Tips for Successful Analytical Commentary in your Exam

December 8, 2020Klein E


One of the commonest themes I notice amongst those who score well in the comments section is that they are linguistically perceptive and aware. What this means is that they NOT ONLY know the metalanguage (very important!), but they can also understand its usage and link to the text's wider social purpose, register or contextual factors.

WHY? Always ask why. That's the key to dominating the commentary section.

You don't become a genius by not doing the work. Doing well Section B of the exam and also any associated analytical commentary SACs will require that your mind is still in 'English Language' mode (per se) when you're at home, with your friends, in the general public etc.

For example, the other day I just happened to switch the 6 o'clock news. Then I overheard the news reporter saying that the Victorian Government has recently launched its pre-Christmas campaign to prevent motorists from dying on our roads this Christmas, saying "Be Present This Christmas". At the time, it just hit me. I didn't really think about. I knew straight away it was a pun (semantics), so my metalanguage saved me there. BUT, I then asked 'why'. Why would the Govt. wish to use a pun? To shock, to amuse, to get the audience's attention?

This is how you can improve your analytical skills when it comes to crafting an amazing analytical commentary.

  • Read newspapers. Don't just absorb the content, try and look for subtleties in text and ask yourself why the author would write in the way he/she does. Take photos on your phone of interesting articles that stand out to you.
  • Listen to your friends talk. No, this doesn't mean be a stalker. This means just listen and in your mind consciously make notes as to why he/she would be speaking like that. For example, is your friend making use of those frequently used discourse particles? Is your friend saying 'like, 'well', 'you know', 'sorted' and 'kinda' a lot? If so, ask yourself WHY?
  • See that electricity bill up on the fridge? Read it. Then flip it over. Read the payment instructions and see the link to formal language (or informal if possible).
  • See that evacuation procedure on the classroom wall? Read it. Look at the sentence types and ask why imperative sentence types are so useful in instructive texts.
  • Seeing new terms being used on Facebook by your friends? You may be witnessing the creation of new slang!
  • Seen an advertisement on TV or a billboard? Ask why language play has been used there.
  • And so on...

As you can see, to do well in the commentary section, you MUST BE LINGUISTICALLY AWARE!

For example, I came across this link in the media in my Facebook newsfeed: - I then observed the informal language. Your task: have a look at this and think WHY is informal (or formal) being used?

So, simply put, next time you come across any form of language - be it in the media, with friends, on notices etc - ask you, "WHY"? Then think.

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Klein E

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