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The candidate was awarded 8 marks for this broadly creative piece of writing: The Christmas Season.

Summary

This is a broadly creative piece in the form of a personal/reflective essay. The candidate has written about Christmas, focusing on memories of a typical Christmas Day in the past. As well as describing enjoyable activities including opening presents, playing in the snow and eating dinner, there is also some reflection on the passage of time and why Christmas means so much.

Content

The opening paragraph signals the topic of the essay – Christmas, which the candidate says, ‘I hold close to my heart’, especially ‘all the memories of Christmas past’. There is acknowledgement of how the passage of time inevitably means change, but the candidate maintains that the meaning underpinning family traditions endures. This paragraph contains an adequate sense of reflection, for example, ‘things can’t always stay the way we want them’ and ends by introducing the idea of ‘favourite memories…’, which will be developed throughout most of the essay.

There follows an account of a typical Christmas morning, with the candidate’s younger self ‘running downstairs’ to discover Santa’s gifts. Descriptive touches such as the ‘cold floor’, ‘tree lights’ and sound of footsteps as the family arrives downstairs contribute to an adequate sense of involvement and we are given some impression of the personality of the writer, who now apologises ‘profusely’ for the early wake ups inflicted on the family. There is a moment of reflection on the deeper meaning of Christmas, beyond presents, though the candidate conceded ‘it is very hard, as a young child, not to get swept away in the excitement of it all’. The pattern of description followed by a short reflective comment at the end of a paragraph is continued throughout the piece.

The essay moves on to describe the walk to gran’s house for dinner, especially the snowball fight on the way, and an adequate, though genuine, feeling of fun and warmth is conveyed. The excitement of the snowballing begins with, ‘Splat! The first snowball was launched across the road and landed right in my dad’s back’ and continued with, ‘Splat! Another snowball has flown through the air and landed right in my brother’s face’. There is a sense of involvement, achieved partly through the use of present tense in places. The candidate reflects on the loss of contact with her brother, which contributes to the adequate sense of the writer’s personality.

There follow shorter, but similar, paragraphs on building a snowman, preparing dinner and after dinner quizzes. Each paragraph concludes with a brief, adequate comment reflecting on change, for example, ‘This must have been the last time we had a white Christmas’ and ‘As I am older now, the responsibility of hosting falls upon me’.

The piece concludes by considering how the build up to Christmas contributes to the meaning and joy of the day itself. There is adequate reflection in statements such as ‘we all begin to feel properly in the festive spirit as soon as bonfire night is over’ and in the contrast between the ‘cold outside’ and feeling ‘warm in our hearts’.

Style

In terms of style, the piece demonstrates adequate use of linguistic features, expression and structure. The opening and concluding paragraphs provide a frame for the memories of a typical happy Christmas from the candidate’s childhood. The main body of the essay breaks this day down into distinct aspects – presents, snowballing and so on. Observation of details and use of present tense combine to create some sense of involvement, though the present tense lapses occasionally, for example during the snowball fight. Moments of humour, for example ‘I take a step back to admire my masterpiece’ and sadder thoughts about the passage of time such as ‘These days gran isn’t as quick and nimble on her feet’, convey an adequate impression of the writer’s personality.

Overall

The piece is placed in the 9-7 range. The candidate explores feelings and experiences with an adequate sense of involvement and reflection, using memories from childhood to comment on how, though things may change, the meaning of Christmas remains. As the essay is fully described by the 9-7 range, it was awarded 8 marks.