Higher & National 5 Prelims

Close Reading, Creative Writing, Critical Essay Writing, Discursive Writing, Language, Welcome

Good luck to all Vale of Leven Academy pupils with their prelim exams on Monday. Work as hard as you can this weekend & do your very best. We have great faith in you all.


Close Reading Challenge

Close Reading, Language

Please read the passage and answer the questions that follow:

Glasgow is a city which has experienced constant change and adaptation, from its period as a great industrial city and as the Second City of Empire, to its latter day reinvention as the City of Culture and the Second City of Shopping. This is a city with pull, buzz, excitement, and a sense of style and its own importance. It has a potent international reach and influence. Glasgow’s story continually weaves in and out of a global urban tapestry: following the trade threads of Empire, there are nearly two dozen towns and cities around the world named after Glasgow—from Jamaica to Montana to Nova Scotia. And there is even a Glasgow on the moon.

Glasgow’s constant proclamation of its present success story is justified on the basis that it benefits the city: confidence will breed confidence, tourists will visit, businesses will relocate and students will enrol. But, despite the gains this approach has brought for Glasgow and cities like it, there are signs that the wind is starting to come out of the sails. What felt radical when Dublin, Barcelona and Glasgow embarked on the city makeover path in the late 1980s and early 1990s, now feels derivative and is delivering diminishing returns. When every city has commissioned a celebrity architect and pedestrianised a cultural quarter, distinctiveness is reduced to a formula.

(a) Explain why, according to the writer, Glasgow was in the past an important world city. (1) U

(b) Explain why Glasgow could be considered important now. (1) U

(c) Show how the writer’s use of language (“This is a city . . . the moon.”) emphasises Glasgow’s importance. (2) A

(d) What does the writer mean by the words “radical” and “derivative” in his discussion of city development? (2) U

(e) Show how the writer’s use of language in the second paragraph suggests his doubts about the alleged “success story” of Glasgow. (4) A

Gatsby Questions

Critical Essay Writing

Choose a novel in which envy or malice or cruelty plays a significant part.

Explain how the writer makes you aware of this aspect of the text and discuss how the writer’s exploration of it enhances your understanding of the text as a whole.


Choose a novel in which the death of a character clarifies an important theme in the text.

Show how this theme is explored in the novel as a whole and discuss how the death of the character clarifies the theme.


Choose a novel or short story which explores loss or futility or failure.

Discuss how the writer explores one of these ideas in a way you find effective.


Choose a novel in which a main character refuses to accept advice or to conform to expectations.

Explainthe circumstancesofthe refusal anddiscuss its importance toyourunderstanding of the character in the novel as a whole.


Choose a novel or short story in which there is a character who is not only realistic as a person but who has symbolic significance in the text as a whole.

Show how the writer makes you aware of both aspects of the character


Choose a novel in which friendship or love is put to the test.

Explain briefly how this situation arises and go on to discuss how the outcome of the test leads you to a greater understanding of the central concern(s) of the text.


Choose a novel in which a central character is flawed but remains an admirable figure.

Show how the writer makes you aware of these aspects of personality and discuss how this feature of characterisation enhances your appreciation of the text as a whole.

Close Reading Practice

Close Reading

Read the following article from today’s Herald, answering the questions that follow.

SIXTY luxury apartments at a troubled waterfront development are being sold in bulk for the bargain price of £8 million. The unusual sale comes at one section of a controversial multi-million pound redevelopment of the shoreline stretching from Granton to Leith in Edinburgh. It was claimed the price tag is vastly below the market value. However, high-end estate agents Savills, who are conducting the sale on behalf of the investment company that owns the property, Europa Apartments, insisted yesterday that the flats were being sold at market value.

But one property source said last night the high speculation of such flats would mean prices could range from between £150,000 to £200,000 for a two-bedroom flat and considerably more for a three-bedroom apartment. The flats are currently being rented out and make about £540,000 a year. Gordon Munro, Labour councillor for the area, said last night that while the low-cost sale was another blow for the wider district it could also bring the development within the price range of a social housing buyer.

“It has been disappointing what has happened with the waterfront,” he said. Seven years ago, the £300m masterplan for the area included 3000 apartments and more than 23,000 square metres of commercial and business space created. Cafes, shops and restaurants were also to line a canal passing through the middle of the scheme at that stage. It is not the only such regeneration project to be scaled back after the economic downturn.

In Glasgow, Australian tycoon Rodney Price’s multi-million pound plans to transform the waterfront were scrapped more than two years ago after the developer went bankrupt, with a further proposal also folding because of the recession.

1. How does the author use word choice to convey what type of estate agent Savills are?  A (2)

2.  What is Gordon Munro’s opinion about the sale of these flats?  U (2)

3. How does the writer’s language in paragraph 3 convey the initial expectations for this project?  A (4)

4. How does the author make clear the context of the word “folding,” in the final paragraph?  U (2)

Understanding Questions

Close Reading
  1. Context questions – find the meaning of a word or a phrase from the context of that word (the other words around it.) You must quote these other words and define the original word
  2. Link Questions – go to the part of the passage as directed. Find a bit before that links to this and quote it. Then, find a bit that follows it that links to it and quote it. Also, quote any link words, such as “additionally,” “yet,” “despite this,” etc.
  3. Find information and quote.
  4. Find information and put into your own words. (default)


Close Reading

Word Choice

Consider the connotation.

Identify example and go on to say “this suggests that…”


  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Personification

Identify example and go on to say “in the same way as…”

Sentence Structure

Climax – creates a climax or anticlimax through a build-up of detail

Repetition – through repetition, the reader’s attention is focused on something that you must identify

Inversion – the subject and the predicate are switched to focus the reader’s attention on the object, or to delay the subject

Parenthesis – used to add additional information that must be identified

Punctuation – focus on colon, semi colon, exclamation mark and question mark

Length of sentence – short sentence focuses the reader’s attention on the whole sentence. Long sentence will exaggerate the number of points being made.

Ellipsis – … will create suspense or will demonstrate that there is additional information that the writer has chosen not to share.

Identify the element of sentence structure and explain its effect


There are as many tones as there are ways of saying or writing anything. As such, we will deal with tone separately. In the meantime, consider irony, flippancy, anger and humour.


Assonance – where there is a repetition of a vowel sound, the reader’s attention is focused on the sound being described.

Alliteration – where there is a repetition of a sound at the start of a word, the reader’s attention is focused on the sound being described.

Onomatopoeia – where the sound that is being described is made by saying the word aloud. This will focus the reader’s attention on the sound being made.

Easter Study Programme

Close Reading, Critical Essay Writing

Whilst everyone else will be celebrating the end of term and the start of their Easter holiday, it’s important that you realise that the next fortnight is a huge opportunity for you to increase your skills, knowledge, and understanding, in advance of the forthcoming diet of SQA exams.

I would recommend at least 1 hour of English study every day. If you didn’t pass the prelim exam, I would suggest that you should be doing between 90 minutes and 2 hours of study each day.

The following should be considered the basis of the study that you undertake:

  • Click on this link:



Read all of the Critical Essay questions and ensure that you can undertake at least 2 from each section. Write a plan, including the quotations that you would use, for each response.

  • Read the following marking guide for Critical Essays. It is imperative that you are fully aware of the criteria for a pass in the Critical Essay.

SQA Marking Criteria

  • Click on this link: 


There are 6 years of past papers – make sure that you have undertaken all of these Close Reading passages.

  • Work through the following Close Reading guide that has been produced by Glasgow City Council. It is very good.

Close Reading Guide

If you have any difficulty undertaking these tasks, please message me via the comment link below.

Remember, you will only get out what you put in!