Are the hints and help given in the bullet points for Question 1 optional or compulsory?
The bullet points given in Question 1 are there to help candidates; it is not compulsory for candidates to use them. Marks are awarded according to the band descriptors for Part 1 in the Mark Scheme. Covering the three bullet points helps candidates to meet the criteria for a higher band mark, for example by showing ‘clear critical understanding’, or by using ‘much well-selected reference’.
It is possible for a candidate to give an effective answer that meets all the descriptors in the Excellent band, without covering one of the bullet points; the examiner is then able to use their judgement to award a mark from the ‘Excellent’ band. In situations like this, the answer must show breadth and depth, despite not covering one of the bullet points.
How many references are expected in Question 1?
We do not expect a specific number of references to be given for Question 1. References must be accurate and relevant to support a candidate’s answer effectively. Other criteria in the band descriptors must also be taken into account; for example, the mark scheme descriptor for the top band requires ‘much well-selected reference to the text’ but also a ‘clear critical understanding’ and evidence of responding ‘sensitively and in detail’. Critical reference alone will not secure a top mark.
Do schools have access to example candidate responses to this paper at different ability levels?
An Example Candidate Response booklet, with sample answers from past exams and comments from the Principal Examiner explaining how marks were awarded, is available on the School Support Hub. You can access this by logging into the School Support Hub and typing the syllabus code, 3247, into the search box. The Urdu First Language page will appear where you can access a number of resources, including the Example Candidate Response booklet in the Teaching and learning section, which gives an example of a high, middle and low response for each paper, with comments from the Principal Examiner about how the response was marked.
How much does handwriting and vocabulary weigh in Question 1?
Examiners do not assess handwriting or use of vocabulary and these do not appear in the band descriptors. Instead, examiners base their judgement on the mark scheme which covers:
- candidates’ understanding of the text,
- candidates’ reference to the language and how the writer achieves effects,
- how much candidates use supporting references.
On occasion, poor handwriting and insufficient vocabulary can prevent a candidate from making their answer understood. If an examiner is not able to understand what a candidate has written, they may not be able to credit the answer appropriately.
How much importance is given to spelling and punctuation?
Examiners do not look at spelling and punctuation when awarding marks, and spelling/punctuation does not appear in the descriptions in the banded mark scheme.
If the examiner is unable to understand a response because the spelling or punctuation makes the meaning unclear, this may have an impact on the candidates’ marks.
Examiners are instructed to mark positively in line with Cambridge International guidelines. This means examiners award marks based on the evidence presented; they do not deduct marks for what has not been included.
Questions 2 and 3 do not give a word limit. How much do examiners expect candidates to write in response to these questions?
There is no word limit for these questions. Two pages of dotted lines are allocated for each response and this indicates how much we would expect to see in an effective answer (between 1 ½ - 2 pages of writing for each question). Additional pages are provided at the back of the exam booklet. Marks are awarded according to the criterion laid out in the banded mark scheme and not according to the length of the response.
Questions on poetry, ghazals and nazams previously required candidates to explain verses; however, this has now been replaced by analysis. We do not feel that it is possible for an O Level candidate to analyse ghazals, where all the verses are distinct from each other, if they have only been given a single reference point. This is also the case with nazam, afsanas (short stories), mazameen (articles) and dramas. Please clarify the requirements of these questions.
Although the previous version of this syllabus required candidates to explain verses of ghazals, the current specification, which was examined for the first time in 2015, does not require candidates to analyse verses of ghazals.
Please refer to the specimen papers, mark schemes and Principal Examiner’s Reports, available on the School Support Hub, for examples of questions on ghazals, nazam, afsanas, mazameen and drama, and an explanation of how marks were awarded.