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In this section

Candidate A

The candidate was awarded 9 marks for this broadly discursive piece of writing.

Summary

In this broadly discursive essay, the candidate considers the ways in which music can enhance brain function. Although the candidate’s stance is clear at times, the line of thought is mainly adequate throughout. There is adequate use of research and selection of details to support the candidate’s view on the beneficial effects of music.

Content

The piece opens with a lengthy sentence setting the context of the discussion – ‘research has found that music has a positive effect on the brain’. The title has already introduced the idea of music broadening the mind, and the subsequent listing of music’s benefits – ‘improved memory…aided concentration…higher grades…boosts creativity…’ – provides a clear indication of the candidate’s intention to focus on the specific psychological benefits of music.

The opening sentence of the second paragraph repeats music’s ‘several benefits’ and acts as an adequate structural signpost for the consequent elaboration on different benefits. The fairly brief handling of the ‘Mozart Effect’ demonstrates adequate, rather than clear, use of research. In this same paragraph, the candidate moves on to discussing how different types of music affect brain function when studying, mentioning Beethoven, film soundtracks and ‘nature sounds’. The notion of certain types of music as a distraction is touched on when the candidate picks up briefly on the point that studying is unlikely to be effective when accompanied by ‘overtly fast or upbeat’ music, especially with ‘distracting lyrics’. At this point in the essay, there is an assertive and repetitive quality to the argument. The candidate repeatedly refers to studies which ‘have found’ or ‘were found’, and there are a number of references to ‘overly fast’ music.

The candidate then reiterates the benefits before moving on to compare the different levels of benefits gained by students who play musical instruments and those who do not – but who still can benefit from listening to music. This quite complex idea is dealt with briefly. The line of thought continues with a swift change of topic, moving to how music can improve the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Here, the image of music ‘metaphorically [opening] doors in the minds of elderly people’ reveals the candidate’s clear engagement with the topic. Oppositional evidence on music as a distracting influence is then discussed. Two specific pieces of research are cited before the paragraph ends with a comment about ‘other studies’. This counter-evidence is reported without comment by the candidate, although it supports a view contrary to the candidate’s conclusion. The essay ends with a summation of ‘the many positive aspects music can have on a person.’

Style

In terms of structure and line of thought, this essay is adequate throughout. The opening and concluding paragraphs provide the context and summation of the candidate’s argument respectively, and assist in conveying the clear engagement which is apparent at some points in this essay. The essay is a genuine attempt at discursive writing, considering both the positive and negative features of listening to music. The structure is adequate: introductory paragraph; two paragraphs which explore the benefits of music; one paragraph which presents evidence suggesting music is in fact distracting; a conclusion. This straightforward structure enables the candidate to present both sides of the argument to the reader, with supporting evidence used in a methodical way.

The candidate uses some of the conventions of discursive writing clearly: for example evidence is organised methodically to support statements. However, linguistic features are adequately – rather than clearly – used to persuade. For example, lists of benefits are often used to emphasise the positive: ‘…were found to have better motor control, more superior memories, reading ability, auditory skills…’; ‘music can aid concentration, boost creativity, reduce stress and anxiety…’ The candidate’s transition from the discussion of the positive to the negative features of music is signalled adequately by the use of the conjunctive adverb ‘however’. Occasionally, the candidate’s sentences are overlong.

Overall

This piece was placed in the 9-7 mark range. Although the candidate demonstrates a clear engagement with the topic in places, the structure and expression of this essay remain in the adequate mark range throughout. The essay was therefore awarded 9 marks