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ISEB Common Entrance English Exam

Introduction

Common Entrance English is divided into two primary areas: reading and writing. The reading element requires candidates to consider both literary prose and poetry. The writing involves answering two questions, one of which is argumentative and the second is a creative, imaginary piece. There are three assessment objectives, which are specified for students. Please find our full breakdown of CE English, as well as the requisite assessment details and objectives below.

Reading

Literary Prose
Candidates are given a passage of literary prose from a novel, a play, a biography or travel writing. This is followed by questions to test understanding as well as the student’s ability to analyse and evaluate. There is no pattern to be found in the texts that are selected but an introductory line of explanation may precede the extracts. This should give candidates the context they require to attempt the question.
Skills to be tested at the appropriate level include the following:

• basic understanding and vocabulary

• use of text to illustrate answers

• drawing of inferences

• evaluation of style, language and purpose

• delivery of opinions/judgements/arguments based on given material

• awareness of how grammar, syntax and punctuation affect meaning

• capacity to make comparisons and evaluate contrasts

Candidates are encouraged to read widely, to acquire and develop the skills of discriminating reading and to express their responses to what they read.

Poetry

Candidates are given one piece of unseen poetry. This may be an entire poem or simply an extract. This is followed by questions, which effectively amount to a literary comprehension. Candidates are expected to show awareness of how language is used and to support their opinions by reference to the text. Questions ask for candidates’ responses to literature via an understanding of how writers achieve their effects, reveal their feelings and make readers more aware. This assumes knowledge of metaphor, simile, personification, symbol, irony, alliteration, assonance, rhyme, rhythm and metre.

Writing

Candidates are required to answer two questions from a range of options. Some options require the use of prose for a practical purpose: to argue, persuade, explain, advise, inform. Other options provoke imaginative, descriptive or narrative responses. In addition, there is the option to write on one or more texts which candidates have studied in class or read for themselves. Questions are general and not related to any specific text. They offer candidates the opportunity to deal with moments of drama, transition, contrast and various other ideas in their chosen texts. Texts studied should range across genre and period. Candidates should be encouraged and helped to discuss their reading and analyse their ideas closely.

Assessment details

Paper 1
(50 marks; 1 hour 15 minutes which includes reading and note-making time) The paper will be divided into two sections.
Section A: Reading (25 marks) This section will contain a passage of literary prose followed by about five questions which seek to test understanding as well as powers of analysis and evaluation.
Section B: Writing (25 marks) Candidates will be asked to select one of four essay titles. Three essay titles will require the use of prose for a practical purpose; the fourth essay title will be a choice of literary topics. Their planning sheet will not be sent to the senior school.

Paper 2
(50 marks; 1 hour 15 minutes which includes planning time) The paper will be divided into two sections. Section A: Reading (25 marks) This section will comprise about five questions on an unseen poem to test both understanding of poetic technique and personal response. 
Section B: Writing (25 marks) Candidates will be asked to choose one of four essay titles which provoke imaginative, descriptive or narrative responses. Their planning sheet will not be sent to the senior school.

Assessment Objectives
Candidates should be able to:

  • AO3 read substantial passages unaided and give independent written responses to questions requiring a range of comprehension skills;
  • AO4 show evidence of independent literary work both with an unprepared text and with texts studied during their time in junior school;
  • AO5 show evidence of original creative work in the form of their choice within the limitation of a timed examination.
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