Evaluate! In AQA A Level Media Studies.

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Sorry everyone – I promised to explain what the board means by “evaluate” a few weeks ago – but I didn’t!

So I will now.

For the rest of the world “evaluate” means:

to judge or calculate the quality, importance, amount, or value of something.

If you are being asked to “judge or calculate the quality, importance, amount, or value” of a theory area, or theorist, this comes with some pretty big problems. Apart from early theories (such as effects theory or hypodermic needle theory) it is unlikely that you, a humble A Level student, will have the mad skillz to take apart, say, Butler’s work on gender.

Luckily AQA doesn’t really mean evaluate in the way that the rest of the world does.

In the recent webinair I took part in it became clear that what the board means by evaluate is:

The possible ways in which the work of a theorist or theoretical area can help our understanding.

That’s soooooo much easier!

If you are asked to evaluate Judith Butler using the magazine extracts then you write about what the theories around gender performativity reveal about the producers of the mags, the subjects of the articles and the audience’s attitudes and beliefs. How the magazines reflect Bultler’s idea that, “gender is a kind of imitation”.

mag 1

You would need to write about the rigidity of gender performativity presented in Men’s Health, the emphasis on physical strength and the links made to aspiration. You would include exploration of the use of secondary material (such as the choice of cover star and his presentation, in imagery, as Domonic Toretto rather than Vin Diesel) You may want to speculate that the audience is invested in these gender ideas and subscribe to the patriarchal belief system that created them and that Hearst is clearly part of that powerful system of image creation and control. You may also want to speculate that the identity markers of gender, sexuality, class and education shape the way that the audience regressively responds to the old fashioned certainty of the gender performativity presented in the magazine.

mag 2

You would also need to write about how Iceberg Press, a niche and marginal producer, has created a magazine which presents gender fluidity on the cover and within the articles. You may want to speculate that the intended audience’s identity markers of gender, class and education mean that they are more open to fluid interpretations of gender and are looking for a wider range of gender performativity. You might also want to speculate on how this magazine shapes progressive attitudes and beliefs.

Note that this is not really evaluating Butler but it is looking at what Butler gives a media student when they look through the lens of the theory.

Now that’s a bit easier!

Maybelline advert: Thanks – we are saved!


Thanks to Mr Freer for sending me this link:


It is the Maybelline ad that has now been pulled from YouTube (and don’t worry Mr F. – it is exactly the same as the original – trust).

On a broader tip – again – this is what happens when exam boards are asked to nail down exam content years in advance of the examinations. Not a problem for subjects where content is in little danger of suddenly changing but for Media Studies this is a minefield.

Either your content is way out of touch with the actual debates happening in academic circles (this is so happening with the A levels) or you run the risk of the products disappearing on you as the media cycle moves on.

I mean – this advert is now three years old. It wasn’t going to stick around for ever. What is new and exciting becomes old and stale.

Anywhoo – enjoy this round-up from Campaign magazine of the worst adverts of the last decade.

I’m surprised Tom Hiddleston’s Centrum ad isn’t in there. My fave bad ad from last year!

So creepy!

Is he a serial killer or contract assassin (check out the script)? Who are we supposed to be? Why are all the conventions (cinematography and mise-en-scene) at the start from the horror genre? How long have we been seeing Tom? Why do we need so much food and so many vitamins? Are we dying? How good do we really look Tom ‘cos you look a bit sad? How short are we? How is he going to make it up to us? Don’t you say goodbye like that to things you don’t want to follow you?


So many questions!


Boss Life Gone!The clip has been taken down! What will we do now!


Hey A level Media peep-holes. More missing CSP news.

After the loss of The Surgery and the hammering Michael Jackson’s reputation has taken (leading to his replacement by The Specials) I am sad to report that the YouTube clip That Boss Life has been taken down/gone private.

The curse of AQA strikes again!

But you will still have to write about it in your exam (and next year too).


Life Hacks.What AQA means by the word “evaluate”. How you can get everything wrong and still get full marks! Keeping up with the fast changing world of A Level Media Studies!


What a difference a week makes!

Thingy number 1: The old CSP The Surgery has been replaced by Life Hacks. I’ve put a note on my page but essentially they are the same show, just repackaged a bit and made less medical-ish. I will update the page in the fullness of time but you can pretty much use all the notes (just change the name).

Thingy number 2: AQA is great at giving teachers information – but only after they have run an exam!

This week I spent a couple of happy hours taking part in a webinar (all the fun of INSET training whilst being at school, at the end of the day, when everyone else has gone home, in the dark, cold, hungry and tired).

This is what I learned:

  1. For the first time the board were really clear that the exam is really asking you to show that you know the Theoretical Framework and that the CSPs are just the material you use to provide examples and evidence. This is what I have been saying for evah! They were also clear that this framework includes what they euphemistically called “enabling concepts” (these are the bits of the framework that don’t fit into the work of a named theorist). So Media Effects includes the work of Albert Bandura but also includes things like media literacy, which you could be asked about – make sure you know all the bits of the framework, what they mean and how you can use the CSPs to show that you understand them.
  2. On paper 1 and 2 you have so little time to work out what is going on with the unseen material questions that, as long as you throw some terminology into your answers, you will be rewarded (no matter if you have committed the crime of, what used to be termed in English marking, “insensitive reading”).
  3. The unseen material for paper 1 could be a screenshot of a webpage (so even though it is print the media platform might not be print if you catch my drift).
  4. Watch out for questions, especially on paper 2, which give you a concept area and expect you to name the key person associated with it (like “cultivation” and you should write about Gerbner or “reception” and you should write about Hall). This means you should include in your revision exercises linking key names to key theories.

More whenever I get it!


New news from AQA.

If you are a Media student you know that the business of creating a syllabus out of rapidly changing material is a bit like nailing jelly to a plate.

Or feels a bit like this . . .


Last week the board released this statement:

For students being assessed in their A-level Media Studies course (7572) in summer 2020, we’ve clarification about the Close Study Products (CSPs) Oh Comely and Teen Vogue.

Oh Comely

We’ve been made aware that Oh Comely has changed its name to Oh. The update on the magazine’s website states: ‘Oh is a reimagination of Oh Comely magazine and is still a place to meet new people, hear their stories and hopefully leave you looking at life a little differently. And every issue will still have beautiful photography and illustration at its heart’.

The edition of the magazine in the CSP booklet is still the one that should be studied. The front page and extracts from issue 35 must be studied and are shown in the 2020 CSP booklet on e-AQA. This reimagination of the magazine would be an interesting area of study when considering print media, particularly in the context of industry and audience.

Where questions about the magazines feature in the assessments, we’ll still refer to Oh Comely. Where questions do refer to Oh Comely, students should be reminded to carefully read the question and determine whether or not these changes to the focus of the magazine would form part of a relevant response to the question asked.

Teen Vogue

The CSP booklet for the 2020 assessment refers to the Lifestyle section. This section has now been rebranded as Culture and this is the area that students should focus on.

As a reminder, you’ll need to download a new CSP booklet every year in June to ensure that your students are studying the correct products as questions in the exams will relate to these products.

After I spent ages writing about Teen Vogue!

I will adjust the notes accordingly.