PEA (Point Evidence Analysis) answers make up around 50% of your marks in GCSE English Language, and 100% of your marks in GCSE English Literature.
This makes it a fundamental building block on which the best reading comprehension exam answers are constructed. So, use this article to help you learn to apply the PEA pattern with confidence and clarity every single time and gain loads of extra marks.
(PEA is also known as: PEE, SEAL, PETAL and there are probably others.)
1. What is reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is tested in GCSE English language exams by asking you to read a text (or texts) you have never seen before (an ‘unseen text’) and then answer questions on it. For AQA, both exam papers place their reading comprehension questions in Section A and these sections are called, simply, Reading.
Some of the questions may be ‘short answer’ questions. This is especially true of the CIE GCSE English language exams.
Some of the questions will require longer answers, organised into paragraphs. For these you will need to use PEAs.
Each answer may offer a different amount of writing space for your answer and a different amount of marks. Therefore, you will have to learn how much time to spend and how much to write for each answer. Some answers may only need three PEAs. Others may need eight or more.
If you are unsure about how much time to spend on each question, and how much to write, ask your teacher or tutor to help you make the best decisions.
2. PEA prep: evidence selection
Start the process of building a PEA by finding Evidence. You can’t decide what Point you are going to make until you have chosen the Evidence you are going to write about. So:
- Read the text(s) with a pen in your hand and underline/highlight any quotes that stand out as particularly dramatic or effective. Quotes should be as short as possible. In fact, it is rare that whole sentences need to be quoted so choose only the words that you will be analysing.
- Check the question and look for the specific Evidence the question wants you to find. Is the question about structural features? Find structural features.
- Find enough quotes to fill an answer. If it’s a 10 minute answer then you may only need four or five quotes. If it’s a longer answer, then choose more quotes.
- Note: a quote is the name given to this process of selecting short bits of one text to use in another. The quote can be taken from any of the words in the text. Don’t assume that a quote has to be taken from dialogue. (This is a common misconception.)
- Note: follow instructions carefully. If the question directs you to a particular section of a particular text (eg Text A, Lines 12-16) then do as requested.
3. PEA prep: evidence naming
Where possible, identify the name of the technique(s) used in the pieces of Evidence you have selected. This is possible most of the time so try hard to decide on the name of the technique.
Write the name of the technique in the margin of the text you are annotating – as near to the quote as possible. Possible techniques are:
4. Write a Point with Evidence
Once the preparation is complete you are ready to go. Choose one piece of Evidence from the text. This will be the first piece of Evidence for your first PEA.
Use language from the wording of the exam question to help you craft your Point and attach it immediately to your Evidence. For example, AQA Eng Lang Paper 1 Question 2 is:
How does the writer (Katherine Mansfield) use language here to describe Rosabel’s bus journey home?June 2017
So a good Point, with Evidence and the name of the technique would be:
Mansfield uses a metaphor to show Rosabel’s desire to escape the boredom of everyday life: “the jewellers’ shops seen through this were fairy palaces.”
5. Complete your Analysis
This is the crucial section of the PEA. Most students can do the Point and the Evidence well enough. However, most students struggle with the Analysis – and some ignore it completely.
But this is where the big marks are. This is where you show your ability to make a connection between a quote/technique and the emotions and ideas communicated by the quote.
Essentially you are answering the question: so, why has the writer used that particular metaphor/simile/verb?
The answer has two parts, which means your Analysis has two parts:
- Part one is: to suggest (or show, portray, imply) an emotion/idea.
- Part two is: to make the reader feel a particular emotion/effect.
So, start with: “This suggests…” And then try to complete the sentence without repeating words from the quotation. Use synonyms to help you.
Then, complete the PEA with a final sentence that clearly identifies an emotion/effect on the reader. Ideally, this effect is an emotion you have felt. If not, you will need to imagine what other readers have felt or try to infer what effect the writer intended.
Here is a complete example PEA following the pattern:
Mansfield uses a metaphor to show Rosabel’s desire to escape the boredom of everyday life: “the jewellers’ shops seen through this were fairy palaces.” This suggests that she wishes her boring life in the shops were more exciting, like a fairy story. The reader feels sympathy for her at this moment as we wonder if she will ever escape the mundane routine of her life.
6. Varying PEA
It is possible to write PEAs in slightly different ways. My recommendation is always to practise one method until you can do it perfectly every time. Once you have mastered the method consider the following variations:
- Add a different, very short, quote into your PEA. This is especially good for identifying semantic fields. This is especiialy effective if you are able to fully embed your quotations.
- Combine the ‘this suggests’ and the ‘effect on reader’ sentences into one sentence.
- Flip the order of the ‘this suggests’ and the ‘effect on reader’ sentences.
- Embed quotations fully into the flow of your sentences – so no need to use a colon as in the examples above.
In fact, with some creativity and perhaps a bit of bravery, you could complete the stages of a PEA in almost any order.
However, if you struggle with PEAs, stick to the tried and tested formula. You will not lose marks for following the same PEA pattern.
7. Paragraphing PEA
Most answers in GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature will require more than one PEA. And many of the answers you have to write will benefit from gathering PEAs together into larger paragraph-sized chunks of analysis.
NOTE: some students find this a difficult step too far so, if you find PEAs challenging, it’s best to stick to writing single PEAs.
However, many students should think carefully about how PEAs can work together in paragraphs – especially in Literature essays.
As each question offers different amounts of marks, and therefore you should spend different amounts of time on each one, each answer will be different in length. Some will need only 3 PEAs; others will need 4 or more paragraphs in which there are multiple PEAs.
Ultimately, it depends on what you are able to do in the time you have got so discuss with your teacher/tutor how to develop the best way to approach each question.
8. In conclusion
PEA is so often misunderstood and misapplied and students lose marks even when there is evidence that the student does, in fact, have a good understanding of the text. So, practise the PEA pattern repeatedly, iron out common mistakes, avoid repetition and see your marks improve.