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English Language Paper 1 Question 5

Hi there, I just did a question 5, it's not my best work as I purposefully chose a picture I know I'd hate to get in the exam. If someone could give me any advice to improve I'd appreciate it, if someone could give a rough mark, that would be even better :smile:

The image was of a cup and saucer on a table, and to describe a café in town, I know this is a bit narrative (I just realised 😭), but any advice anyway would be helpful.

Also, I know the ending seems a bit abrupt / strange but I wanted to give that effect, don't know if it seems a bit weird though, maybe I should change it?

Answer -

Coffee: the driving factor of my existence. I gaze at the dainty, blue China teacup perched like a delicate baby bird on the equally dainty saucer. Lustrous and strong, the scent of the coffee wafts up towards me, stitching itself into the air and cocooning me in a warm and hazy air. Peace, this is what peace is, a cup of coffee in a café. Gently, I pick the teacup up and take a long, relaxing sip of the electrifying liquid which at once both lulls me and heightens my senses. The richness of the coffee beans blends perfectly with the fluidity and creaminess of the milk; this café is famous for its coffee recipe, no one knows how they make it. Some say that they have a secret ingredient that they infuse with the coffee beans, others say it’s magic, and others, the more rational-minded, say it’s down to good training and a recipe that has withstood the test of time: it’s alleged to be a generational recipe that has been passed down for hundreds of years, maybe since the dawn of coffee beans.

Beeping horns quickly bring me out of my musing and I wipe down the misty window to better see what commotion is occurring today. Not much, the usual traffic that builds up every evening as all the many people bustle to get home and out of the awful British weather. Outside, the scenery isn’t picturesque at all, it’s almost an eyesore: the looming, concrete blocks of flats that cast gloomy shadows over the insect-like cars. Sun struggles to permeate the thick fortress of clouds that has taken the Earth hostage, and leaves all the commuters below rushing around with only the lampposts to guide them, spilling pools of sickly orange light onto the litter-strewn pavements.

I sigh. The window fogs up again, but I don’t wipe it down, there’s not much to see.

Turning my attention back to the more jovial and welcoming interior of the café, I revel in the warmth that swirls and dances from the ovens baking fresh pastries, carrying the nostalgic scent of croissants and cinnamon swirls pastries of my childhood. Taking another pleasant sip of my coffee, I scan the café and look at all the many people inside, each living their own unique life: the mother playing with her baby in the pram; the elderly couple reminiscing about some long-forgotten time; the friends in the back corner joking about something only funny to them. It’s strange to think that I am just a side character in each of their stories, and that they’re just side characters in mine.

The café door jingles as someone else enters. Tall, muscular and intimidating, he dwarfs the rest of the people in the café; he looks out of place, a giant among humans. Just as I go to take another sip of my coffee, the man pulls out a glinting silver pistol.

One shot is fired. My teacup shatters and lays broken on the floor.
Please take my comments with a grain of salt (defi not an examiner!) but it's very good :smile:

Mark scheme-like comments
Good use of sentence lengths: short (particularly last line) and long
Good use of colons & semicolons
Good use of 'ambitious' (this word's always on the mark scheme) vocab
Good use of figurative language & imagery (e.g. I really like "the looming, concrete blocks of flats that cast gloomy shadows over the insect-like cars")

Personal preferences:
I like your opening, and this bit: "It’s strange to think that I am just a side character in each of their stories, and that they’re just side characters in mine."
I also like your ending and how you (perhaps unintentionally?) link it back to the start with the reference to the teacup: this is very powerful, so keep doing it!

Some suggestions/things I noticed and wanted to comment about:
Does china pottery need a capital letter? I'm not sure
"this café is famous for its coffee recipe, no one knows how they make it" - is this a comma splice?
"Some say that they have a secret ingredient that they infuse with the coffee beans, others say it’s magic, and others, the more rational-minded, say it’s down to good training and a recipe that has withstood the test of time: it’s alleged to be a generational recipe that has been passed down for hundreds of years, maybe since the dawn of coffee beans." - this is very long and confusing; I think you could break this up into at least two sentences and/or maybe semicolons separating items in the list
I don't think you can use musing as a noun - perhaps 'stop me from continuing to muse' although do something better that sounds a bit wordy (verbose if you want another good word in your toolkit lol)
"to better see what commotion is occurring today" - very weird considering that there actually is not much commotion
"Outside, the scenery isn’t picturesque at all, it’s almost an eyesore" - comma splice again
"Sun struggles to permeate the thick fortress of clouds" - The Sun, although this might just be a typo
"The window fogs up again, but I don’t wipe it down, there’s not much to see." comma splice at the second comma
Perhaps you could squeeze in like one line of dialogue and/or an exclamation mark and/or a question mark just to show the examiner that you can use them - I know you can so don't give them an excuse to mark you down!
A final note from me, I prefer to do the story question as it lets you develop a character rather than just describing the setting & the senses - you kinda did both here but I recommend doing the story question as it's (supposedly) easier to get higher marks. I'm not sure how true this is, but I thought I'd mention it.

I'd rather not give it a rough mark because I'm no examiner in any regards, so I don't want to over/under mark you, but overall, it's a wonderful piece :smile:
Reply 2
Original post by Super Sprinkles
Please take my comments with a grain of salt (defi not an examiner!) but it's very good :smile:
Mark scheme-like comments
Good use of sentence lengths: short (particularly last line) and long
Good use of colons & semicolons
Good use of 'ambitious' (this word's always on the mark scheme) vocab
Good use of figurative language & imagery (e.g. I really like "the looming, concrete blocks of flats that cast gloomy shadows over the insect-like cars")
Personal preferences:
I like your opening, and this bit: "It’s strange to think that I am just a side character in each of their stories, and that they’re just side characters in mine."
I also like your ending and how you (perhaps unintentionally?) link it back to the start with the reference to the teacup: this is very powerful, so keep doing it!
Some suggestions/things I noticed and wanted to comment about:
Does china pottery need a capital letter? I'm not sure
"this café is famous for its coffee recipe, no one knows how they make it" - is this a comma splice?
"Some say that they have a secret ingredient that they infuse with the coffee beans, others say it’s magic, and others, the more rational-minded, say it’s down to good training and a recipe that has withstood the test of time: it’s alleged to be a generational recipe that has been passed down for hundreds of years, maybe since the dawn of coffee beans." - this is very long and confusing; I think you could break this up into at least two sentences and/or maybe semicolons separating items in the list
I don't think you can use musing as a noun - perhaps 'stop me from continuing to muse' although do something better that sounds a bit wordy (verbose if you want another good word in your toolkit lol)
"to better see what commotion is occurring today" - very weird considering that there actually is not much commotion
"Outside, the scenery isn’t picturesque at all, it’s almost an eyesore" - comma splice again
"Sun struggles to permeate the thick fortress of clouds" - The Sun, although this might just be a typo
"The window fogs up again, but I don’t wipe it down, there’s not much to see." comma splice at the second comma
Perhaps you could squeeze in like one line of dialogue and/or an exclamation mark and/or a question mark just to show the examiner that you can use them - I know you can so don't give them an excuse to mark you down!
A final note from me, I prefer to do the story question as it lets you develop a character rather than just describing the setting & the senses - you kinda did both here but I recommend doing the story question as it's (supposedly) easier to get higher marks. I'm not sure how true this is, but I thought I'd mention it.
I'd rather not give it a rough mark because I'm no examiner in any regards, so I don't want to over/under mark you, but overall, it's a wonderful piece :smile:

Wow, thank you so much! This advice is really useful :biggrin:
If you don't mind, I sort of understand what comma splicing is, but would you suggest putting a full stop instead and making it two sentences? I tend to just put commas in where I'd break my flow of reading, so they're not always grammatically correct, how can I spot, and avoid, a comma splice?
But thank you a lot for the advice, it's honestly so useful, and I'm so happy to hear you think it's good 😁
Yes, to fix a comma splice usually you either want to use a full stop, a conjunction (e.g. and/but/) or a semicolon. Sometimes, depending on the sentence, you could use a dash/brackets.

Let's take the sentence "This café is famous for its coffee recipe, no one knows how they make it."
This café is famous for its coffee recipe is a main clause (i.e. makes sense on its own) as it's got a subject & verb.
No one knows how they make it is also a main clause.
You can't glue two main clauses together with a comma (it isn't powerful enough) so you need a conjunction, a semicolon if they're related statements, or a full stop. Basically, if there's a verb you can end the sentence, but if there isn't you can't.
e.g. for this case, I would change it to something like "This café is famous for its coffee recipe, yet no one knows how they make it."

Even if it's only 2-3 minutes, I'd recommend re-reading your writing just to spot any errors. Perhaps do question 5 first, then section A, then proofread your creative writing as you've almost refreshed your brain?
Reply 4
Original post by Super Sprinkles
Yes, to fix a comma splice usually you either want to use a full stop, a conjunction (e.g. and/but/) or a semicolon. Sometimes, depending on the sentence, you could use a dash/brackets.
Let's take the sentence "This café is famous for its coffee recipe, no one knows how they make it."
This café is famous for its coffee recipe is a main clause (i.e. makes sense on its own) as it's got a subject & verb.
No one knows how they make it is also a main clause.
You can't glue two main clauses together with a comma (it isn't powerful enough) so you need a conjunction, a semicolon if they're related statements, or a full stop. Basically, if there's a verb you can end the sentence, but if there isn't you can't.
e.g. for this case, I would change it to something like "This café is famous for its coffee recipe, yet no one knows how they make it."
Even if it's only 2-3 minutes, I'd recommend re-reading your writing just to spot any errors. Perhaps do question 5 first, then section A, then proofread your creative writing as you've almost refreshed your brain?

ahh okay, thank you so much! I'll definitely proof read my work in the exam, hopefully I'll spot these sorts of errors

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