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Case study examination: tourist brochure dissected

An examiner discusses the opening paragraphs of three candidates’ answers in the


NEAB’s Case Study examination.

The opening of any newspaper article has got to grab your attention immediately, otherwise you
won’t read it, however interesting or relevant it might be. These three texts below were the
opening paragraphs of answers in this year’s NEAB Case Study examination. Candidates had to
write an article for a tabloid newspaper featuring unusual places of interest and possible
educational value, to enable parents to decide for themselves whether to go on a visit. Sellafield
was the unusual place.

Successful answers to NEAB Case Studies and to the AEB’s Textual Recasting and Edexcel’s Desk
Studies are similar to newspaper articles. Like them, one of the most important factors in success
is the opening. It must make the examiner want to read on. Of course, if the only good thing about
the answer is its start, then few marks would be gained.

The most important question that examiners ask of any script in this part of the examination is:
how effective would this be for its intended reader? So, if it’s meant to be a radio programme,
would the listener have switched off way before the end? Or if you’re writing a prospectus for a
nursery school, would parents be keen to send their children to your school? If after reading
answers to this second assignment the examiner is quite sure that Kiddiewinks is only slightly
preferable to Wormwood Scrubs, then obviously it’s been an ineffective prospectus and that
candidate has got to fail.

Clearly in our three examples, Text Two is a non-starter. It plunges straight in by giving you AA-
type directions to Sellafield and provides little context for the writing. In fact, we’re not told what
Sellafield actually is, no BNFL. So although there might well be interactive experiments and
fascinating displays of technology, these could be on the mating habits of Abyssinian guinea pigs or
sewage disposal. We just don’t know. Would parents take their children off into the unknown?
Though readers might well guess something about Sellafield from the later reference to nuclear
fuel, what they certainly don’t want is a science essay on reprocessing, which is what the script
seems to be turning into.

So Text Two comes out bottom of the pile. It’s a little less easy to decide which of the other two
texts would be the more effective, because they’ve both got good qualities. They’ve both chosen a
friendly and approachable tone in which to address the reader; they’re both quite informative and
neither overwhelms you with technological information. But, on balance, the winner has got to be
Text One because it’s snappy, gets straight to the point (who would actually think of visiting a
nuclear power station?) and addresses the readers (Fear not). Text Three at times seems just a
little too much like a formal lecture (nuclear power plants are licensed on the basis that there will
be no undue hazard or significant effect on the public health or safety). Just for comparison, and
because articles should not only begin strongly but also end strongly, here’s the opening of a recent
Sunday Mirror feature on another unusual place to visit - a dude ranch in Texas.

Jason could hit a jackrabbit at 10 feet with a shot of his baccy juice. His dip tin,
the mark of a real cowboy, made a permanent bulge in the back of his
Wranglers.
Do y’all know how to make the horses stop and go? He drawled as we rode out
on the trail from the Bar H Dude Ranch.
I grunted nonchalantly, South London’s answer to the Lone Ranger. Minutes
later I was unmasked. The trail boss bawled me out for overtaking the lead
horse at a fast trot.
You have to hold the horse back or he’ll tire early, Jason explained. The
American Quarterhorse is bred for slow cattle drives from Texas to Montana. But
race him and he’ll tire after a quarter mile - which is how he got his name.

The writer here would be well on the way to an A grade in English Language A-level. I’m sure she’ll
be pleased to know that. e

Text one

Unusual indeed! Who would actually think of visiting a nuclear power station? Well, last year
170,000 people not only considered it, they actually went. Of course, they didn’t go inside the plant
itself, they went to the Sellafield Visitors’ Centre. This is a wonder of modern technology, highly
computerised and adding to its list of attractions all the time. If money is a worry, fear not.
Admission is free. Funded by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd ( BNFL ), who own Sellafield, the centre is
open for visitors to see what really goes on there.

Text two

The Sellafield Visitors’ Centre is off the A595 west Cumbrian coast road and promises an amazing
interactive experience containing all the excitement you can handle.
It’s a totally different experience that explores and explains the world of BNFL. Designed to inform
and entertain the whole family, Sellafield features interactive experiments, intriguing shows and
fascinating displays of technology.
Sellafield was set up in 1972 when used nuclear fuel was transported from European reactors for
reprocessing.
What is reprocessing?
Once fuel has been put into a reactor and irradiated it is know as ‘spent fuel’. There are two
different ways to manage spent fuel. It can either be stored in a dry store or underwater disposal,
which is the choice for most spent fuel. Reprocessing involves a simple chemical process of
dissolving the spent fuel in nitric acid.

Text three

Firstly, don’t be put off by the reputation, rumours and jokes about Sellafield. In our opinion it
provides one of the most enjoyable and educational days out available in Britain.

So, what is there at Sellafield?

In short, a lot. Firstly there is the nuclear power plant Sellafield is known for. Now, don’t be
alarmed by this. There is no danger at all. Nuclear plants are licensed on the basis that there will
be no undue hazard or significant effect on the public health and safety. There is certainly a lot that
can be learnt about how nuclear energy is made at Sellafield, but there is another aspect to
Sellafield you may find even more interesting. The Sellafield plant houses one of only three nuclear
reprocessing plants in the world.