Media and Non-Fiction Text

PAPER 1: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Section A: Spend approximately 1 hour
You must read two or three media and/or non-fiction texts which you have not seen before and answer several questions on them.

What will I be assessed on?

The questions you will be asked are different each year, however they always follow a set pattern to fulfil the assessment objectives laid out by the AQA exam board. Some questions may even test more than one objective in a question.

Based of the AQA mark schemes the assessment objectives for this Section are to:

(i) read, with insight and engagement, making appropriate references to texts and developing and sustaining interpretations of them;

Here you must read and understand the text, comment on the target audience and the purpose of the text. You should also mention how far the text has achieved this purpose. All of this should be supported by quotes.

(ii) distinguish between fact and opinion and evaluate how information is presented;
You will have to select facts and opinions and be able to explain how they have been used and why. You must also comment on how they help to achieve the text’s purpose and how successfully they have been used.

(iii) follow an argument, identifying implications and recognising inconsistencies;
Here you must explain how the argument has been developed and what techniques the writer has used to structure this argument. These techniques include: rhetorical questions, exaggeration, examples and sharp contrasts. You must also be able to identify and analyse any contradictions in the argument.

(iv) select material appropriate to their purpose, collate material from different sources, and make cross references;
You will have to compare certain aspects of the texts. This will mean identifying similar techniques, backing any comments up using quotations and mentioning which text uses the devices to the greatest effect.

(v) understand and evaluate how writers use linguistic, structural and presentational devices to achieve their effects, and comment on ways language varies and changes.

Here you must comment on how the language has been used to fulfil the writer’s purpose and whether it is suitable for its target audience. You must do the same with the presentational devices and the structure of the text.


Non-Fiction Media Texts: The basics

One of the first things you should do when faced with any of the media texts is to think about its PALS:

Purpose Why has the text been written?
Audience Who has it been produced for?
Language Is the style of language appropriate, what linguistic techniques have been used?
Structure How does the structure contribute to the text?

One of the easiest ways to do this with a piece of text is to look at its source. This gives you an immediate indication of what’s going to be in the text, its purpose and its audience. Here’s a list of the common publications you may have to deal with in the exam…

Far Right political bias, greatest affluence / intellectual readership

Right Wing political bias, intellectual readership, high / affluence (middle class)

Central political bias

Left Wing political bias

Mail and Express
Right Wing political bias

Generally Right Wing political bias, ‘working class’ readership – less affluent / intelligent, on average

Left Wing political bias, ‘working class’ readership

Advertisement for a product or service
Persuade the audience to buy or use their service

Political Party publications
Persuade the voters to vote for their policies

Scientific findings or report
Can be to either: persuade people to act on these new findings, or to inform people of the new discoveries / findings

To inform people / to justify actions

Fact and opinion

Fact and opinion are both important features of any kind of writing and you will be given a question relating to fact and opinion in the exam. Depending on your purpose fact and opinion will have a different significance and meaning, some piece of writing have a purpose that depends more on factual information, whilst others are more dependent on opinionated information. For example, a piece of writing that informs the audience about a new scientific discovery may require more facts whereas a piece of writing that is trying to persuade you into becoming a vegetarian may be somewhat more biased and opinionated.

An example of the uses of fact and opinion
In the exam you will be given a piece of text and asked questions on it. Here is an example of an article which makes consistent and effective use of different facts and opinions:

With the recent revelations of foul play within the Premiership’s managerial hierarchy and the negative publicity that football seems to have accumulated over the past few years we need to be asking where will this all end? It is not unreasonable to question the ethics of football, cheating has regrettably become the norm in the premiership with players diving at the lightest of challenges and it is this sort of behavior which is bringing the once beautiful game into disrepute. Even Thierry Henry, whose integrity on the pitch is almost legendary, was caught blatantly cheating in the World Cup. If this sort of behavior is being displayed by ambassadors of the game then there is no telling where the game is headed. Some people believe that it is the money which fuels the dark side of football. Players earn too much as it is-with an average wage in the premiership of £37,000 a week, but as greed sets in and win bonuses beckon it seems that players will stop at nothing to earn fame and fortune even if they also earn notoriety as a cheat. What sort of role-models are these people for the millions of young boys and girls aspiring to be like their favourite football stars. Someone needs to show these footballers that they have a responsibility to society to behave in a manner which exemplifies sportsmanship and encourages kids to play fair. The footballers should perhaps take a leaf out of the sportsmanship exhibited by Rugby league players with simple courtesies like calling the referee ‘sir’ and respecting the authority of the referee over the game there is much less opportunity for negative publicity in Rugby. Football’s increasing ‘thug’ reputation is not aided by players such as Zinedine Zidane, a hero of the 1998 French world cup winning side, exiting the game by brutally assaulting another player. Not only did this tinge a sparkling career but also left the game with a somewhat bitter taste in its mouth.

With players diving at the lightest of challenges- This is an example of an opinion, in this instance it has the effect of highlighting my point using the technique of hyperbole (exaggeration) to increase its impact on the reader.

An average wage in the premiership of £37,000 a week- This is an example of a fact. The fact I have used here lends credibility to my argument. It establishes what I am saying by providing material evidence in the form of a fact. Facts are generally a useful persuasive tool.


Test yourself Questions

1. Read through the above article and highlight the facts and opinions.

2. Explain the significance of the facts and opinions used in my article and evaluate how effectively they have been used. (How does the use of opinion/facts help portray my point of view and have they been used well?)
(8 marks)


Following an argument

As with all of the questions you must carefully think about the texts purpose, audience, language and structure. However, there are some specifics you should bear in mind when answering a question about an argumentative piece of text…

With a piece of text that argues a point of view probably the most important thing is its structure. This is not just its layout on the page (for example if it’s in columns or the use of a bold heading) but also the way the text is developed. Most argumentative pieces of text consist of:

· An introduction, where the writer introduces the reader to the subject of the argument.
· The main body of the text where the writer develops these initial points and counters any alternative points of view.
· And a conclusion where the writer sums up the main points and why their point of view is correct.

The writer will often take into account the other view but counter all of its main arguments to convince the audience that their view is right.

The language used in arguments is also important. If informal the writer may have wanted to add some humour, or if formal the writer may be trying to shock the reader with how serious the situation is. The language can always be linked to the audience and purpose.


Here are some of the less obvious linguistic techniques used in arguments:

Currently there are millions of un-emptied bins in lining our streets.

Down at the beach you can enjoy eating fast-food almost as much as you can enjoy swimming!

Rhetoric questions
Would you want your child to go to a failing school?

He went to the Theatre to see Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations, though the play failed to live
up to his expectations.

Quotes and antidotes
“Yes the new theatre here is smashing!” Mr Smith, local resident.

Sharp contrasts
On the one hand we have people starving in Africa, whilst here in Britain there are an increasing
percentage of people who are overweight.


These all contribute to the effectiveness of the texts, however they don’t always make the overall argument better. You’ve got to think whether it’s appropriate in the context of the argument, so for example humour used in a piece of text arguing that more aid is needed in Africa may detract from the severity of the situation and in turn undermine the argument. Just remember whatever you say, you’ve got to back it up with quotes!


Presentational Devices (Layout)

When given a question about presentational devises the examiner will expect you to use more specialist language. So for example you should refer to the title as the heading or headline. Here’s a list of all the specialist terms you will need to know for the exam…

Here’s a quick explanation of the specific terms…

The main title of the piece of text

A second introductory line below the main one

The writer’s name

An image used to represent an organisation or company

A bold introductory paragraph

Text below an image

Bold words within the text

For the exam you will have to identify and explain the effects of presentational devises. Like everything the writer will have chosen to use certain devises for an intended effect. You will have to talk about these devises and effects, and the extent at which you feel the writer is successful. The two main different types of media texts you’ll encounter in the exam are: an article or a website.

Here’s an example of a website and the devises the writer has chosen to use:


Websites have their own specific features and devises that you may have to talk about in the exam.


Text Yourself Questions

Try this exam question:

1. Explain the effects of the presentational devises used in the article “The Tsunami: An alternative view”
(6 marks)


Language is an important factor in all of the texts and should be treated with caution. When presented with a question about language you should always look out for several main things:

1. The sentence length and the intended effects. So if short sentences have been used what to they add to the text, do they create an impact; suggest speed or excitement or do they create a surprise. With longer sentences, do they build up to a climax or are they there to deliver the main facts?

2. What does the punctuation add to the text? So if an exclamation mark has been used does it emphasise a joke or is it there to attract attention. Look out for an ellipse (…) this could have been used to build to a surprise or suggest fading away.

3. Look out for any imagery used. So if similes, metaphors or personification have been used what are the effects? Does it make the text easier to visualise?

4. Look for what style has been used. Is it formal or informal and how does this help to appeal to its audience.

5. The size of the paragraphs. Shorter paragraphing may be used for example in a tabloid newspaper to make the text easier to read, whereas a broadsheet may use longer paragraphs to allow the writer to include more detail. The size of paragraphs can be linked with the purpose and audience.

6. Look at the vocabulary. Specialist terms such as ‘nanotechnology’ may be used to appeal to scientists or specialists in the field. On the other hand more generic terms, or specialist terms that then include an explanation may have been used by the writer to make the text appeal to a more general audience.

And don’t forget…

Similar to following an argument these more specialist techniques could be used by the writer:

Rhetoric questions
Quotes and antidotes
Sharp contrasts

Test Yourself Questions

1. What lingual techniques has the writer used in the ‘Success to A*’ website and to what extent is the writer successful in achieving their purpose?
(8 marks)