In the next of our ‘How to succeed in the new 9-1 English GCSE’ series, we look at how to improve how you analyse language in your exam.

Many would describe analysis as the key to English. It is all about taking your imaginary magnifying glass and looking closer at the language. This can seem difficult at first, but it is merely a case of knowing what to look for and being strategic with your findings.

What is analysis?

To analyse something means to examine something in detail in order to explain/interpret it. A favourite method of mine is called ‘Noughts and Crosses Analysis’. Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Find a quotation that you want to analyse

Step 2: Pick out a keyword in the text that you want to zoom in on

[This is a quotation from Benjamin Zephaniah’s novel ‘Face’.]

Step 3: Plot all the relevant connotations for that word into a noughts and crosses grid in no particular order. If you are struggling to think of a connotation, ask yourself, ‘What do you think of when you think of the word “…..” and go from there.

(Note: Not every box in the grid needs to be completed do as many as you can)

Step 4: Use as many of these words in an analytical paragraph like this:

Zephaniah uses sensory description as he describes the ‘screeching’ of the tyres. The use of the word ‘screeching’ creates a very unpleasant image and sound for the reader as they are encouraged to think of a loud, harsh, piercing sound that usually indicates danger or panic. This adds tension to the scene as it suggests that the car is out of control and heading in the direction of the characters.

Avoid simply listing the connotations one after another. Use them to form full sentences and show you have carried out some deep analysis.

This method will help you:

  • To organise your thoughts.
  • To add depth to your language analysis.
  • To get a lot out of a little!

You may have noticed that this method has nothing to do with the noughts and crosses game. It simply helps you visualise and order your connotations so you can deal with them in a clear and logical way. It’s a more enjoyable way of analysing, too.

Be careful with your connotations. Ensure they are relevant to the context of the text. For example, if a beast is being described with yellow skin and teeth, writing down a connotation for yellow such as ‘sunshine’ would not be appropriate in this context. Adjectives like ‘rotten’ would be more fitting.

As you can see, the analysis is mainly zooming into the writer’s word choice. Writers use language to create particular images for the reader to help them to experience the same events as their characters. It is an important skill to be able to dissect these images and comment on how they affect the tone, imagery, atmosphere, and most importantly, the reader.

As well as word choice, you are also looking for techniques that the writer has used. These include similes, metaphors, personification and many more. When reading texts, it is not only language we analyse, but structure also. Structural analysis can include things such as: short sentences, one-lined paragraphs, repetition, parallelism etc.

To learn about all the different aspects of writing that you can analyse, sign up for your Get My Grades subscription today.