example use a sonnet? Why the 14 lines?
Why the rhyme scheme? Why the run on lines? Why the breaks in the middle of the line?
Why has the poet done this? You need to be able to link your understanding of the themes
and content of the piece of writing you’re looking at to the actual devices used by the
author. In responses they can tend to be too narrative,
there’s no analysis, you’re not telling the Examiner or your teacher how or why something
is being done, you’re just re-telling the plot, re-telling the story, talking about
characters as if they are real people. That is basically a U at AS and A2. You need to
build on your understanding of what you gained at GCSE. And the of course, you can’t explore or
analyse if you don’t link what’s being written to the author’s intentions. What
was the author trying to do? How does it link to its time? Here we have AO2 linking very
much to AO3 and AO4. AO3 is a comparison between texts and AO4 is its context; when it was
written, how it reflects the thoughts and feelings of the people who wrote it at that
particular time and how it links to our time now. Again, returning to this idea of terminology,
just pointing out features, not explaining how they work, not analysing their use or
personification and why it was done, what it was meant to reveal, the layers of meaning. And then finally, not understanding the form
and structure of the different genres. Why are stage directions and stage craft used
in certain dramas? Why is rhyme used in certain poems? Why does an author use an ellipsis
at the end of a paragraph? If you don’t understand the structure, you won’t be able
to analyse it and you won’t be able to employ AO2. Below then we have an A example of AO2. I
have taken this out – it obviously uses other assessment objectives for example, AO1,
the ability to write critically, coherently and clearly like I talked about in the last
video. So again here we have it. This paragraph again begins with a good discourse marker,
comparing one paragraph with the next and it’s talking about Shakespeare’s play,
‘As You Like It’ and the relationship between Orlando and Rosalyn. So here we’re
talking about Shakespeare’s intention, linking it to the model of the drama, linking it to
actually – and here we’ve got AO2 moving into AO3 comparison with other texts – linking
it to a convention that informs the play itself, the pastoral and the love poem. There is a clear, deep analysis of the use
of language and how that that language is exaggerated/fantasised classical world and
again, technical language here is employed to explain Shakespeare’s intentions, it’s
not here to just be listed, so the candidate does not write just about rhetorical and elevated
language and leaves it but actually links it to the intentions of the writer and links
it to the conventions of the drama and its particular theme here, the pastoral idyll. Finally, the candidate quotes a critical source
which shows their particular understanding of AO2 in its depth, because here in AO2 you
are also meant to take into account other peoples’ readings, other academics’ readings,
other writers’ readings of a particular form of writing and here we have it again
and it links in again, using AO1, links in very well with the quotation, links in very
well with the point that’s made at the beginning of the paragraph and reinforces their argument
and evaluates their argument by talking about this idea of ‘a conscious artifice’. Note
the high level language, basically talking about that Shakespeare was conscious of the
fact and very well aware that he was using language that might seem a little bit out
of its time and old fashioned, in order to show that he’s representing a world that’s
not completely realistic. So you can see then, AO2 really is important.
It supports AO1 and the rest of the AOs. AO2 is essential for answering questions on unseen
poetry, prose and drama. It’s essential in understanding authors’ intentions and
it’s essential in building your response to any question about how a writer has gone
about producing a play, a poem or a novel. 1

5 thoughts on “Understanding AO2 (High band English Literature)

  1. That's great to know. Get these principals right and the whole course will make more sense. I wish you all the best. Please share with others who may be having difficulty. Good luck.

  2. got my literature exam very soon in which I need an A and I've been struggling, this has really helped, thank you very much!

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