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Candidate 3 - "Plastic Lives"

General Marking Principles for the portfolio

This information is provided to help you understand the general principles you must apply when marking candidate responses to this portfolio. These principles must be read in conjunction with the Detailed Marking Instructions, which identify the key features required in candidate responses.

(a) Marks for each candidate response must always be assigned in line with these General Marking Principles and the Detailed Marking Instructions for this assessment.
(b) Marking should always be positive. This means that, for each candidate response, marks are accumulated for the demonstration of relevant skills, knowledge and understanding: they are not deducted from a maximum on the basis of errors or omissions.
(c) The candidate’s writing will be marked in terms of content and style.
(d) Assessment should be holistic. There will be strengths and weaknesses in every piece of writing; assessment should focus as far as possible on the strengths, taking account of weaknesses only when they significantly detract from the overall performance . Marks should be awarded for the quality of the writing, and not deducted for errors or omissions. Writing does not have to be perfect to gain full marks

Detailed Marking Instructions for the portfolio

Consistent technical accuracy is a requirement for a mark of 8 or above. Consistent technical accuracy means that few errors will be present: paragraphs, sentences and punctuation will be accurate and organised so that the writing can be clearly and readily understood; and spelling errors (particularly of high frequency words) should be infrequent.

Assessors should assess the essay in terms of content and style and arrive at a final mark. The following tables for each genre of writing should be used in helping assessors arrive at a mark. The band descriptors in the tables refer to the middle of each marks band.

For each of the texts, the Marker should select the band containing the descriptors that most closely describe the piece of writing .

Once that best fit has been decided, then:

  • where the evidence almost matches the level above, the highest available mark from that band range should be awarded
  • where the candidate’s work just meets the standard described, the lowest mark from that band range should be awarded

Otherwise the mark from the middle of that band range should be awarded.

Writing which is broadly discursive

Range of marks

Marks 15 - 13

Marks 12 - 10

Marks 9 - 7


The discursive piece demonstrates, as appropriate to genre:

  • strong attention to purpose and audience
  • strong understanding and engagement
  • evidence of skilful research and selection
  • strong and sustained line of thought/ convincing stance
  • clear attention to purpose and audience
  • clear understanding and engagement
  • evidence of careful research and selection
  • clear line of thought/ engaged stance
  • adequate attention to purpose and audience
  • adequate understanding
  • adequate evidence of research
  • adequate line of thought/ stance


The discursive piece demonstrates, as appropriate to genre:

  • linguistic features of the chosen genre used skilfully to inform/ argue/ discuss/persuade and convey depth and complexity of thought/objectivity /insight/persuasive force
  • confident and varied expression
  • effective structure which skilfully enhances the purpose/meaning
  • linguistic features of the chosen genre used clearly to inform/ argue/ discuss/ persuade and convey thought/ objectivity/ insight/ persuasive force
  • clear expression
  • structure which enhances the purpose/ meaning
  • linguistic features of the chosen genre used adequately to inform/ argue/discuss/ persuade and convey thought/ objectivity/ insight/ persuasive force
  • adequate expression
  • adequate structure

Range of marks

Marks 6 - 4

Marks 3 - 1

Marks 0


The discursive piece demonstrates, as appropriate to genre:

  • limited attention to purpose and audience
  • limited understanding
  • limited evidence of research
  • unclear line of thought
  • very little attention to purpose and audience
  • very little understanding
  • very little evidence of research
  • confused line of thought
  • no evidence of the skills required in terms of content, style and accuracy


The discursive piece demonstrates, as appropriate to genre:

  • linguistic features of the chosen genre used in a limited way to inform/ argue/ discuss/ persuade and convey thought/ objectivity/ insight/ persuasive force
  • limited expression
  • limited use of structure
  • very little attempt at using language effectively
  • many errors in punctuation/ syntax/spelling
  • very little use of structure

The candidate has chosen to write a discursive essay on plastic bags. There is a full understanding of the issues involved. From the beginning there is a full engagement with the subject which is highly topical and is discussed in both a Scottish and a wider global context. The essay conveys a full understanding of the detrimental effects of plastic bags on the environment and on marine life by the use of linguistic features used comprehensively to argue and persuade. There is evidence of full research and selection, using facts, figures and timescales to highlight the candidate’s sustained line of thought: the harm caused by plastic bags and the importance of the introduction of environmentally friendly bags.

The opening sentence provides a confident contextualisation for the issue of plastic bags under discussion. The candidate fully engages her audience’s attention – ‘The plastic bubble was burst . . .’ This is followed by a sentence giving the alarmingly high figure of 1 trillion plastic bags used worldwide in a year which again catches our interest. The dire consequences for the marine environment of the careless disposal of so much plastic are made clear. The concluding sentence explains the significance of the plastic bag charge in raising awareness of our environmental impact on the world.

Paragraph 2 continues to strongly engage with ‘the devastating effect’ of discarded plastic bags. There is evidence of full research and selection as the candidate illustrates the damage being caused. The direct connection between harming our seas and marine life and our own food supply is made forcefully. Two specific examples of whales found dead on beaches as a direct result of plastic and other detritus being carelessly discarded, help to some extent to strengthen the candidate’s case. Confident and varied expression is shown in the use of a simple but effective short sentence – ‘These are not isolated incidents’ – which conveys the very wide range of lethal incidents involving whales.

Paragraph 3 focuses on the impact made by the plastic bag charge. There is further evidence of full research and selection as the writer gives examples of the difference made by using two supermarkets in Scotland, the decrease in litter in Ireland, the decrease in litter and increased revenue for charity in Wales and the drop in plastic bag usage in Denmark which has operated the charge since 2003.

Paragraph 4 deals with the imposition of the plastic bag charge and what happens to the money collected. The candidate effectively structures her argument by posing three questions in quick succession – ‘what are the reasons behind the charge? Does this affect retailers? Where does the money go and exactly which bags will the customers pay for?’ This technique enhances the writer’s meaning as it allows the answers to form the rest of this paragraph in which the candidate neatly moves from Zero Waste Scotland’s monitoring of 160 retailers to some companies’ investment in reusable carrier bags. The final sentence of the paragraph provides a concise summation of the positive outcomes so far.

Another example of effective structuring occurs at the opening of paragraph 5, which considers the opposing argument as a counterbalance to the preceding environmental benefits. The candidate considers the view of many Scottish citizens that the plastic bag charge is merely increasing hypermarket profits at their expense. This is quickly rebutted, although it is conceded that it does represent ‘a higher relative cost to those on lower incomes’.

Paragraph 6, which begins ‘If plastic bags were as detrimental’, conveys depth and complexity of thought as the candidate considers the effects of a complete ban on plastic bags. The writer recognises the potentially harmful effects on the economy in the loss of jobs from plastic manufacturing industries and the consequent loss of revenue to towns and cities. Having recognised this disadvantage of a complete ban, the writer counterbalances this point with the more dire consequences of continuing to use scant resources ‘in an environmentally destructive way’. The candidate uses confident and varied expression in the middle of this paragraph – ‘While this may have a negative impact on the economy, though this has yet to be demonstrated, in previous cases the short-sighted use of resources in an environmentally destructive way may result in more long term damage to the economy and will need to end eventually; by taking pro-active action the damage may be mitigated’. The two concessionary clauses followed by the clear message of the potential damage builds to the suggested solution after the semi-colon. There is an awareness of European parliamentary measures and the final sentence highlights the limiting of plastic bag use, not its complete cessation.

The penultimate paragraph with its direct address to the reader (‘Think of it as a good deed’) and its brevity fully engages the reader’s attention. The candidate has effectively juxtaposed ‘minutes’ and ‘decades’ to convey the thoughtless actions of a moment with extremely long-term effects on the environment. This is another example of the candidate using linguistic features to argue and persuade.

The final paragraph brings the clear and sustained line of thought to a convincing conclusion, highlighting the candidate’s commitment to the 5p carrier bag charge to lessen environmental damage and to help charitable causes. There is an understanding of the difficulty in changing human behaviour which shows a realistic view of human nature. The use of the balanced repetitive imperatives – ‘Use a plastic bag and become the murderer of precious and valuable species to the ocean’s evolution and maintenance or use the environmentally friendly bags and become a ‘preserver’ – drives home forcefully the stark choices open to us. The final two sentences are realistic in the advice offered and provide a positive course of action for the reader.

This essay is placed in Band 15-13. There is a committed attention to purpose and audience throughout. The candidate shows full understanding and engagement with the environmental issues raised by the use of plastic bags. There is evidence of full research to support the writer’s sustained line of thought. A variety of sentence structures, direct address to the reader, questions and imperatives are used to provide persuasive force. The expression is confident and varied throughout. The essay is given -

13 marks