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National 5 English - Set Text Preparation

1. Read the texts again. Know them really well. Read through the poems and notes on BBC Bitesize.

2. For each text, write your own summary. It should cover the main story/events and should show some global understanding of the central concerns or the spirit and "essence" of the text.

3. For each text, compile and learn a list of themes. As well as main themes include some less obvious themes.

4. For each text, identify and learn a list of techniques and points of style as well as structure. This should include labelling techniques and practice comments on their effect.

5. Look for and list recurring themes in MacCaig's poetry (with examples) as well as recurring techniques (with examples from different poems).

6. Analyse SQA sample papers. This is called "exam preparation".

What you should look for: question topics and types; recurring question types; question terminology you may be unclear about.

7. Now that you have familiarised yourself with the poems as well as their themes and techniques try a timed practice. Below is an extract from an SQA specimen paper.

National 5 English - Set Text

                           SECTION 1 — SCOTTISH TEXT— 20 marks
Choose ONE text from Drama, Prose or Poetry.

Read the text extract carefully and then attempt ALL the questions below the extract, using your own words as far as possible.

You should spend about 45 minutes on this question.

Aunt Julia

If you choose this text you may not write a critical essay on Poetry in Section 2.
Read the poem below and then attempt the following questions.
Aunt Julia by Norman MacCaig
Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
I could not answer her —
I could not understand her.

She wore men’s boots
when she wore any.
— I can see her strong foot,
stained with peat,
paddling with the treadle of the spinning wheel
while her right hand drew yarn
marvellously out of the air.

Hers was the only house
where I’ve lain at night
in a box bed, listening to
crickets being friendly.

She was buckets
and water flouncing into them.
She was winds pouring wetly
round house-ends.
She was brown eggs, black skirts
and a keeper of threepenny bits
in a teapot.

Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
By the time I had learned
a little, she lay
silenced in the absolute black
of a sandy grave
at Luskentyre.

But I hear her still, welcoming me
with a seagull’s voice
across a hundred yards
of peatscrapes and lazybeds
and getting angry, getting angry
with so many questions


48. By referring to one technique, show how the first stanza is an effective opening to the poem.                                                                                                    2 marks

49. In stanza two, show how MacCaig uses language to convey the memorable aspects of Aunt Julia’s
personality.                                                                             4 marks  

 50. Show how any one example of the poet’s use of language in stanza four contributes to his description of Aun
t Julia.                                                                 2 marks

 51. By referring to the last stanza, show how MacCaig creates a sense of regret.                                                                                                            4 marks

52. MacCaig often observes people or places in his poetry. Referring closely to this poem and to at least one other poem by MacCaig, show how MacCaig uses observation of people or places in his poems.                                                                   8 marks                                                   


e-mail : english@kilmarnockacademy.co.uk                                                 tel: 01563 525509