How do I analyse an extract in such a way that I don't come across as simply 'feature spotting'?

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Analysis of any extract, fictional or non fictional, should begin with reading for meaning. Keep in mind that the writer did not write the text with the intention of it being filled with literary techniques for students to spot; the text is there and written in a certain way with these techniques to create an intended effect upon the reader.

The first time you read the extract in the exam, you should try to refrain from highlighting techniques or annotating the extract as this may distract you from gaining an overall feeling for the tone of the text and the impact the writer is trying to have on their reader. After this initial reading, then go back through the text and annotate key points that you feel you can analyse in terms of their effect on the reader and the way in which the writer used techniques of language, structure or form to create this effect.

The main body of your essay or answer should then follow this 'zooming in' approach; with the overall argument or points you're trying to get across being focused on the achieved impact on the reader the writer tries to create, then zooming in for each paragraph of the essay on an impacting moment in the text, or certain tone you felt when reading, and then finally focusing in on how the reader uses a technique to achieve this and why it is effective.

When using this approach, it ensures that the points you are making do not sound like you are tick boxing your exam board's criteria and instead it allows you to write a more cogent, fluid and intelligent answer which is ultimately what any English examiner is going to want to read.

Ruby O. GCSE English Language tutor, GCSE English Literature tutor

About the author

is an online GCSE English Language tutor with MyTutor studying at Bristol University

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