There is always the danger, of course, that some candidates will try to find the most suitable question to adapt to ready-made ideas and arguments. It is vital to ensure that the actual question is addressed, not one which the candidate wants to modify. Inevitably, Centres will attempt to predict likely topics, but good candidates will, as one Examiner commented, ‘tailor the material in an original and compelling way, deploying relevant examples and engaging comment in order to answer the question set’.
One Examiner new to the Paper noted, ‘The essay structure could sometimes appear rather formulaic. Some candidates often used the same points, argued from the opposite point of view, making the answers somewhat theoretical, more “identikit” than showing personal engagement.’ There is no doubt that the finest answers always convey a sense of personal involvement on the part of the candidate.
‘Candidates vary in the quality of their examples and illustration, the more mundane scripts still relying on the standard references to the ubiquitous Maslow and his hierarchy of needs; Thomas Edison (whatever the context); Einstein and, more recently, Bill Gates.’ Fortunately, these seem to be less evident now.
More Examiners this year commented on the failure in less successful scripts to provide specific examples, relying on broad, general assertions instead.
With regard to examples, there was a tendency in some cases to assume that an assertion is evidence. For example, when discussing migration many candidates wrote about the economic benefits to a country. Singapore was then cited, but there was no specific EXPLANATION of where or how exactly the country was deriving these supposed benefits.
Africa was constantly used to provide a contrast with developed countries, but still far too often, the continent was referred to as a ‘country’ and sweeping generalisations were made regarding its poor agricultural land, widespread poverty and inherent corruption.
‘Personal voice’ is not an easy skill to teach as it relies on the individual being exposed to as wide a variety of linguistic styles as possible through personal reading and language use.
Once again, there is a tendency for less assured candidates to rely on standard words / phrases or jargon, especially where economic topics are concerned: ‘plethora’, ‘myriad’, ‘exacerbate’, ‘myopic’, ‘pragmatic society’, ‘double- edged sword’, ‘globalised world’, ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘comparative advantage’ being some of the most common. One also wonders what our world is if it is not a ‘realistic one’, as it is so often described. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being ‘linguistically armed’ for an examination. However, as stressed before, the top-class candidate displays an individual ‘voice’, the result of a genuine interest in the use of English and its potential to create accurate meaning and subtlety of argument. (Cambridge Examiners Report 08/09/10)