IGCSE First Language English Paper 2: Narrative Writing

The Cambridge IGCSE First Language English Paper 2 is title Directed Writing and Composition. Section A tests both reading and writing skills. You can check out our previous post on genres to learn more about that. Section B, though, tests only the student’s writing skills.

Section B of Paper 2 gives the student four options to choose from: two descriptive prompts and two narrative prompts. Our last post covered descriptive writing. This post will give some suggestions for succeeding in the narrative writing.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Below are sample narrative prompts:

  • Write a story that ends with the phrase ‘he couldn’t believe his eyes’.
    Write a story where one of the characters becomes ill.
  • Write a story that involves solving a problem.
  • Write a story which includes the words, ‘… this could not be the present …’.
  • Write a story with the title, ‘Visitors’.
  • Write a story which involves a mistake in the sending or receiving of a message.

Mark Scheme

24 marks are given for style and accuracy: The plot is well-defined and strongly developed with features of fiction writing such as description characterization and effective climax and convincing details.

16 marks are given for content and structure: Many well-defined and developed ideas and images create a convincing overall picture with varieties of focus.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tips for the Narrative

  • Write from personal experience, and make it interesting.
    • Makes it credible and engaging
    • Avoid zombies, aliens, and monsters
    • Make it believable
  • Time and length are short
    • Structure and organize
    • Develop a plot: Beginning, middle, end
    • Allow to time to edit
    • Have a realistic but interesting ending–don’t just start strong
  • Use narrative features
    • Setting (imagery, sensory details)
    • Characterization (2-3, and believable)
    • Conflict (main issue)
    • Dialogue (not too much)

  • Style and Accuracy
    • Punctuation and grammar
    • Tense consistency
    • Spelling…proofread!
  • Vocabulary and Sentence Structure
    • Appropriate vocabulary
    • Varied sentence structure (see next slide from descriptive writing)

IGCSE First Language English Paper 2: Descriptive Writing

The Cambridge IGCSE First Language English Paper 2 is title Directed Writing and Composition. Section A tests both reading and writing skills. You can check out our previous post on genres to learn more about that. Section B, though, tests only the student’s writing skills.

Section B of Paper 2 gives the student four options to choose from: two descriptive prompts and two narrative prompts. This post will give some suggestions for succeeding in the descriptive writing.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Below are sample descriptive prompts:

  • Write a description with the title ‘The playground.’
  • Write a description with the title, ‘The factory’.
  • Write a description of a place where animals are kept in captivity, such as a zoo, wildlife park or
    sea-life centre.
  • Describe the inside of an interesting shop.
  • Describe waking up to find the scene around you has changed.
    Describe a group of tourists outside an attraction.

Mark Scheme

24 marks are given for style and accuracy: Precise, well-chosen vocabulary and varied sentence structures, chosen for effect; consistent well-chosen register suitable for the context; spelling, punctuation, and grammar almost always accurate.

16 marks are given for content and structure: Many well-defined and developed ideas and images create a convincing overall picture with varieties of focus.

Descriptive Skills

  • Metaphors: Compares two dissimilar things saying it is something else
    • “He was a beaten dog.”
  • Similes: Directly compares two dissimilar things.
    • “He looked the way a beaten dog might look.”
  • Sensory details: words that stir any of the five senses: touch, taste, sound, smell, and sight.
  • Personification: Speaks of concepts or objects as if they had life or human characteristics.
    • “ I saw a crowd, / A host, of golden daffodils; / Beside the lake, beneath the trees, / Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” -“I Wandered Lonely….”, Wordsworth
    • “April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land” -The Waste Land, by Eliot
    • “Her heart was divided between concern for her sister, and resentment against all the others.” -Pride and Prejudice, Austen
  • Adjectives: words that describe the qualities or states of being of nouns (enormous, silly, yellow, fun, fast).
  • Hyperbole: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
  • Juxtaposition: placing two elements close together or side by side. This is often done in order to compare/contrast the two, to show similarities or differences, etc.
Photo by Flash Dantz on Pexels.com

Varied Sentence Structure

  • Simple: has one independent clause.
    • I read the novel.
  • Compound: has two independent clauses.
    • I read the novel, but I did not like it.
    • I read the novel because it was homework.
    • I read the novel; it was amazing.
  • Complex: has one dependent clause joined to an independent clause.
    • Because I was lucky, I did not get caught.
    • Whenever I study, we don’t have a pop quiz.
  • Compound-Complex: has two independent clauses joined to one or more dependent clauses.
    • While I was studying, Tom was gaming; however, he already knew the material.
  • Variety of sentence openings:
    • The biggest coincidence that day happened when John and I ended up seeing each other.
    • Coincidentally, John and I ended up seeing each other that day.
    • In an amazing coincidence, John and I ended up seeing each other that day.
    • Guided by some bizarre coincidence, John and I ended up seeing each other that day.
  • Short and long sentences

Some points to keep in mind

  • Show don’t tell.
  • Point of view movement; zoom in on different objects of focus.
  • Think of a photograph.
  • There will be some components of narration (action and movement), but avoid writing a narrative.
  • Complex and effective, but not difficult for your reader; instead, it shows thought-out organization and progression.
  • Engaging and interesting.

Cambridge IGCSE First Language English Text Types

The Cambridge IGCSE First Language English Papers 1 and 2 require students to write in various genres, or text types. These include Newspaper report, Magazine article, Journal, Interview, Speech, and Formal letter. Here are some suggestions to help students improve their writing for these exams.

NEWSPAPER REPORT

Language features to keep in mind:

  • Five W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why
  • Third Person
  • Past tense (usually)
  • Direct Speech: speech reproduced exactly as it was spoken, in inverted commas
  • Reported Speech: He told us not to do that.

Format:

Unlike other accounts of events, which are usually chronological, news reports generally follow this order:

  1. Summary of recent event
  2. Background to event
  3. Return to immediate situation
  4. Response of those involved
  5. Look ahead to near future

Some suggestions:

  • Include a headline, a summary of the report in note form
  • Make your headline short
  • The first sentence should sum up the story
  • Write in 3rd person, past tense
  • Break it up into short paragraphs
  • Use both direct and reported speech
  • Be objective and formal
  • Keep opinions and personal reactions out
    • It is known, Was reportedly, It was reported, It is also believed, According to, It is thought

MAGAZINE ARTICLE

  • Purpose: Discursive (asks you to investigate a topic; to gather, read and evaluate evidence; and to present a position on your topic based on the evidence gathered)
  • Structure: A balanced range of views on a topic; the writer’s opinion may be stated at the end, but no view is conclusive)
  • Style: Quotations and reported speech are often included to convey the views of relevant experts or interviewees
  • Voice: More colloquial and indicative of personality rather than other types of response, but still professional
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some suggestions:

  • Include a catchy title
  • Write a dramatic opening (hook)
  • Use sub-headings
  • Personal/anecdotal style
  • Repetition to keep the reader engaged
  • Humor and idioms
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Varied sentence structures

JOURNAL ENTRIES

  • Journal is a record of events that occurred in the writer’s life.
  • It may be their emotions, ideas, or beliefs.
  • The purpose of writing a journal is to reflect, it is a personal piece of writing and the response to a question should be subjective. 

Language features to keep in mind:

  • Rhetorical questions: asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.
  • Emotive language: language evoking an emotional reaction
  • Anecdotes: short amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person.
  • Humor: amusing or comic
  • Idioms: group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (Under the weather, Spill the beans, Break a leg, It’s the best thing since sliced bread).
  • Colloquial language: informal, everyday spoken language, usually with emphasis on geographic region (Wicked good, soccer vs football, truck vs lorry, bloke)

What to include:

  • Date of entry
  • First person writing
  • Use of the past tense when recounting events that have happened before writing about them
  • Recounting events that have happened and references to time
  • Focusing on key moments
  • Personal feelings
  • Thoughts/ feelings/actions for the future

How to write a journal entry

  • Write the date and day at the left hand side of the page.
  • Write from a first person point of view; use of the word ‘I’ in your writing.
  • Self-reflective tone. It should be a recollection of memory; thinking back on something you’ve done or seen.
  • Your journal should only reflect on incidents or observations that happened recently.
  • Your thoughts and viewpoints should be expressed with emotive language, giving the reader more insight into feelings.
  • Past or future tense, depending on whether writing about recent events or anticipating future events or situations.
  • Rhetorical questions increase the reader’s curiosity and improve your work.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

INTERVIEW

Genre Features:

  • Purpose: Informative
  • Structure: The interviewer asks three questions (the question bullet points given) and each is answered relatively in about half a page of full sentences; paragraphs not necessary.
  • Style: As this is a spoken genre, the interviewee can speak somewhat informally, using contractions, but must use full and linked sentences for fluency and a range of vocabulary for interest.
  • Voice: The personality of the interviewee, as inferred from the passage, should be evident from their responses to the questions.

Language features to keep in mind:

  • Rhetorical questions: asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.
  • Emotive language: language evoking an emotional reaction
  • Anecdotes: short amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person.
  • Humor: amusing or comic
  • Idioms: group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (Under the weather, Spill the beans, Break a leg, It’s the best thing since sliced bread).
  • Colloquial language: informal, everyday spoken language, usually with emphasis on geographic region (Wicked good, soccer vs football, truck vs lorry, bloke)
Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

SPEECH

Language features to keep in mind:

  • Rhetorical questions: asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.
    • ‘And ain’t I a woman?’
  • Hypophora: raising and answering a question.
    • ‘There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.’ -MLK
  • Direct address: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” -Mark Antony, Julius Caesar
  • Emotive language: language evoking an emotional reaction
    • I have a dream that…one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers…” -MLK
  • Imperatives: verb form used to give a command
    • “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” -JFK
  • Anecdotes: short amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person.
    • “Standing on the coastal plain, I was saddened to think of the tragedy that might occur if this great wilderness was consumed by a web of roads and pipelines.” -Carter, Arctic Refuge

Some suggestions:

  • In the first person point of view.
  • Address the audience
  • Use “we” to refer to the audience at times during your speech: evokes a sense of unity rather than division. It unites the crowd and creates a sense of oneness in them.
  • Clear topic sentences with separate ideas for each paragraph. This helps your speech be coherent.
  • Informal language is OK to connect with the audience.
  • Keep the sentences short so you don’t deviate from the topic. Helps the listener follow you. It also ensures your sentence structure is perfect.
  • End appropriately (thank the listeners).
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

FORMAL LETTER

Genre Features:

  • Purpose: Persuasive or argumentative
  • Structure: Begins with “Dear…” Then, 3-4 paragraphs:
    • 1. Explain why you are writing with appropriate references.
    • 2-3. Give the details of the complaint, request or case being presented.
    • 4. Ask for the desired response (e.g. for an issue to be reconsidered, or for a refund).
  • End with “Yours sincerely”  or “Yours faithfully.”
  • For the exam, you do not need an address or date (which normally do on formal letters).
  • Style: Formal in terms of sentence structure and vocabulary, in order to sound impressive and authoritative.
  • Voice: Impersonal and polite, even when expressing strong demands or opinions.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com