Writer’s Effect

Writer’s Effect – A Deep Dive into Marking Criteria


As you know from reading this site, I place a huge importance on understanding marking criteria for all of my students, meaning all of you, and also the students who participate in my live classes.

But I care not because it’s something arbitrary; I care because Cambridge cares, and therefore so should you if you care about achieving an A* in the IGCSE First Language English examination.

With that in mind, today’s post will delve into one of the stickiest of all IGCSE First Language English questions, the writer’s effect question.

As you learned from some of the previous posts, writer’s effect is the most hated question of the entirety of EFL – it is always question 2D of paper 1, and it involves looking at text C of the insert and then answering a question based on two of the paragraphs by identifying three words or phrases in the text and justifying the overall effect that the writer aimed to create by explaining how these words or phrases are used.

Its objective is to help students assess students’ ability to analyze language and to comment on it in an intelligent way, thereby demonstrating that they understand how the word choices of a writer influences the effect upon a reader, and showcasing that they can read and appreciate the aforementioned effects, while at the same time justifying that they are what they are to an external reader.

Here’s a sample question.

Here’s the text you must read and reference to answer the question…

…And here’s the mark scheme for that question.

To achieve the maximum scores under the provided Cambridge IGCSE criteria for analyzing how writers achieve effects, students should aim for a comprehensive and nuanced response that demonstrates a deep understanding of the text.

This is often very difficult for students, especially if they don’t have an appreciation for how language isn’t a perfect measure of reality, but can be used in specific ways in order to create effects. Which is kind of a level of understanding over and above just one in which they write essays and craft plausible images. It requires an understanding of language, and how to reason carefully with it.

Now, here’s how to excel in each of the key areas outlined in the Level 5 criteria:

  1. Wide-Ranging Discussion: Analyze a broad range of language features from the text. Don’t just pick out random words or phrases; choose them judiciously, ensuring they are significant to the writer’s overall purpose and themes.
  2. High-Quality Comments: Your comments should add meaning and insight into the text. Go beyond stating what the text says; explore why the author chose certain words or phrases, what associations they bring, and how they contribute to the larger message or tone of the text.
  3. Tackling Imagery: Discuss the imagery with precision, which means not just identifying figures of speech but also exploring their connotations and how they contribute to the reader’s understanding and emotional response. Use your imagination to interpret imagery in a way that aligns with the text’s themes.
  4. Clear Evidence of Understanding Language: Show that you understand the mechanics of the language by explaining how specific language features like syntax, diction, and tone work to create a particular effect on the reader.

To distinguish a high-quality response from a lower-quality one, students should:

  • Avoid simple, literal explanations of the text. High-quality responses interpret the language in a way that shows an understanding of its deeper, more subtle effects.
  • Provide specific examples from the text to support every point made. General statements without textual evidence will not score highly.
  • Ensure that the analysis covers the text as a whole. Don’t focus too heavily on one section at the expense of others.
  • Be precise in the use of terminology. Know the difference between metaphor and simile, or alliteration and assonance, and apply these terms correctly.
  • Justify the effects identified by linking them back to the reader’s experience and the text’s themes. Explain why these effects are significant in the context of the text.

In essence, high-quality responses are characterized by their depth of analysis, the relevance and specificity of their examples, the sophistication of their commentary, and the ability to tie individual language features to the reader’s overall experience of the text.

These responses reflect a holistic understanding of the text and an ability to communicate this understanding effectively.

So yeah, that’s it. You know how the criteria work and why they are important, and you’ve seen them translated into actual advice.

I’m not saying that any of this will come naturally. Likely, it will come only after you’ve taken some time to reflect about the nature of language, to think critically about the words that you are reading, and to consider their effect upon you yourself, and also will involve your thinking about how what you personally say or write in any interaction will influence how others in turn will react.

That, and you can also purchase our handy Writer’s Effect sample responses here if you’d like to have a clear understanding of how to do well in that section of the paper by looking at some good examples.

In any case, none of these will be useful without practice, which itself will give you the gift of understanding. So, work hard, ~slay~ hard in the exam hall, and I can’t wait to watch you guys succeed!

Writer’s Effect for IGCSE First Language English: A Guide


In today’s post, I thought to write about something that many of you been requesting for: A guide on Writer’s Effect.

I started to think about doing this ever since I had performed a poll on the IGCSE Malaysia Facebook group, and this happened:

A rather dramatic result, at that!

All right, I hear you!

Let’s get into it!

Writer’s Effect questions appear in Paper 1 of the IGCSE first language English exam. Here’s an example from Variant 1 of Summer 2021. You may seek out the paper (look for 0500_s21_qp_11 and 0500_s21_in_11 and look for text B on pastpapers.co and follow along if you wish) 🙂

Generally, these questions are often phrased in the same way.

They ask you to highlight three key words or phrases that can be found in the texts that you will be reading for the exam, and to point out how the writer uses those words or phrases achieve specific effects upon the reader.

The key word here is how. More on this later.

Sounds easy? 

Well, many students struggle with this.

As they write, they overemphasise the content of the pieces that they are generating and prefer to write about the content inside the passages that they are reading rather than doing what they are supposed to actually do, which is actually to talk about language.

Let me give you an example from a recent student essay that I marked. 

“In paragraph 18, the writer begins with the phrase “wails” to create a sense of drama and exaggeration, which highlights Vivian’s discomfort with her surroundings. The writer then continues with the phrase “plucked out of her comfort zone.” This metaphor is used to emphasise Vivian’s transition of city life to cycle touring. The phrase also suggests that Vivian was unprepared for the challenges of the trip.”

In this case, as with many other cases of student work, the student focused not on language but instead made a relatively weak statement about the content of the passage that is pretty obvious to anyone who reads it.

Here’s my feedback and improvement on this:

Now, here’s my commentary:

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We hope that you found this incredibly useful, and that it will help you on your journey to being able to break down Writer’s Effect, and to consistently do well in this section of the exam – good luck, make sure to keep practicing, and here is to your success!