I came across some really interesting information on Twitter this week which I’m excited to share with you. It was about the average sentence length used in responses to the 2014 English Language exam and the corresponding grade. It is hard evidence that being concise with sentences is a key to success! They were as follows:
A* – 16.8 words
C – 17.7 words
D – 23.4 words
F – 28.3 words
Although examiners have to look at the response as a whole and this is just one element I don’t think these percentages should be ignored. If an examiner needs to read a sentence three times in order to grasp its meaning a high mark is going to be unlikely.
Here are a couple of ways to develop concise sentence formation:
1. Continue to focus on punctuation in small chunks right up until the exam. Use starter activities and keep repeating the basic rules. I have a punctuation playlist on my YouTube Channel which you might find helpful.
2. Although this is more easily said than done under the pressure of the exam, I ask my students to focus on deliberate vocabulary choices. One well-chosen adjective can have far more impact than five weak ones in a sentence. Drilling your students to deliberately craft sentences is a key exam skill. It’s important that they think about what they are writing rather than panic writing which results in the longer, out of control sentences.
3. To highlight this issue with the students write a huge “D” grade sentence on the board and ask them to reduce it to a concise, cogent sentence.