Evaluation questions are the most difficult of all the questions you’ll face in Higher English close reading. Fortunately, if you don’t like evaluation questions, now that the last question has been changed from a comparative evaluation question to a summarising question, the amount of evaluating you have to do has dropped drastically. It’s still important though.
When we evaluate we judge. If we are going to judge something we need some sort of understanding of the context, a reference or what someone was trying to do. We can really only judge a comedy film, if we know it is a film intended to make us laugh. When we don’t laugh, we can say that the comedy film is not very effective. A horror novel that does scare us can be said to be very effective.
When we have to evaluate in Higher English close reading passages, we have to understand the purpose of the writer. When we understand the writer’s purpose, we can then judge whether the ideas he uses to support his arguments or the language he uses to be persuasive are effective. And, then we can start to think about why they are effective.
Nearly all the Higher English close reading passages are taken from newspapers; the odd one from a magazine, but that is rare. These passages are the types of newspaper article found in what is called the Comment section. The Comment section has opinion based articles in which the writer is trying to, generally, persuade the reader to his or her point of view. To judge the success of the writer’s persuasiveness, the reader has to understand the subject matter of the article and the point of view being promoted.
Once the reader has understood subject matter and promulgated point of view, he or she can decide whether the ideas used in the article are good ones for the purpose – are they effective? – and whether the literary techniques used are effective too.
It will be less common now, but there is a formula to explaining how the ideas in a passage are effective: 1) say what the idea is 2) explain why it is or is not effective with reference to the purpose of the passage.
Evaluation of literary techniques still makes an appearance and a formula can be used for this too: 1) identify a technique 2) describe the effects on the reader 3) judge whether those effects are useful in strengthening the persuasive purpose of the article
Remember, that in persuasive articles a writer may include things he is not in favour of so that he can write about them in a way that repels or dissuades the reader.
To conclude, evaluation is rarer now, but still important. As with all Higher English close reading, understand the article first; understand the argument of the article; understand the meaning of every sentence, then you will be in a position to evaluate.
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