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We have noticed that our students find comparison questions most unnerving in their English Language & Literature exam. In order to produce a successful response to this question students require a clear structure that outlines their argument, perceptive analysis, and relevant quotations. In this series guide, we will offer multiple examples of how to demonstrate a detailed understanding between the two writer’s ideas.

In Paper 2 Question 4 for AQA & Question 7 for Edexcel, is the highest marked question in both papers, we advise students to practise answering this question in an appropriate timed condition. E.g for a 16-mark question, allow 20 minutes. If you struggle with timing, try answering this question first in the exam, then the longest and scariest question will be completed, and you can focus on answering the rest of the questions in the paper.

EXAMPLE ONE: AQA – ENGLISH LANGUAGE PAPER TWO (JUNE 2018)– 

Q4. For this question, you need to refer to the whole of Source A, together with the whole of Source B.

Compare how the writers convey their different perspectives ( = opinion / idea / attitude)  on surfing.

In your answer, you could:

HOW TO PLAN A COMPARISON QUESTION

STEP A– Your first point of contact should be to refer back to both sources and create a general list of the author’s perspective on the subject (surfing):

SOURCE A – Mike Doyle’s Opinion (1993)

SOURCE B – Isabella Bird’s Opinion (1875)
  • Idolises and admires the professional surfers and wants to be like them
  • He explains his amazement from watching the skill and technique of the other surfers
  • Explains how he attempted to surf when he was 13 and immerse himself in the surf culture
  • Clearly knowledgeable about the different types and the best types of surfboards – we respect him as an experienced surfer
  • Through his writing we can appreciate and empathise with the difficulty of learning the sport, but feel elated for the author once he manages to ride his first wave successfully
  • By the end of the extract Doyle experienced sudden fear/anxiety and it is understood that he then realises the sport requires perseverance, mental and physical strength
  • She was impressed by the surfer’s technique and skill and ability to stay propped on their surf boards
  • She talks about how the crowd was amused and she enjoyed her afternoon and wished to stay longer
  • She too has some, but a limited knowledge about the surfboards, obvious she too is trying to immerse herself in the surf culture but also the Hilo culture
  • Excited to share her experience to her sister and is obviously amazed by the sport, native to Hawaii but foreign to Britain
  • She like Doyle explains her initial fear/fright when she realised the dangerousness and risk involved in surfing but is relieved when she sees that the surfers are alive

 

STEP B -Then you can address the methods each author uses. At this stage it is helpful to look for linguistic devices one or both authors use as you can draw comparisons from these.

SOURCE A – Mike Doyle’s Methods (1993)

SOURCE B – Isabella Bird’s Methods (1875)

 

  • Setting = Manhattan Pier, California
  • Form = Autobiography
  • Figurative language (Metaphors & Similes)
  • Alliteration
  • Emotive language
  • Adjectives
  • Short sentences
  • Lists (of verbs)
  • Direct/Reported speech
  • Personal pronouns & 1st person narrative
  • Punctation
  • Facts – Pro surfer, uses surfer terminology
  • Setting = Hilo, Hawaii
  • Form = Letter
  • Figurative language (Metaphors & Similes)
  • Short & Long sentences
  • Lists
  • 1st & 3rd person narrative
  • Explorer
  • Simulating ‘Hilo’ language
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Personification
  • Adjectives
  • Repetition

STEP C: Finally select relevant quotations to support your findings.

SOURCE A – Mike Doyle’s Quote (1993) SOURCE B – Isabella Bird’s Quote (1875)
  • there were only a few dozen surfers in all of California at that time
  • bronzed gods, all in incredibly good shape, happier and healthier than anybody I’d ever seen
  • I was just dazzled
  • The boards then were eleven feet long, twenty-four inches wide and weighed fifty or sixty pounds.
  • I would jump back up, scramble the board around, hop on, and paddle it ten feet
  • what we used to call a kook box
  • ‘Get lost, kid.’
  • To my surprise, after a few awkward tries, I managed to get that big, clumsy thing going left on a three foot wave.  I came to my feet, right foot forward, just like riding a scooter
  • hadn’t thought that far ahead yet!  My first impulse was to bail out, so I jumped out in front of the board, spread-eagled.
 

  • It is really a most exciting pastime, and in a rough sea requires immense nerve
  • not more than forty had their Papa-he-nalu, or ‘wave sliding boards,’ with them.
  • they rode in majestically…carried shore wards by its mighty impulse at the rate of forty miles an hour
  • just as one expected to see them dashed to pieces, they either waded quietly ashore, or sliding off their boards, dived under the surf, and were next seen far out at sea, as a number of heads bobbing about like corks in smooth water, preparing for fresh exploits.
  • They were received with ringing cheers by the crowd
  • the dark heads of the objects of my anxiety bobbing about
  • the elite of Hilo
  • the sea was so blue, the sunlight so soft, the air so sweet
  • There was no toil, clang, or hurry
  • It was so serene and tropical

Once you have completed steps A-C you will need to bring your points together in a structured argument. For this question, we suggest picking 3 of your favourite points. By ‘favourite’ we mean the points that show clear comparisons/similarities and those that you can write the most word analysis. It is your analysis and use of subject terminology for this particular question that will reward you with the highest mark within that grade bracket.

HOW TO STRUCTURE COMPARISON PARAGRAPHS

PEE Colour Code:

EXEMPLARY COMPARATIVE PARAGRAPH WITH PEE COLOUR CODE:

It is evident from these extracts that the writers in both source A and B use figurative language to describe the surfers in a complimentary manner. For example, in Source A Mike Doyle uses a metaphor to describe the surfers as “bronzed gods, all in incredibly good shape, happier and healthier than anybody I’d ever seen.The denotations of “bronzed” as an indication of golden skin together with the denotations of “god” as a superior figure, suggests to the reader that surfers are both powerful and beautiful. The alliteration that appears in “happier and healthier,” captures Doyle’s joyous mood and emphasises his admiring attitude towards the surfer’s impeccably toned bodies.

Similarly, Isabella Bird uses figurative language to describe the elegance of the surfers she observes. She reports that the surfers “rode in majestically…carried shorewards by its mighty impulse at the rate of forty miles an hour.” Her use of the adverbmajestically,” illustrates the surfer’s beautiful and impressive skill. Personifying the sea as a “mighty impulse, connotes to the reader similar images of God that appeared in Source A. In this quote, Bird recognises nature as the authoritative godly figure but for Doyle the God-like figure is the surfers. From this, we can infer that Doyle’s perspective of surfing is higher than Bird’s. Nevertheless, both authors insert metaphors in their texts to commemorate the surfer’s incredible beauty and extraordinary talents. In Source B, the surfers are able to overcome the “mighty impulse,” of the sea with impressive speed which emphasises their remarkable strength and reveals Bird’s positive perspective of surfing.