In your NCEA Level 1 English year you will be tasked with writing your own texts as well as studying and diving deep into already established texts. You'll be asked to craft everything from creative to formal writing. You will learn to write effectively, as well as master your analytical skills in regard to movies, books and other texts.

Maybe you're wanting some help with locating and doing those annotated exemplars? Are you feeling particularly philosophical? Then how about you read this blog on why English is important as a subject? Would you like to know how many credits will get you a pass for English? Or perhaps you just need a brush up on your essay writing skills, then have a look at this.

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Get your head in that book!

When unpacking the written text, it’s easy to think that the essays you will write are about the plot, detailing everything that’s eventuated from start to end. But it’s much deeper than that of course. To nail that achievement mark you will be needing to dissect one of the following; the author’s purpose, the narrative structure, the intended audience, the story themes, or the all-important language features. As you can see you will need to wear many hats when discussing your chosen text, channelling information from many different angles.

Now, how to get your head around those ever-changing questions? There will always be a distinction made with terminology meaning. This is because there will be a ‘describe’ part of the question and then a ‘explain’ part. Each will endorse an achieved, merit, or excellence. To pass you will need to ‘describe’ an aspect of the text. For example; how were the characters portrayed in Shakespeare’s Othello? Iago, was the mastermind behind manipulating a number of characters, while Othello fell victim to his good nature. Provided you use some detailed examples as evidence, this wording would be given an achieved mark.  To ‘explain' is needed for an excellence mark. You would also need to unpack a more between-the-lines response. For example, what does Othello and Iago’s relationship show about human nature? What big ideas do they represent about morality etc.? There is always a deeper idea to delve into. But if you are looking at getting that achieved mark, opt to describe the aspect and then back it up with clearly thought out quotes that prove your discussion.  Think of your essay as a thesis.  Let the marker know what the ideas you are willing to prove are. Always come back to what you are trying to prove as an anchor point when writing it.

Written Text will be one of the achievement standards in NCEA Level 1 English.

Tap into that movie magic!

Next up, you’re looking at passing that visual text essay? Well, it’s a lot similar to your written text in the sense that you don't want to be recounting the plot of the movie! You will be tasked with a question that asks you to both describe and explain so make sure you are clear on the difference between these two ways of thinking. For ‘describe’, you want to outline parts of the movie that you are referencing, but also link it back to the question.

Let’s look at the 2021 past paper. For example, it says “describe the beginning /and/or ending of the text. Explain how the beginning /and/ or ending was important to the text as a whole." The movie selected in the 2021 paper is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the director Michel Gondry uses a cyclical-like structure to showcase the repeating nature of the main relationship between Joel and Clementine. In the ending, we see both characters agree to continue to date each other, even though previously they had tried to delete each other from their memories.  In this sci-fi movie, both characters appear sheepish but hopeful and the director is clever in leaving it open as to if they will remain together or not. This is shown with their body language looking apprehensive but keen, hands wrapped around their shoulders and leaning in slightly. Alright, now that you have written the achieved part of the question, let’s go deeper.

By ending with Clementine and Joel agreeing to date again, we see a central theme where the two are drawn to each other despite their flaws. Even though they may not prevail with their relationship, they will keep trying and be drawn to each other, perhaps repeating the pattern. This could illustrate how in life some people continue to go back to relationships that may not necessarily be the best for them, but they want to try anyway. This ending was important to the text as a whole as it outlined Clementine and Joel's deep bond with each other. This contrasted heavily with the rest of the film, which showed them fighting. They clearly shared a cosmic connection that had them pulled to each other and unable to delete each other from their lives. Even set in a science fiction movie like this, there are themes that echo throughout our everyday lives. Themes show the bond between people and the lengths they are willing to fight for them.

The ending of Eternal Sunshine is significant to the whole movie. (NCEA English Level 1)

Mastering the essay structure

Throughout your externals and also your internals you will need to have a good grasp of your words! Basically, you will be wanting your essay writing skills to be up to scratch, if not really good, in order to pass your NCEA Level 1 English and pass it well. So how do you go about that? Well, there is a good rule of thumb to live by when it comes to writing your essay and that is using the T.E.X.A.S Method.

For starters, you have a ‘Topic sentence’ where you simply state the purpose of the paragraph. Next up we have ‘Evidence’. How are you going to back up this claim that you have made in your topic sentence? Ah yes, you will be knitting in examples from the text or outside sources to integrate within your piece of writing. You then have to ‘eXplain’. This is where you will clearly unpack how your pieces of evidence prove your topic sentence or thesis. If you're wanting those higher marks, then next up we have ‘Author’s purpose’. This is where you talk about the purpose of the book, film or text in relation to the intentions of the author and what they are trying to address. Finally, we have ‘Summary’ which is all about bringing your points together in a formulated way. Here you sum up everything you have neatly unpacked within the body of the essay. Another good rule of thumb is to stick to 3 paragraphs for your essays, integrating 1 to 2 pieces of evidence throughout each paragraph. If you end up nailing T.E.X.A.S you’ll be well on your way to passing NCEA Level 1 English. You can even use these tips when writing your internals like formal writing and speech-making also.

How to pass Unfamiliar Text..

 The exam paper will be divided into three sections: unstructured fiction, a poem, and nonfiction work. In each question, you will have to identify what’s called a language feature and describe how it pertains to the text.  If you’re going for those higher marks, later in an essay, you will discuss how the author embeds deeper meanings within the text and what this shows about society and people as a whole.

Language features are super important! You will come to know all the different types of language features that will be required. This will include figurative language, sound devices and literary devices. First up, figurative language is things like metaphors and similes. Metaphors are when the author says that something ‘is’ something else while similes are used when the author explains that something is ‘like’ another. Other figurative language aspects include connotations, hyperbole and personification. You’ll come to know these during your first-course year and become quite familiar with them. Sound devices are things like the use of alliteration when words start with the same sounds very close together. Other sound devices could include assonance, onomatopoeia and of course rhyme. Then we have literary devices which are all about sentence structure used for effect. This could be anything from syntax (how long or short a sentence is), to the style of language; is it formal or colloquial? This all matters and these types of techniques are each all utilized in the writing that you will champion this year.

Unfamiliar Text can be mastered with care and a lot of study. (NCEA Level 1 English)

If you're wanting to reach for those higher marks in unfamiliar texts, then you will also need to think about perception as a concept. This word will come up a lot throughout your NCEA Level 1 English experience. Why is the author using that particular language feature? What effect does it have on the reader? Is the text about something potentially deeper than the story or does it pose a snapshot of humans in some way?  To show a sense of reading between the lines, you’ll want to give the marker or teacher insight into your own personal interpretation.

If you're wanting some more help and want some expertise from someone who knows NCEA Level 1 English well, then look no further than Superprof. Superprof is an online website that is home to many different types of tutors from a range of subjects, all ready to help get you to the next level. Your first lesson is free so there really is a strong incentive to jump in and give it a go for the first lesson. You will receive extra resources, new insight into the course work as well as added support to make you feel confident with passing your year. So log on to Superprof and book your first lesson today: you’ll be surprised by how much you learn.

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