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English GCSE Analysis toolkit

Analysing fiction and non-fiction texts is a fundamental skill required for the English GCSE.

All exam boards from AQA to OCR will require students to Learners should aim to engage with the detail of the text by drawing inferences. They should recognise that there may be multiple possible interpretations of a text, but they should be able to support their own conclusions with carefully selected evidence from the text.

But textual analysis shouldn’t be so daunting:

This guide from Tavistock Tutors is here to help making textual analysis easier, by equipping you with an essential checklist which will help you excel in your English GCSE.

How to analyse texts

To make strong arguments examiners expect students to explore the impact of writer’s use of literary devices, by developing an understanding of linguistic and literary terminology to support their analytical skills.

But how do we approach this?

With a trusty acronym, we can use MRS FORLAP to help us identify different language devices employed by the writer.

MRS FORLAP is easy to remember, and each letter corresponds to a different literary technique to look out for:

M – Metaphors and Similes

Metaphors and Similes are language techniques often used to persuade, or create vivid imagery. Metaphors are used to describe something which are symbolic of something – examples include The snow is a white blanket’ or ‘Her long hair was a flowing golden river’. Similes are used to describe something which is like something else, for example ‘her hair was red like fire’.

R – Rhetorical Question

Rhetorical questions are questions which do not require an answer. These are often used for dramatic effect and irony as theyare posed to make a point, or because the answer would be too obvious to be worth stating. An example would be ‘can you imagine that?’ or ‘is this a joke?’

S – Specialist Terms

Specialist terms are specific vocabulary used by experts regarding their chosen topic. For example, a text about building may include terms such as construction, builder, concrete.

F – Formality of tone

It’s important to try and assess the formality of tone within a text, as this can often help us work out its purpose and intended audience. For example, a letter to an important person may be written in a formal manner addressed ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, where as a text with a more informal tone may contain slang language and less formal vocabulary.

O – Opening and Title

It’s important to look at the beginning of a text, including the title. This often contains lots of information about the text – how are they trying to grab the reader’s initial attention at the start?

R – Rule of three

The rule of three is a language technique which is often used to persuade or argue. It includes repeating similar terms and synonyms (words which have the same meaning) to emphasise the writer’s point. For example, a complaint letter may describe the building as ‘dirty, gross and unclean’. 

L – Language

When looking at the type of language used, it is important to discuss whether the author is writing in an imperative, declarative or interrogative way. Are they seeking to explain, instruct orquestion ? It’s also useful to pick out specific word types that they use such as adjectives, adverbs, and verbs.

A – Alliteration

Alliteration is the use of words with the same first letter, often used for persuasion. For example a children’s book may exclaim: ‘Amazing Anthony the angry ant ate all the apples’

P – Person and Pronouns

When first approaching a text, it is important to analyse the person and pronouns used. Are they using first-person such as ‘I’ or ‘me’ or is it being described from an external narrator who is using the third person to describe the character’s actions such as ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’. Determining the person will be helpful in analysing the purpose of the text and its intended audience.

How do I put MRS FORLAP into practice?

To get used to the MRS FORLAP technique, you will need to practice it!

To try and remember all of the terms, try repeating them aloud, or maybe writing them down on a scrap piece of paper.

When approaching any text for the first time, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, try and write MRS FORLAP in the corner. Then go through the text to try and find each literary device which corresponds to every letter. Once you have gone through the whole text and found all of the metaphors and similes, cross the ‘M’ out.

This will serve as a checklist which you can use to ensure that you’re covering plenty of literary devices in your analysis

REMEMBER:

Not every text will use all of these literary devices but having this checklist will ensure that you haven’t missed anything out. Don’t panic if you can’t find any rhetorical questions in your given extract – they might not use any!

Once you have spent a small amount of time annotating the text to find MRS FORLAP techniques, you can then pick them out and put the most interesting or effective examples into your plan, ready to include in your written response.

You won’t be able to include everything, as time is tight in the English GCSE papers – so try to spend around 5 – 10 minutes using the MRS FORLAP technique before moving on to write your answer. This may change depending on your specific paper, time given and writing style – your teacher will give you advice how best to structure your time!

How do I include literary techniques in my own writing?

As well as being expected to read and analyse texts, GCSE English requires students to write accurately and effectively for different purposes and audiences. This may include writing to describe, explain, inform, instruct, argue or persuade. Students should be able to select appropriate vocabulary, form and structural features to write for the intended purpose and audience.

But the MRS FORLAP technique can help!

By writing the MRS FORLAP checklist, you can try and include different literary devices within your own original content. Don’t feel like you need to include them all, as they won’t all be appropriate for different types of writing.

But using a diverse range will enable you to apply your knowledge and understanding of linguistic conventions and you will able to use them creatively within your own writing.

Additional resources:

English Language GCSE: Comprehensive Guide 2019
English Language GCSE Past Papers
English Literature GCSE Past Papers

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