Tag Archives: Question B

Question B advice

What do I need to think about before I start writing?

Imagine your answer is a SUITCASE – the examiner is looking for certain TAGS.

T = Topic. Stick to the topic. Have plenty of ideas. Identify problems but also offer solutions.

A = Audience. Who are you writing for? What kind of language is appropriate? (formal/informal)

G = Genre. Are you writing a diary/report/speech etc…? What layout is expected?

S = Style. What techniques will you use? Emphatic words, vivid imagery, address audience etc…?

If these elements are there then you should have everything you need in your answer.

You cannot answer QA & QB on the same text.

If you do you lose 25% of the marks for Paper 1.

What can I be asked to write?

Report / memo


Letter (may be based on the text)




Diary entries (may be based on the text)




How much should I write? 1½ – 2pgs

How long do I have? 45Mins

Do I need to read the text the QB follows?

Often you are asked to base your answer on the information in the text so you will have to read it quickly to get ideas.

The examiners will reward ‘creative modeling’.

This means you can use the ideas in the text BUT you cannot just re-write sentences word-for-word and pretend you’ve come up with them yourself (this is plagiarism.)

They are expecting you to model the same style – if the writer used quotes, you should too (but different ones), if the writer included an anecdote you should do (but your own anecdote…). You must add your own personality & imagination. Don’t steal the ideas, challenge them, add something new, model a similar style but different content. 


Report Layout

There are a few ways of doing this correctly. You can use the headings IMRAD -introduction, methods, results and discussion or

Use the following headings:


Explain what the report is about, why you decided to write it, how you will gather your information.


Using bullet points & statistics, make a list of your findings.


What can you conclude from what you’ve discovered above.


What changes / solutions do you suggest. One per conclusion. Be specific.

NOTE: on one occasion students were asked to write a ‘memo’. A memo is an informative document usually used in an office setting. It can come in many different formats so there is no one absolutely correct way of approaching this task. The language is usually formal, clear and direct. Click on this link for more discussion and sample memos: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/590/04/Sample Report

Report on the eating habits of Junior Certificate students.


The purpose of this report is to find out more about the typical eating habits of junior certificate students. Interest in this topic began following a discussion on healthy eating during our home economics class. We compiled a questionnaire which was distributed to all junior certificate students.


  • 24% of students regularly skip breakfast
  • 76% eat unhealthy snacks during morning break (these include chocolate, crisps, sweets, fizzy drinks, sausage rolls, wedges).
  • 58% bring a packed lunch, 12% go home, 17% eat in the canteen.
  • 13% rarely eat lunch.
  • 94% have a healthy hot dinner every day.


Students have a healthy balanced diet for the most part. Some students eat excessive amounts of junk food during morning break. There are also some concerns about the practice of skipping meals.


Introduce a special offer in the canteen whereby students can buy a bottle of water, pot of yoghurt and piece of fruit for €1.50 during morning break.

Arrange for a nutritionist to speak to all SPHE classes, focusing on the health benefits of healthy eating and the dangers of skipping meals.

Provide in-service training for teachers on recognising the symptoms of eating disorders.

Report writing – common mistakes

(A) Using casual, conversational language and abbreviations.

Examples =

  1. It’s obvious that SHOULD BE It is obvious that

  2. We’ve discovered SHOULD BE We have discovered

  3. …we’d look at SHOULD BE …we would examine

  4. We realised how bad students were eating SHOULD BE We realised how unhealthily students were eating.

  5. rubbish food SHOULD BE unhealthy or junk food

  6. Parents must give their kids SHOULD BE give their children

A report is an official document so always choose the most formal phrase you can.

(B) Offering personal opinions.

Examples =

  • Few leaving certs eat a breakfast which is surprising, you’d expect them to try and get a good start to the day considering they are facing such a big exam year.


  • 77% OF leaving certificate students don’t eat breakfast.
  • Lots of students eat chocolate, crisps and sweets during the day. This is disgraceful.


  • 76% eat unhealthy snacks during morning break (these include chocolate, crisps, sweets, fizzy drinks, sausage rolls, wedges)

A report presents the facts in clear simple direct language.

It is a scientific fact that skipping meals is unhealthy but there is no scientific proof that it is ‘disgraceful’. Get to the point and avoid giving your opinion.

(C) Taking too narrow a focus.

  • Instead of talking about all meals you only referred to lunch
  • Instead of asking about packed lunches you only looked at what was sold in the canteen (in this case it should be re-named “Report on the school canteen”)
  • You went totally off the point and assessed levels of obesity.

(D) Your method of finding out information was flawed – you used observation instead of a survey or questionnaire.

Why is this a problem?

Think of the example above – if you simply stand in the canteen and watch people eating you won’t be including everyone – the people who go home for lunch, those who go to town and those who bring a packed lunch – so your conclusions will be flawed. Also, you cannot get any exact statistics simply by watching. The whole point of a report is to find out more than you know or suspect already so you need exact figures.

(E) You were unrealistic which made the report seem fake!

  • “I interviewed all the students in our school” – this would be difficult, time consuming and unnecessary. A survey just needs to be given to a representative sample so that all effected groups are included. In this case if you want info. from the entire school give the survey to one class from each year group.
  • Some of your recommendations were unrealistic or impossible to enforce, for example “A new system will be introduced in the school canteen whereby students must buy at least one piece of fruit in order to purchase any other food” or “Warn parents that they must make their children eat breakfast”
  • Some ‘recommendations’ were vague or obvious, for example “students should have at least one piece of fruit a day”. This is simply stating a fact – it is not a recommendation of how to make it happen.

Spot the mistake(s) – here are sentences from reports written by my students:

Offer rewards if students can stay within their weekly amount of bad eating habits.

We decided to do more about the problem of eating.

Most of the students in fat don’t eat there (!) lunch sitting down.

The purpose of this report is to outline young people’s awareness of bad eating.

We went around the 2nd, 3rd and 5th yr classes and asked them questions.

The eating habits of students in our school is outrageous.

Now realistically speaking, how long do you think he will live, eating this way everyday. Not very long the rate he is going.

A meeting by the student council has brought the attention to the students that…

Chocolate is the worst. Most students eats it, not many eats crisps.

First years are the most who go to the chipper for lunch.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT – try writing the following report

“As a member of your student council you have been asked to prepare a report on the changes students would like to see made in your school. The report will be presented to the Principal and the Board of Management”.


[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWkHjU3phuo]

Question & Answer Format.

Obviously when deciding what questions to ask a huge amount depends on the person you are interviewing and on where the interview will be published. The interviewer wants to discover something new or interesting about the celebrity/writer/sportsperson/personality they are interviewing. The reader does not want to be left feeling that they’ve heard it all before!

However, most interviewers will think about 3 broad categories when coming up with questions.


  • their childhood and how they became the person they are today.
  • past successes and failures in their career.
  • past scandals in their personal life.
  • other jobs they’ve done (or previous tours/tournaments/shows/books).


  • what are they working on currently.
  • what they like/dislike about their current job.
  • how their career impacts on their personal life.
  • recent successes and failures.
  • recent scandals and how they coped with the fall-out.


  • what is their next project.
  • will they ever change career/focus or do this until they die?
  • do they have any fears for the future? things they’re looking forward to?

The tone tends to be very informal, you write as you would speak – this is after all a conversation that then gets written down.

Keep the questions short and the answers fairly long.

Avoid cursing or blank it out e.g. “For f*** sake, I can’t believe she said that

Writer’s often introduce the interview with a paragraph describing where they met, what the interviewee was wearing, the interviewee’s general mood, friendliness and demeanour and a comment on how long the writer had to wait, how long the interview lasted, who else was there, if the interviewee’s phone rang during the interview – and if they answered it!

Sample Interview:

The first thing I notice on entering his house is the smell – a mixture of pipe tobacco, smouldering turf and men’s cologne. The second is that this is a man who knows what he likes – one glance reveals a room crammed full of books, expensive liquor, paintings of beautiful women and the carcasses of stuffed animals. He’s made no secret in the past of hating journalists so my heart is doing a conga beat as I arrive for our interview. I needn’t have worried however. Yes, he hates journos but he loves women, which is undoubtedly why my bosses sent me. He bows low, kisses my hand theatrically, helps me out of my coat, and offers me a drink. As he prepares a whiskey sour I look around. Despite being a married man and father of three, this is a bachelor’s dream pad. I’m about to lower myself into an armchair but he catches my elbow, steers me over to the couch and once we’re sitting in close proximity I’m suddenly very conscious of the plunging neckline of my blood-red dress. I decide the best thing is to start the interview before I get any more flustered.

ME: So what drew you to the theatre?

BILL: …hmm (teasing) I haven’t been asked that one before!…well, I like telling stories, and there was a small theatre in my town growing up so I guess I just embraced what I knew instead of turning to something completely alien. And I must be doing something right because the audiences keep coming.

ME: That’s true, your plays have been enormously successful. Do you read what the critics say too or is it just important to keep joe public happy?

BILL: (smiling, pausing thoughtfully)…the thing is, critics are a bit like teachers. If they were doing what they love instead of just talking about it then maybe they wouldn’t be so bitter, maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to criticise everyone else for their own failings. If they’re so bloody good at figuring out what works on stage, then why don’t they write their own bloody plays instead of trying to fix everyone elses.

(At this point he drains his glass and strides over to the sideboard for another. I sense it’s time to change the subject).

ME: so if you weren’t a writer, what kind of career appeals to you?

Again he pauses, and this time positively smirks while answering.

BILL: I’d like to see more women on stage.. I have an eye for beautiful women you know.

ME: But don’t you worry you might land yourself in trouble with the long arm of the law?

BILL: Well you and I both know I’ve already been in trouble with them on more than one occasion. But no, I think times are changing and we need to keep up.

ME: How interesting! If you were running the country what changes would you make?

BILL: I’d certainly never get in the way of the monarchy. The arts in this country would be dead without their patronage. I’d probably extend access to education so that scholarships were available for kids from poorer backgrounds. I’d improve the roads – it takes too long to get anywhere from London if your horse keeps losing his shoes on rough cobble and loose rocks. And I’d take a firmer stance on highway robbery too, those thugs deserve nothing less than the death penalty if you ask me!

ME: Strong sentiments. Can you tell my readers a little bit about your newest play? I believe it’s opening next week in the Globe?

BILL: Yes, we’re hoping for big crowds. Of course only a select crowd can attend the opening night on Monday with his majesty in attendence. But then it’s every evening at six o clock – thankfully the evenings are still bright so we don’t have to start at four like in winter! The basic storyline has all my favourite elements – love, lust, violence, murder, betrayal. The central character is really just an everyman, wanting to satisfy his own desires but also desperate to do the right thing. I think it’ll be a smash hit. Now let me get you another drink? We’ve surely talked enough about me…

William Shakespeare’s new play opens next week in The Globe. Royal Gala performance Monday, 13th September, 1599 @ 6pm.