Aqa Prose Coursework

This page provides answers to the most frequently asked questions about coursework units CREW2 and CREW4. Regularly updated, this is the best place to find the most up-to-date advice.

If you don't have the details of your coursework adviser, please contact the subject team at creativewriting@aqa.org.uk.

Coursework FAQ

Submissions

Students may need to be advised as to the suitability, acceptability and appropriateness of their chosen creative elements for CREW2 and 4. Teachers should therefore bear the following points in mind while helping students to make those important decisions.

Q: Are transformations and/or imitations of other writers' works acceptable for submission?

A: Students will be rewarded for using an imaginative and effective approach to language in their chosen form [AO1 & 2]. Awareness of creative processes and of responses to existing writers' work is rewarded separately in the reflective commentary [AO3 & 4].

The presentation of sequels or prequels, of new episodes of dramas or stories, or of poetry sequences based upon communities and/or locations established by other writers may be acceptable as submissions. Indications of that creative process will need to be clearly evident in the evolution of the final piece from the student's original draft.

Creative elements are judged on their individual strengths. Where the meaning and effectiveness of the writing is dependent on explanations of contextual significance, the quality of the work is likely to be undermined because the writing must be assessed as a 'stand alone' piece and has to be submitted as such.

Explanations of formal or stylistic purpose cannot be considered in the assessment of the creative work but may be rewarded in the reflective commentary. The assessment of the commentary is informed by the writing but not vice-versa.

Q: Is it appropriate for students to submit work presented for other specifications as coursework in Creative Writing?

A: No. Students should be informed that submitting the same piece of writing for separate subject specifications is not acceptable. Duplicate submissions are not permitted in A-level examinations. For example, an original piece of writing in the form of a creative transformation that has been submitted for English Literature cannot also be submitted for Creative Writing; nor can a story or article offered for assessment in English Language or Media Studies. This applies also to scripts prepared for Drama or Theatre Studies. It would not be appropriate to submit a piece of work that was also being assessed for the Extended Project.

However, original work arising from tasks undertaken for other specifications might be entirely acceptable. It would, for instance, be appropriate for a drama student to produce fictional writing that had its seeds in an original stage script written for A-level Theatre Studies. Similarly, a student might develop a science-fiction story or script arising from issues studied in Physics or Chemistry. Another candidate might produce a documentary script for radio, film or television or a magazine article, based on topics studied in Geography or Sociology.

Q: Is it acceptable for students to submit more than one piece of writing in each form?

A: Yes. As stated in the Specification, it is acceptable to submit a number of pieces of writing within the same form. A student may submit a series of pieces of flash fiction, or a sequence of poems, but please note that the minimum submission for each of the two forms is 500 words in CREW2 (see also equivalencies in CREW4).

Q: Can imagined scenarios form the basis for non-fiction pieces? For example, is it appropriate for students to present a feature article built around an imagined or invented interview?

A: No, because such tasks are fictional and should be submitted under that form as such. Similarly, a piece of travel writing about a journey between interplanetary resorts in a neighbouring solar system would only be acceptable as a piece of science-fiction (prose fiction).

However, the inventive crossing of formal boundaries would be recognised in the assessment of AO1 & 2. The approach would also offer opportunities for fruitful reflection in the commentary.

Q: Are graphic forms acceptable for CREW2 & CREW4?

A: Where students wish to offer work in a graphic form they should be reminded of the minimum word requirement and advised that only the written words will be assessed. None of the assessment objectives allow for consideration of visual elements. Students should be advised not to follow this route.

Q: Are screenplay synopses allowed in scripted pieces? If so, what proportion might be acceptable?

A: Students presenting scripts should be aware that dialogue is expected to dominate the piece.

Appropriate directions and special effects will be rewarded where they demonstrate a creative contribution to the form. Some thought needs to be given to screenplay elements. Where narration and description inspire, direct, or influence the production of the performance they will be rewarded under AO1 & 2. Should synopsis, scene setting, characterisation and direction dominate the work, the effectiveness of the script may be weakened. Consideration should to be given to submitting the work under a different form.

Q: What advice should students be offered regarding specific audience genre pieces such as fairy tales and writing for children?

A: Students should be advised that, in this specification, audience awareness is not explicitly assessed, although showing understanding of genre and convention can be rewarded through AO1&2.

Candidates wishing to work in fairy tale genre, or for children, should be advised that writing for a young audience may not enable them to demonstrate the expertise, technical control of language or "highly developed" or "skilful" employment of form and effect. Such achievement might, however, be possible in writing for young adults.

Q: How much attention should students give to specific audience and genre issues in the reflective commentary?

A: Choices of form and genre [both conventional and innovative] and use of language are relevant to AO1 and 2 and offer opportunities for reflection under A03 and 4.

Consideration of audience is one of many things that can be rewarded in units 2 & 4 as demonstrating "evidence of awareness of own processes" [AO3] and when appropriate, "influence of published work as stimulus and inspiration" [AO4].

Q: Are there guidelines to be observed regarding adult content?

A: Where the content of creative work raises issues of suitability, centres should make the judgement on what they deem appropriate for the student and the institution. These issues often arise around the use of sexually explicit language and the presentation of violence, for example. AQA does not have any specific guidelines about the acceptability of such writing because it is the responsibility of schools and colleges to judge the appropriateness of work that will be submitted for a public examination assessment. Ultimately, students need to be aware that the work they submit for assessment enters the public domain and their creative decisions should be influenced by that. Such considerations may offer opportunities for exploration in the reflective commentary.

Q: Will it be appropriate for a CREW4 submission to be a development/extension of work presented for CREW2?

A: No. The Specification states that work must be entirely new.

Q: Will the word count for CREW2 be rigorously enforced?

A: Candidates will be expected to adhere closely to the specified word guidance of 3000 words in CREW2.

Q: Why is there a minimum word limit for the creative elements in CREW2 (500 words)?

A: To allow for submissions of shorter forms and genres, such as a collection of flash fiction or poetry. Students are expected to balance the length of submissions to reach the overall 3000 word guidance.

Q: Why is there no minimum word limit for CREW4?

A: There is no minimum word limit for CREW4 as there is in CREW2, though students are expected to adhere to the word ranges detailed in the specification. There is guidance on equivalence for poetry and scripts. The absence of minimum word limits for CREW4 will encourage students to take more responsibility for their writing project and for their editing decisions. There should be no assumptions about a perfect length for a particular piece of writing.

General questions

Q: What kind of teacher advice on coursework drafts is appropriate?

A: Students are required and should be encouraged to make independent drafting decisions, becoming increasingly self-critical and reflective as they develop their coursework pieces for submission, and then to comment on this process in the accompanying commentary. It is expected that these decisions will arise out of an ongoing reflective process during which they may receive feedback on their ideas, plans and written drafts from their peers and other readers of their work. Their reading and exposure to the reflective writing of other writers will also enhance this developmental process.

Wider discussion with the teacher will play a vital part in this process. However, in accordance with JCQ guidelines, the teacher should give written feedback on one written draft of coursework only and should not provide any critical comment for the candidate on subsequent drafts. Teachers can suggest ideas for development in the final version. For example, they might suggest that the ending of a piece might be developed further or that the dialogue could be honed. They might point the candidate in the direction of a particular writer in order to explore characterisation techniques or skilful plot construction. Much of this feedback will be verbal rather than written. Although general advice may be given on technical accuracy, teachers should not be 'proofreading' or correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Q: What advice should be given to students about writing the commentary?

A: Detailed guidance on the writing of the commentary is available in the Teacher Resource document 'Approaching First Teaching'. In CREW2 both single commentaries on individual coursework pieces and holistic commentaries on the whole submission are permissible, though the latter might allow for a more probing, comparative critical reflection. Sample commentaries will be available for teachers but students should be encouraged to formulate their own questions to be addressed in the commentary and to write in their own voice, exploring material from their notebook and journal.

Q: What kind of help is available for teachers regarding the assessment of coursework?

A: Face to face meetings will be offered in January/February 2014. As this is a new course there will be a limited selection of candidate work available for standardisation in January 2014, to include examples of marked work in a variety of forms as well as commentaries with some whole folders for CREW2.

Candidates should be encouraged, however, to be innovative and exploratory in their approach and samples of work should in no way be regarded as prescriptive models.

More detailed guidance on the requirements of the Commentary can be found in Teaching and Learning Resources on the AQA website. In this task too, however, candidates should not feel restricted to a specified or exemplified approach and should be encouraged to be original and innovative whilst addressing the assessment objectives.

Q: Is there a particular reading list for teachers?

A: AQA do not recommend specific books published by external publishers. Teachers are advised to select from the suggested list provided in addition to other texts and websites suggested in the teaching and learning resources to suit their own needs. There is also an ever-increasing number of texts and websites offering advice on Creative Writing.

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Record forms

Academic year 2017/18

Independent critical study: Texts across time

This resource provides guidance on the NEA requirements for A-level English Literature A, and should be read in conjunction with the NEA requirements set out in the specification. It develops and exemplifies the requirements, but is wholly consistent with them. Exemplar student responses accompany this guidance.

Texts across time is the non-exam assessment (NEA) component of our new A-level English Literature A specification. The specification is committed to the notion of autonomous personal reading and Texts across time provides students with the invaluable opportunity to work independently, follow their own interests and to develop their own ideas and meanings. To that end, few restrictions are placed on the student’s freedom to choose their own texts and shape their own task but the following requirements must be met:

Key reminders

  • Students write a comparative critical study of two texts on a theme of their choice
  • An appropriate academic bibliography must be included
  • An academic form of referencing must be used
  • The word count is 2,500 words (not including quotations or academic bibliography)
  • The task must be worded so that it gives access to all five assessment objectives (AOs)
  • One text must have been written pre-1900
  • Two different authors must be studied
  • Equal attention must be paid to each text
  • A-level core set texts and chosen comparative set texts listed for study in either Love through the ages or in Texts in shared contexts cannot be used for NEA
  • Texts in translation, that have been influential and significant in the development of literature in English, can be used
  • Poetry texts must be as substantial as a novel or a play. A poetry text could be either one longer narrative poem or a single authored collection of shorter poems. A discrete Chaucer Tale would be suitable as a text for study, as would a poem such as The Rape of the Lock. If students are using a collection of short poems, they must have studied the whole text and select at least two poems to write about in detail as examples of the wider collection
  • Single authored collections of short stories are permissible. If students are using a collection of short stories, they must have studied the whole text and select at least two stories to write about in detail as examples of the wider collection.

Managing the NEA

The introduction to NEA should provide students with a detailed review of the above requirements and guidance on what it means to work independently (e.g. productive research skills, effective time management). The point at which students begin their NEA preparation will depend on individual school and college decisions. Schools and colleges may aim to introduce the NEA in the first year of the course. An appropriate opportunity would be the six weeks which follow the completion of AS examinations but other opportunities will be available, especially where schools and colleges are not entering their students for AS.

Approaching the NEA

Schools and colleges will differ in how they approach NEA and this may be dependent upon whether:

  • Students all choose individual texts and tasks for their NEA
  • One text is taught to the whole cohort and the second text is individually chosen
  • AS and A-level students are co-taught and an AS only prose text (The Mill on the Floss/The Rotters’ Club) is studied for NEA with the second text individually chosen.

These approaches are equally valid and take account of the different contexts in which schools and colleges will be working. What is important is that each approach recognises that a degree of autonomy in student text and task choice is required. Ideally a range of differentiated texts and tasks will be seen across a submission for this component. That said, students will choose their texts and shape their tasks with your support (and you will be supported by your NEA advisor) and the following offers you some guidance on how to help your students make these choices.

Advice on text choice

Connecting two texts on a common theme means choosing two texts which maximise opportunities for writing about both similarities and differences. Whilst the only date requirement is that one text must be written pre-1900, the component title 'Texts across time' indicates that effective comparison and contrast occurs when the same theme is explored in two texts separated by a significant period of time; here the different contexts of production will inform the similarities and differences in approach taken by the writers to the chosen theme and students will have encountered this diachronic approach in component 1, Love through the ages. This is particularly pertinent if students choose two texts from the same genre (poetry, prose, drama). If, however, students are interested in writing about a theme within a clearly defined time period, it is advisable to consider how the study of texts from different genres will open up discussion of similarities and differences. Students will encounter this synchronic approach in component 2: Texts in shared contexts, and exemplar student response A is an excellent example of the successful connection of a prose and drama text, written within twenty five years of each other, from the Victorian period.

When supporting students with their choice of texts, therefore, the following guidance is useful:

  • both texts should be of sufficient weight and of suitable ‘quality’ for A-level study; the set text lists for the examined components help to exemplify what is meant by a substantial text, particularly in relation to selecting an appropriate amount of poetry for a poetry ‘text’. Remember, however, that the A-level set texts cannot be used in NEA
  • texts chosen for study must maximise opportunities for writing about both similarities and differences
  • texts must allow access to a range of critical views and interpretations, including over time, which students can evaluate and apply autonomously. Secondary sources, relevant to the texts, can include film and stage productions, books and articles; an example of an appropriate bibliography accompanies the exemplar student responses
  • once texts are identified, which both address the student’s chosen theme, a more defined focus for the essay is needed; this may arise, for example, from similarities and differences in genre (poetry, prose, drama), type (e.g. gothic fiction), contexts (e.g. of production and reception), authorial method (e.g. narrative structure or point of view), theoretical perspective (e.g. feminism). Exemplar student response A is a good example of how the wider theme of the role of women in the nineteenth-century has been more clearly defined in the focus on two specific relationships and the inclusion of a clear viewpoint – that ‘the personal is political’ – for consideration.

If students are struggling to identify a thematic topic area of interest to them, or texts for study, the specification offers suggestions of themes (page 20) and, as at least one of the texts must have been written pre-1900, of pre-1900 texts (pages 21-22). This is by no means an exhaustive list and it should be emphasised that students are free to develop their own interests from their independent reading. The exemplar NEA responses, however, show how these suggestions might be taken as a starting point and then developed with a more clearly defined focus. Other such combinations to consider as a starting point might include:

  • representations of men in Vanity Fair and A Doll’s House
  • the gothic in Northanger Abbey and Keats’ poems (‘Lamia’, 'Isabella or The Pot of Basil’ and ‘The Eve of St Agnes’)
  • representations of social class and culture in Middlemarch and She Stoops to Conquer
  • satire and dystopia in Frankenstein and The School for Scandal
  • representations of women in The Yellow Wallpaper and ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’

Clearly the texts mentioned may be interchangeable with other texts suggested in the specification or indeed with the student’s own choice of texts (which may include one post-1900 text); the broad themes will undoubtedly be interchangeable with others and will need to be refined to identify a more clearly defined comparative focus. What these suggestions provide, therefore, is a way for students to begin thinking about the NEA and student autonomy should always be encouraged.

Advice on task choice

We encourage schools and colleges to check individual students’ essay titles with their AQA NEA adviser before students embark on their research, especially where there may be some uncertainty about the appropriateness of texts or the approach being taken.

What is clear, given that the NEA assesses all five assessment objectives (AOs), is that the task must allow access to them all. Students should be familiar with this concept by the time they approach the NEA as all AOs are tested in all questions in the examined components 1 and 2. Exemplar student response A is a good example of how access to all AOs is enabled by the task and the moderator commentary explains how the AOs have been addressed by the student. It is worth considering how key terms in the task wording enable different AOs to be accessed:

Compare and contrast the ways in which Elizabeth Gaskell and Henrik Ibsen present the relationships between Margaret Hale and John Thornton in North and South (1854-55) and Nora and Torvald Helmer in A Doll’s House (1879).

Examine the view that in both texts, ‘the personal is political’.

AO1: Articulate informed, personal and creative responses to literary texts, using associated concepts and terminology, and coherent, accurate written expression.

The use of the command words ‘compare and contrast’ invites the student to organise her response around relevant similarities and differences in the presentation of relationships in the chosen texts. In doing so, she will express her ideas using appropriate terminology.

AO2: Analyse ways in which meanings are shaped in literary texts.

The key word ‘present’ explicitly invites the student to write about the different genres of her chosen texts and, together with ‘the ways in which’, signals the need to discuss a range of authorial methods involved.

AO3: Demonstrate understanding of the significance and influence of the contexts in which literary texts are written and received.

The focus on specific relationships and on the concept of ‘the personal as political’ engages with how literary representations thereof can reflect social, cultural and historical aspects of the time period in which these texts were written.

AO4: Explore connections across literary texts.

The command words ‘compare’ and ‘contrast’ instruct the student to make connections between the texts in terms of subject matter and authorial method.

AO5: Explore literary texts informed by different interpretations.

The directive to ‘examine’ a clear viewpoint - that ‘the personal is political’ - signals the need to debate this given opinion and so to engage with multiple readings and interpretations.

Advice on writing the essay

Having completed the study of their chosen texts, researched secondary sources and devised an appropriate task, students will need guidance on how to pull their ideas together into a coherent response. Here again, exemplar student response A offers an excellent example of how to structure a sophisticated argument and the moderator commentary explains how this student achieves this. Some key points to note are:

  • this is a connective task and so students should be prepared to make connections between their texts in terms of similarity and difference throughout the response; students should make the connections they wish to explore from a range including authorial method, context, genre and critical theory
  • contexts and critical views should not be bolted on but instead should be woven through the response, evaluated as a way of reading the primary texts and then used as a stepping-stone into the development of an interesting and persuasive personal overview
  • well-selected, concise quotations should be embedded and adapted to the student’s own syntax and required meaning
  • a bibliography and academic referencing are required to indicate the secondary sources used by the student during the writing of their essay. AQA does not insist on a particular form of referencing but following the example given in the exemplar student responses would be appropriate.

Supervising and authenticating students' work

The role and responsibilities of the teacher in supervising and authenticating students’ work are set out in Section 6.1 of the specification. It is worthwhile emphasising that the teacher must confirm that each essay submitted is the work of the individual student. The JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) document Instructions for conducting coursework provides further guidance about the level of support and guidance that is appropriate for teachers to provide to students. In accordance with JCQ guidance, the following support would not be acceptable:

  • having reviewed the candidate’s work, giving detailed advice and suggestions as to how the work may be improved in order to meet the assessment criteria
  • giving detailed indications of errors or omissions which leave the candidate no opportunity for individual initiative
  • giving advice on specific improvements needed to meet the assessment criteria
  • providing writing frames specific to the task (e.g. outlines, paragraph headings or section headings)
  • intervening personally to improve the presentation or content of the work.
  • Awarding marks

    The role and responsibilities of teachers in submitting marks are set out in Section 6.6 of the specification. Please note that a mark out of 50 is required. This means that the mark you award against the assessment criteria, which will be out of 25, needs to be doubled when entering on the Candidate record form, before submitting marks to AQA.

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