Your AQA Paper 2 non-fiction writing needs to be punchy and tightly organised. Learn how to impress your examiners with sophisticated writing techniques.
Remember: this piece of writing is 25% of your entire GCSE English Language grade. Take time to perfect your non-fiction writing and see your marks improve.
1. Non-fiction text organisation
There are 24 marks on offer for ‘Content and Organisation’. ‘Content’ is dealt with below. First, let’s look at ‘Organisation’.
In short, ‘Organisation’ means that each paragraph should be about one topic. Also, your topics should be ordered in an effective way.
So, consider using the following plan to guide you:
- Opening paragraph (100 words. 5-7 sentences.)
- Second paragraph (100 words. 5-7 sentences.)
- Third paragraph (100 words. 5-7 sentences.)
- Fourth paragraph (100 words. 5-7 sentences.)
- Fifth paragraph (100 words. 5-7 sentences.)
- Closing paragraph (100 words. 5-7 sentences.)
2. Non-Fiction text paragraphing
Aim for each paragraph to open with a clear topic sentence. This could start with a connective.
However, whilst school uniform is widely supported by parents and teachers, the students who have to wear such dowdy garments feel only anger.
The above sentence is a clear topic sentence; the paragraph will focus on student reactions to school uniform.
Aim to end each paragraph with a powerful sentence that sums up your argument with confidence.
Students, then, find many ways to express their rejection of school uniform but the institution survives.
A conclusive tone is created by “then” and a short summary of the paragraph completes the sentence.
Finally, your paragraphs should be correctly formatted on the page.
3. Non-fiction text content
Filling your AQA Paper 2 non-fiction writing with ‘Content’ is challenging, especially if the issue you are writing about is unfamiliar. So, The Menu is a useful strategy that can help you to write full, interesting paragraphs.
It will also help you to hold your reader’s attention as the text will be varied. Your message to the examiner will therefore be: “Look! I am a highly capable writer. I can switch from emotional anecdote to hard statistics with ease.”
So, choose from the following Menu of paragraph topics. You will have to decide what order to place them in and you won’t want to use all of them.
Be careful. Some of the Menu topics may not be relevant for the issue you are writing about so choose wisely.
- Anecdote: tell a story about a person who has to live with the issue you are writing about.
- Anecdote 2: write about another person or continue your first anecdote.
- Expert testimony: imagine some short quotations from an imagined expert and use them to back up your argument.
- Geographical: examine how the issue is dealt with in a different region/nation/culture (requires good general knowledge).
- Gloomy description of the present: a powerful way to open a non-fiction text.
- Happy description of the future: a powerful way to close a non-fiction text.
- Historical: examine the issue from a previous era (requires good general knowledge).
- Possible solution 1: offer a possible solution to the problem.
- Possible solution 2: offer another possible solution to the problem.
- Statistics: include 3 to 4 persuasive statistics.
- Undermine: explain the counter-argument and then show why it’s wrong.
4. Don’t forget description and imagery
Many students believe that descriptive language is only for fiction texts. However, this is not the case. Indeed, the best non-fiction writing has a good balance of factual information and description.
For example, if you have been asked to write about the environment, go to town. Describe: “plastic choked seas,” “stinking, gruesome oil slicks,” “the tragic death of ancient woodland, each falling tree screaming into the emptiness.”
If you are writing about school uniform emphasise the “shapeless polyester blazers in a colour no-one would ever choose, fraying at the cuffs, unloved, despised.” Describe the “joy of non-uniform day when faces light up as freedom reigns. Colour and style strut the corridors. Reds and greens and spots and stripes mingle in a carnival of life and laughter.”
Don’t be afraid to turn it up a bit. Paint the picture. Take your reader into the issue. Make it vivid.
5. Technical accuracy
16 marks are available for technical accuracy. Therefore, give yourself a few minutes at the end of the exam to proof-read your writing and make improvements. Focus on the following.
- Apostrophes: check for missing apostrophes of contraction (don’t, can’t, I’m etc) and possession (the school’s uniform policy, the government’s green strategy).
- Capitalisation of proper nouns: all names should be capitalised.
- Capitalisation of the first-person singular subject pronoun: I, I’m, I’ll, I’d.
- Check for common misspellings: to/too, there/their/they’re, government, environment, separate.
- Sentence demarcation: check for capital letters and full stops.
6. In conclusion
AQA Paper 2 non-fiction writing is difficult but not impossible. Repeated practice is the way forward so download past papers and get writing.
Also, take time before your exams to read more about the issues in the world around you. Try to find good quality long texts to read. The features pages of newspapers, magazines, and blogs that focus on long-form writing are good places to start.
Reading long texts will help improve your general knowledge and vocabulary and will also show you how professional writers write.
Keep up the good work and good luck!