Here's how to do it
The answer we gave on the previous page should earn you high marks in an English exam. How did we achieve that? Here’s how to do it. Remember that the question you are answering is:
“How does the writer use language features for effect?
- Give some examples of language features
- Explain the effects”
(You will need four highlighter pens, each one a different colour)
1. Write down the four language feature (PSPS) headings:
2. Highlight each of the headings in a different colour, e.g.:
NOTE: most exam boards allow highlighters to be used in English exams, but only use the highlighters on the source material and in your notes, NEVER in your actual answer. If there’s any doubt about this, check with your teacher or the exam board in question.
3. Now write down the four effects headings, numbering them 1 to 4:
4. Now read through the source text and highlight every language feature you encounter as you go in the highlight colour you’ve given it. To make it easier, you can read the text four times, looking for a different language feature each time.
5. Consider the effect that each highlighted language feature has on you and write down the number of the effect heading (from step 3 above) next to the appropriate highlighted text. Your highlighted and numbered text will look something like this:
6. You are now ready to answer the question!
You already have practically all you need to achieve top marks with your answer to this question. All that’s missing are actual names of the language features and their actual effects, but our four language feature headings and four effect headings will help you to remember what these are.
For instance, looking at the first highlight, its light blue colour shows that the language feature comes under the “Pretending” heading (see Step 2 above). The number next to it, 2, shows that the effect heading is Sense (see Step 3 above).
You now have to ask: “What type of pretending is this?”
Remember, if something is described as being “like” something else, it’s a simile (i.e., something similar).
Now ask yourself: “What type of Sense is this?” Like us, you’ve probably decided that “a scene from a nightmare about a brutal future dystopia” makes you feel distinctly uneasy, helps you see the scene in your mind’s eye, and perhaps makes you think of the end of civilisation.
You now have to write down your conclusions in the space provided on the exam paper. We wrote:
Using a simile, the author describes the scene as like one “from a nightmare about a brutal future dystopia”.
The effect of this is to create a feeling of fear and impending doom, suggesting the end of civilisation.
Work through the rest of the highlighted language features in the same way. Refer back to our example answer to see how we covered each language feature we spotted.
You may be slow at this to start with, but you will quickly speed up.