A.C.E. How to build an argument for a 25 mark question for the AQA A Level Media Paper 2. (Questions 3 and 4).

Extra – Extra Update. 

Now that we have run the exam (once) we now know that these notes are really useful for questions 3 and 4 and question 2 will ask you to evaluate a theory (see link below). 


Now that the board have given us more than one paper to look at there appears to be a pattern on Paper 2.

The first 25 mark question looks like it asks you to evaluate a theory.

The second one looks like it asks you to write about the relationship between context and product (in pairs – so social, political, economic and cultural – in any order they like). The thing you have to pay close attention to is what sort of contexts they are asking you about. Economic context is asking you about the industry side of things (funding and business models) whereas the political context might include regulations as well as political debates in the society the product is constructed in. I will post up an exemplar for this kind of question very soon. 

The final question appears to be a synoptic exploration (that means you use theory material that you have studied across the course) of a media issue or debate (but using only some of your CSPs as evidence). You can find an example here.

As a result the A.C.E. plan doesn’t entirely work but it is a good way of thinking about structure if you make the A bit a point which relates to an aspect of the question. I will amend the page below when I have time.

On the other hand the board could do something completely different! Question 1 on paper 2 has changed to become an exploration of an unseen product so who knows?

UPDATE: This method only works for questions which ask you to analyse the close study products. It will not help you if the question asks you to evaluate a theory. I have written extensive notes about that scenario here.

When I say Ace what do you think of?

Perhaps it’s Sting in Quadrophenia?

Or perhaps it’s a bit of Jim Carry?

But please let me now make A.C.E. your go to way of building an answer in your exam.

Look. In an ideal world you wouldn’t have to take exams. You could build arguments in your own sweet time. Unfortunately you have to do it under time pressure.

For some wierdo-rama reason there are 84 marks on the paper (WTF are there 84 marks? It makes no sense. It just makes all the maths a bit odd). Anywhoo – you have about 35 minutes per 25 mark question. Give yourself three minutes for planning and two for checking that means you have 30 minutes to actually write the darn thing. There is space for, and time for, just north of 600 good words for each of these little wonders.

As far as I can see there are three types of question formulation (as long as they aren’t asking you to evaluate a theory – for which I have separate notes):

Question type 1:

How do the __________ products you have studied reflect theories concerning _________ including ___________?

Question Type 2:

Theory/issue/debate quotation

To what extent does an analysis of your ___________________ products support this view?

Question Type 3:

According to ___________ theory/named theorist, “theory quotation.”

How valid are ________________ theory’s claims about __________? You should refer to the CSPs ____________ in your answer.

And here is the top band marking criteria:

• Excellent and judicious application of knowledge and understanding of the theoretical framework to analyse the products.
• Excellent,detailed and accurate use of theory of to analyse
the products.
Analysis is detailed and critically engages with the nuanced aspects of the task.
• Excellent,astute judgements and conclusions that are consistently well supported by relevant and detailed analysis of specific aspects of the products and precise links to relevant contexts.
•Consistently appropriate and effective use of subject specific terminology throughout.

Each one of these questions is really asking you to explain a media theory and illustrate your answer with examples from the board chosen CSPs.

I’m just going to write that again because it is the most flippin’ helpful thing I will ever write to you.

Each one of these questions is really asking you to explain a media theory and illustrate your answer with examples from the board chosen CSPs!

That’s it. That is what this syllabus is really all about. Do you know the theories in detail? And can you explain them with the bits and pieces of media that the board has given you to play with?

So you need a plan.

First don’t waste time on rambly introductions;

Always be answering the question!

Secondly. Topic sentences. Do you remember Topic sentences? Think back. Think back. Think back beyond GCSE. Back beyond the person you used to fancy who sat in front of you in Double Science (you studied their ears/neck/hands – delete or add body parts appropriate for your own failure in that particular subject – more than anything else. And that is why you have no idea about the nitrogen cycle or what Boyles law states). Back, back into primary school.

Primary school. Where all you had to worry about was remembering lines for the Christmas play and keeping the class hamster alive when it was your turn to look after it.

Topic sentences.

Always start a paragraph with a sentence that tells your reader what, in the name of all that is holy, the rest of the paragraph is all about.

Most students don’t do this. They make a couple of big mistakes.

Firstly they think that if you write around the subject you will hit on the answer. This is a bit of a fallacy.

If someone asks you,

“How do you make bread?”

And you answer,

“Bread is a carbohydrate foodstuff that has been around for all of recorded history and may be one of the oldest man-made foods. It is made out of flour and water and is baked. . . “

You might have given some of the ingredients (pardon the pun) to the answer but you didn’t actually tell your interculator what they wanted to know.

In short, you answered a how with a what.

Secondly, students plunge into writing paragraphs without knowing where they are going and how they are going to get there. The whole thing is a bit like this.

I get this all the time. Hundreds of words that don’t know what they are doing and don’t know how to get there.

So here is a formulation for you to use that build on your primary school knowledge.

A: Aspect of theory (or issue or debate). Sentence starter: One aspect of ________ theory is . . .

C: CSP – evidence/detail. Sentence starter: This is clearly evident in ________ when the audience is shown/hear . . .  [Then go into detail. Use the CSPs to illustrate this. Be detailed, specific and use terminology.]

E: Explanation/exploration. This is where you put in some analysis? (btw the best word to use to force you to analyse is because – try it, for anything. You just start being analytical) ) Key words? the audience, the producer

If you want to refine those stating topic sentences here are different ones for each of those question types.

Question type 1: One aspect of _________ theory is . . .

[explain aspect of theory briefly]

Question type 2: One way that my analysis of . . .supports/rejects this view is in the consideration of (aspect of a CSP).

Question type 3: One way that __________ theory’s claims about _________ can be shown to be valid is in the consideration of (aspect of a CSP).

Putting it into practice!

Question: How do the television products you have studied reflect theories concerning feminism including Van Zoonen?
For the sake of this answer you have studied Deutschland 83 and Capital. Now remember; the question is not about the T.V. shows. It is about “theories concerning feminism including Van Zoonen”. You use the T.V. series to illustrate your answer.

A (Aspect of theory).

One aspect of feminist theory, which is key to both Van Zoonen and hooks, is the way that production contexts affect representation. Specifically that  unless there are women involved in the production there is a higher chance of stereotyping and other features of negative and regressive discourse.

C (CSP evidence to illustrate the point).

We can see this in Capital where the novel, screenplay and direction are all produced by men (John Lanchester as novelist and Euros Lyn in the role of the director) whereas Deutschland 83 was written by Anna Winger.

E (Explanation/Analysis)

This explains why Arabella Yount (in Capital) is the most negatively represented of the characters (she is depicted as being both economically inactive and manipulative; especially in her dealings with her husband Roger). This may also explain why Deutschland 83, written by woman, has a wider range of nuanced female characters. The central female character, Lenora, is motivated by a desire to save her country and people which pushes her to manipulate even her own family members. She is not stereotypical in her representation (as some kind of villainess) but a character with a clear, ethical code.

So there it is.


Do that about four times and you will have an answer. Throw in an evaluative conclusion and you’ll do even better.

Please leave me comments, like or subscribe. That way I will get to sharpen up this whole doohickey and make it even betterer!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.