Analytical Commentaries for Unit 3 AOS 1

March 3, 2022joelleva

Summary: This article outlines and gives advice on writing analytical commentaries, specifically for Unit 3 AOS 1, but also generically.

Unit 3 Area of Study 1 relates to the nature and function of Informal language, and a new style of writing, which is simultaneously easy and challenging due to its lack of a clearly prescribed structure, the analytical commentary, is frequently used to assess this area. Most schools don’t use the analytical commentary in year 11, so it will likely be a new thing for most of you, so I thought that I would give a bit of an outline into the task. Please note that any advice I give should yield to any contradictory advice given to you by your teacher, they mark your work, not me.

Analytical Commentaries:

There is no way of avoiding these, as they are section B of your exam (so one analytical commentary at the end of the year makes up 20% of your final mark for the subject, so they are worth practising).

The structure of an analytical commentary is largely up to you, although you are required to have an introduction that discusses the context, audience, register, and purpose of the piece (I will touch on some of this in later paragraphs), and then several relatively short body paragraphs that analyse the various features of the text, which you then continually link back to the themes that you address in the introduction. A conclusion is not required.

Broadly speaking, there are a couple of structure models that get bandied about, being a subsystem approach (where you have paragraphs devoted to lexicon, syntax, etc.), or a big ideas approach (paragraphs related to things like context, audience, social purpose, register, etc). Personally, I feel that rigid adherence to both of these can leave slight deficiencies in what you wind up writing and can create difficulty in how you put certain pieces of information into your commentary (more so around exam time), so I always advocate for more of a hybrid model that combines the two, which also helps you to develop the ability to be flexible and adaptive to the unknown, sight unseen text in the exam, that you do not know the broad underlying themes (unlike a SAC, which is addressing a specific outcome). For example, in my Unit 3 AOS 1 SAC (which was an analytical commentary on a spontaneous three person conversation), the structure I used was:

  • Introduction
  • Register (focused on lexicon and syntax)
  • The topics of conversation and who controlled the floor (they were discussing one person’s recent trip)
  • Topic and floor management (quite important in a conversation)
  • Prosodic features
  • Non-fluency features

One thing that I wish I has done in that SAC is perhaps make a few more references back to the social purpose of the conversation and the relationship between the interlocutors (I did use these, but wish I had a bit more).

Ultimately, write, write, and then write some more commentaries, so that you feel confident and have a structure that you can start from, but adapt to the situation at hand.

SAC Commentaries for Unit 3 AOS 1:

Commentaries in your exam seek to assess a range of themes from both units 3 and 4. SACs do not, and consequently, there is a slightly different emphasis in each piece. Focusing purely on SAC commentaries (and specifically Unit 3 AOS 1) for the purpose of this article, there is a reason that I discussed the register of the text straight after the introduction, being that the SAC specifically assesses your knowledge and ability to write about the nature and function of informal language. In the event that you run out of time, don't let the focal point of the assessment be the thing that you miss out on discussing. Get to it, address it, and show that you know it, as it is the most crucial thing to discuss. Write practice pieces to ensure that you can analyse the features relevantly and with the appropriate degree of accuracy and specificity, and so that you have a workable yet flexible structure ready to go.

Another general point is to discuss the features that are there, not those which are not.

Introduction adaptations:

Informal language commentaries are often spoken and spontaneous, so both of these things form an important part of the context that you discuss in the introduction, and will likely be crucial to your analysis of the piece presented to you. Read the background information to confirm this, although planning is often (but not always) an indicator of formality. Your introduction sets up the rest of your piece and what you will talk about, so make sure that you address key pieces of information that are relevant to the text and why the various features are used.

I hope that this has helped you, and that it has given you a better understanding of analytical commentaries and how to write them.

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