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


Textual Analysis Practice

Close Reading, Textual Analysis

Please read the following article in The Scotsman newspaper.

Print it out and annotate it, identifying all examples of imagery, sentence structure, word choice, tone and sound.

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!

Marking Instructions

Close Reading

It’s really important that you look at the Marking Instructions for Higher English Close Reading. These will give you a really clear idea about what the marker is looking for. Click on the link to find the Marking Instructions for the 2009 Higher English Close Reading Paper.

Different Tones

Close Reading

I’ve listed some examples of tone below. Hopefully these will help you with your close reading.

1. accusatory-    charge of wrong doing
2. apathetic-    indifferent due to lack of energy or concern
3. awe-    solemn wonder
4. bitter-    exhibiting strong animosity as a result of pain or grief
5. cynical-    questions the basic sincerity and goodness of people
6. condescension; condescending-    a feeling of superiority
7. callous-    unfeeling, insensitive to feelings of others
8. contemplative-    studying, thinking, reflecting on an issue
9. critical-    finding fault
10. choleric-    hot-tempered, easily angered
11. contemptuous-    showing or feeling that something is worthless or lacks respect
12. caustic-    intense use of sarcasm; stinging, biting
13. conventional-    lacking spontaneity, originality, and individuality
14. disdainful-    scornful
15. didactic-    author attempts to educate or instruct the reader
16. derisive-    ridiculing, mocking
17. earnest-    intense, a sincere state of mind
18. erudite-    learned, polished, scholarly
19. fanciful-    using the imagination
20. forthright-    directly frank without hesitation
21. gloomy-    darkness, sadness, rejection
22. haughty-    proud and vain to the point of arrogance
23. indignant-    marked by anger aroused by injustice
24. intimate-    very familiar
25. judgmental-    authoritative and often having critical opinions
26. jovial-    happy
27. lyrical-    expressing a poet’s inner feelings; emotional; full of images; song-like
28. matter-of-fact–    accepting of conditions; not fanciful or emotional
29. mocking-    treating with contempt or ridicule
30. morose-    gloomy, sullen, surly, despondent
31. malicious-    purposely hurtful
32. objective-    an unbiased view-able to leave personal judgments aside
33. optimistic-    hopeful, cheerful
34. obsequious-    polite and obedient in order to gain something
35. patronizing-    air of condescension
36. pessimistic-    seeing the worst side of things; no hope
37. quizzical-    odd, eccentric, amusing
38. ribald-    offensive in speech or gesture
39. reverent-    treating a subject with honor and respect
40. ridiculing-    slightly contemptuous banter; making fun of
41. reflective-    illustrating innermost thoughts and emotions
42. sarcastic-    sneering, caustic
43. sardonic-    scornfully and bitterly sarcastic
44. satiric-    ridiculing to show weakness in order to make a point, teach
45. sincere-    without deceit or pretense; genuine
46. solemn-    deeply earnest, tending toward sad reflection
47. sanguineous –    optimistic, cheerful
48. whimsical-    odd, strange, fantastic; fun

Higher English – Holiday Study Tasks

Close Reading, Critical Essay Writing

It’s only 8 weeks until the Higher English Prelim. As such, it’s really important that you spend a little time studying during the Christmas holidays.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t relax and enjoy the festive season, but you should also arrange your time so that you can undertake the following tasks as an absolute minimum.

Remember that you make your own choices and that only you can put in enough work to get the grade you desire.

Task 1
Spend 1 hour undertaking the following critical essay task on any Drama text.

Choose a play in which a character makes a crucial error.
Explain what the error is and discuss to what extent it is important to your
understanding of the character’s situation in the play as a whole.

Task 2
Spend 1 hour undertaking the following critical essay task on any Prose text.

Choose a novel with an ending which you found unexpected.
Explain briefly in what way the ending is unexpected and go on to discuss to what
extent it is a satisfactory conclusion to the novel.

Task 3
Click on the link below. It takes you to the assessment criteria for Higher English Critical Essays. Self assess your essays, based on this criteria, identifying a mark and 2 improvement points. This task should take about 1 hour.

SQA Marking Criteria

Task 4
Click on the link below and undertake Paper 1 of the Close Reading past paper. This should take approximately 1 hour.

SQA 2008

Task 5
Click on the link below and undertake all of the Close Reading past paper. This should take approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes.

SQA 2010

Good Luck. If you have any questions about any of these tasks, please post a message using the link at the top of the screen.

Imagery Practice

Close Reading, Language

Comment on the imagery used in the following extracts:

The shipyard cranes have come down again
To drink at the river, turning their long necks
And saying to their reflections on the Clyde,
“How noble we are.”

The gas mantle putted like a sick man’s heart. Dimmed to a bead of light, it made the room as mysterious as a chapel. The polished furniture, enriched by darkness, entombed fragments of the firelight that moved like tapers in a tunnel. The brasses glowed like icons.

But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You sieze the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white – then melts for ever.

Textual Analysis Practice

Language, Textual Analysis

Read this extract from ‘Oliver Twist,’ by Charles Dickens, answering the questions that follow.

The room in which the boys were fed was a large stone hall, with a copper at one end; out of which the master, dressed in an apron for the purpose, and assisted by one or two women, ladled the gruel at mealtimes. Of this festive composition the boys had one porringer and no more – except on occasions of public rejoicing when he had two ounces and a quarter of bread besides. The bowls never wanted washing. The boys polished them with their spoons again till they shone again; and when they had performed this operation (which never took very long, the spoons being nearly as large as the bowls), they would sit staring at the copper, with such eager eyes, as if they could have devoured the very bricks of which it was composed; employing themselves meanwhile, in sucking their fingers most assiduously, with the view of catching up any stray splashes of gruel that might have been cast thereon. Boys have generally excellent appetites. Oliver Twist and his companions suffered the tortures of slow starvation for three months. At last they got so voracious and wild with hunger, that one boy who was tall for his age, hinted darkly to his companions that unless he had another basin of gruel, he was afraid he might some night happen to eat the boy sleeping next to him, who happened to be a weakly youth of tender age. He had a wild, hungry eye and they implicitly believed him. A council was held; lots were cast for who should walk up to the master after supper that evening and ask for more; and it fell to Oliver Twist.

The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, in his cook’s uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves beside him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered to each other and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity,-

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed with stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds; and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralyzed with wonder, the boys with fear.

“What!” said the master at length, in a faint voice.

“Please, sir,” replied Oliver, “I want some more.”

The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle, pinioned him in his arms, and shrieked aloud for the beadle.


1) How does the author use sentence structure to convey the hunger of the boys in paragraph 1. (3)

2) How does the context of “temerity,” in the 2nd paragraph help you to understand its meaning? (2)

3) How does the author use word choice in the 4th paragraph to convey the reaction of the master to Oliver’s request? (2)

4) How effective is Charles Dickens in conveying the contrast between those who distributed the food and those who ate it. (3)