The AQA English Language Papers

Both English language papers set by the AQA examination board have had the same format for a number of years and we have no reason to believe that they'll be changing it any time soon. The first four questions are based on a passage of text (a piece of fiction in the first paper, a fact-based passage in the second), and question 5 is creative writing based on either a picture or some written prompt.

The first four questions always follow the same format.

Question 1 always asks you to produce four facts from the passage, and is worth 4 marks (one per fact). This question is phrased one of two ways:

There's not much that we can say about this question, other than it's worth noting the strategy in the second of these two options if you want to change your mind. You will (I assume) be sitting a paper-based exam and you select the four true statements by colouring in ovals using a pencil. The paper gives a standard set of instructions if you want to change an answer that you have coloured in, and I suggest that you become familiar with this list before sitting the exam so you don't have to waste time reading them when the clock is ticking.

Choose four statements below which are true.
  • Shade the circles in the boxes of the ones that you think are true.
  • Choose a maximum of four statements.
  • If you make an error cross out the whole box.
  • If you change your mind and require a statement that has been crossed out then draw a circle around the box.

Question 2 always takes the following format, and is always worth 8 marks:

"How does the writer use language to describe XXX?"

Here are things that you can consider when answering this question:

I have heard from an authoratitive source that the best answers to this question should contain somewhere between 100 and 120 words, although, of course, the quality of what you write is more important than the quantity of words.

A Visit from a Neighbour

Winston Smith lives in a dystopian society run by an extremely oppressive government, called The Party and headed by a shadowy figure named Big Brother. One day he hears a knock on his door and goes to answer it.

It was Mrs Parsons, the wife of a neighbour on the same floor. ('Mrs' was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party — you were supposed to call everyone 'comrade' — but with some women one used it instinctively.) She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had the impression that there was dust in the creases of her face. Winston followed her down the passage. These amateur repair jobs were an almost daily irritation. Victory Mansions were old flats, built in 1930 or thereabouts, and were falling to pieces. The plaster flaked constantly from ceilings and walls, the pipes burst in every hard frost, the roof leaked whenever there was snow, the heating system was usually running at half steam when it was not closed down altogether from motives of economy. Repairs, except what you could do for yourself, had to be sanctioned by remote committees which were liable to hold up even the mending of a window-pane for two years.

'Of course it's only because Tom isn't home,' said Mrs Parsons vaguely.

The Parsons' flat was bigger than Winston's, and dingy in a different way. Everything had a battered, trampled-on look, as though the place had just been visited by some large violent animal. Games impedimenta — hockey-sticks, boxing-gloves. a burst football, a pair of sweaty shorts turned inside out — lay all over the floor, and on the table there was a litter of dirty dishes and dog-eared exercise-books. On the walls were scarlet banners of the Youth League and the Spies, and a full-sized poster of Big Brother. There was the usual boiled-cabbage smell, common to the whole building, but it was shot through by a sharper reek of sweat, which-one knew this at the first sniff, though it was hard to say how was the sweat of some person not present at the moment. In another room someone with a comb and a piece of toilet paper was trying to keep tune with the military music which was still issuing from the telescreen.

'It's the children,' said Mrs Parsons, casting a half-apprehensive glance at the door. 'They haven't been out today. And of course-'

She had a habit of breaking off her sentences in the middle. The kitchen sink was full nearly to the brim with filthy greenish water which smelt worse than ever of cabbage. Winston knelt down and examined the angle-joint of the pipe. He hated using his hands, and he hated bending down, which was always liable to start him coughing. Mrs Parsons looked on helplessly.

'Of course if Tom was home he'd put it right in a moment,' she said. 'He loves anything like that. He's ever so good with his hands, Tom is.'

Parsons was Winston's fellow-employee at the Ministry of Truth. He was a fattish but active man of paralysing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms — one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended. At thirty-five he had just been unwillingly evicted from the Youth League, and before graduating into the Youth League he had managed to stay on in the Spies for a year beyond the statutory age. At the Ministry he was employed in some subordinate post for which intelligence was not required, but on the other hand he was a leading figure on the Sports Committee and all the other committees engaged in organizing community hikes, spontaneous demonstrations, savings campaigns, and voluntary activities generally. He would inform you with quiet pride, between whiffs of his pipe, that he had put in an appearance at the Community Centre every evening for the past four years. An overpowering smell of sweat, a sort of unconscious testimony to the strenuousness of his life, followed him about wherever he went, and even remained behind him after he had gone.

Q1

Which four of the following statements are true? (4 marks):

The apartments in Victory Mansions were very run-down.
People like Tom Parsons threatened the stability of The Party.
Mrs. Parsons wanted Winston to carry out some repair for her.
Tom Parsons lead a very active life on behalf of the Party.
The Parsons' apartment was unique in smelling of boiled cabbage.
Mrs. Parsons had a youthful appearance.
Winston and Tom worked for the same organisation.
Tom Parsons had a high-level job in the Ministry with lots of responsibility.

Q2

How does the author use language to illustrate the fact that the Parson's apartment was dilapidated and chaotic?

Q4

The extract comes from George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four", a story about a society existing under a brutal, authoritarian regime. Orwell once stated that "one of my aims in writing this book was to illustrate that authoritarian governments always lead to societies that are Hell on Earth." Based on the information in the passage, to what extent, if any, do you think he has achieved this?

A Terrifying Journey Through the World's Most Dangerous Jungle

The Darien Gap is a lawless wilderness on the border of Colombia and Panama, teeming with everything from deadly snakes to antigovernment guerrillas. The region also sees a flow of migrants from Cuba, Africa, and Asia, whose desperation sends them on perilous journeys to the U.S. Jason Motlagh plunged in, risking robbery, kidnapping, and death to document one of the world's most harrowing treks.

"Huelo chilingos," the boatman shouts over the drone of an outboard motor. I smell migrants.

I turn around and see nothing but a wall of dark, unruly jungle, then I slump back into the bow of the canoe. Five days we've been out here, waiting for a group of foreigners to appear on this godforsaken smuggler's route in the Darien Gap, and all we have to show for it is sunburn and trench foot. Our search is starting to feel futile.

For centuries the lure of the unknown has attracted explorers, scientists, criminals, and other dubious characters to the Gap, a 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest that spans both sides of the border between Colombia and Panama. Plenty of things here can kill you, from venomous snakes to murderous outlaws who want your money and equipment. We've come to find the most improbable travelers imaginable: migrants who, by choice, are passing through the Darién region from all over the world, in a round-about bid to reach the United States and secure refugee status.

As traditional pathways to the U.S. become more difficult, Cubans, Somalis, Syrians, Bangladeshis, Nepalis, and many more have been heading to South American countries and traveling north, moving overland up the Central American isthmus. The worst part of this journey is through the Gap. The entire expanse, a roadless maze that travelers usually negotiate on foot and in boats, is dominated by narco traffickers and Cuba-backed guerrillas who've been waging war on the government of Colombia since 1964. Hundreds of migrants enter each year; many never emerge, killed or abandoned by coyotes (migrant smugglers) on ghost trails.

Our attempted trip is possible only because we're traveling with the permission of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist rebels who control access to the most direct line through the Gap—an unmarked, 50-mile, south-to-north route that's also used to move weapons and cocaine. Following months of negotiations, FARC commanders based in Havana have agreed to let us attempt the trek and visit a guerrilla camp, so long as we keep the main focus on migration, not politics. After five decades of fighting, at a cost of more than 220,000 lives on both sides, FARC and the Colombian government are in the final stages of a peace deal that would end Latin America's longest-running insurgency. No more complications are needed.

Having spent the better part of a week idle in Bijao — a ramshackle hamlet on Colombia's Cacarica River, which a group of migrants is said to be approaching — we're restless. So today we traveled three hours by boat to visit FARC rebels on an adjoining waterway. An entire morning was spent hacking through spider-infested mangrove swamps to reach their camp, only to be told that our scheduled interview is off because they don't have their uniforms with them.

Q1

Name four problems that migrants attempting to cross the Darien Gap face: (4 marks)

Q2

How does the author use language to describe the environment and society in the Darien Gap?

Q4

A reader of the passage commented that "the author clearly believes that the natural dangers present in the Darien gap are far worse than problems with rebels and military groups." To what extent, if any, do you think the passage indicates this position?