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Spanish A Level (AQA): Tips for writing a successful literature or film essay

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

In Paper 2 of the AQA A Level Spanish exam, students write one essay for each of the two works they have studied (which can be a text and a film, or two texts).

Students are asked to write approximately 300 words for each question within a 2-hour duration for the whole paper. Although there is no word limit in the AQA A Level exam, and everything you write will be assessed, writing more words does not necessarily mean achieving more marks. Being concise and giving a clear response demonstrate that your reflections and your evaluation of the text or film are strong and accurate.

Essays are assessed according to two criteria: AO3 and AO4. In this post we break down the requirements of each of the Assessment Objectives and look at how you can fulfil them and write an outstanding essay.

Assessment Objective 3 (AO3)

This measures the student’s ability to manipulate the language accurately, in spoken and written forms, using a range of lexis and structure.

The specification gives the following description for the highest marking band:

The language produced is mainly accurate with only occasional minor errors. The student shows a consistently secure grasp of grammar and is able to manipulate complex language accurately.

💡Tip: Use complex language and vocabulary effectively and appropriately.

The words "effectively" and "appropriately" are important here. It's certainly not necessary to copy out entire pre-learned sentences or rely on formulaic language.

The 2022 Examiner's Report from AQA notes that

There is a fine line between using complex language with a range of structures and forcing inappropriate subjunctives or pre-learned phrases into an essay.


The key is to strike the balance between showcasing advanced writing skills and avoiding redundant phrases, or phrases that are stylistically out of place.

Take a moment to read these further comments from the same Examiner's Report:

On the whole it is more important to have the vocabulary needed to express points clearly and to be able to deal with tenses and verbs accurately. It is not appropriate to use phrases such as ‘que yo sepa’ in a literature/film essay, nor the ‘if/would’ structure that we see all the time [...]. Similarly, expressions of emotion that are followed by a subjunctive are out of place in this style of essay; for example ‘me enfada que Paco trate a Paula de esta manera’.

The highest-achieving students are those who are able to use the full range of verb tenses to convey their ideas without relying on pre-learned structures.

Avoid overusing the subjunctive and set phrases; instead, focus on your ability to express yourself clearly and accurately in your writing.

Try some other more complex sentence structures:

  • Comparative formulations: Este personaje evolucionó mucho más rápido de lo que el lector esperaba.

  • Using the reflexive as a passive where appropriate: Las luces en esta escena se usaron para crear una atmósfera de suspense.

Here is the second part of the description for the top marking band under AO3:

The student uses a wide range of vocabulary appropriate to the context and the task.

💡Tip: Employ a broad range of appropriate vocabulary.

This could include:

  • Words and expressions related to film: El primer plano / El enfoque / La perspectiva …

  • Literary words and expressions: En este pasaje / La obra / La escena / El diálogo …

  • Vocabulary related to the specific text or film. For example, show an understanding of the Colombian Spanish words in “El coronel no tiene quien le escriba” by García Márquez and the terminology related to the historical context.

You will naturally pick up this vocabulary throughout your A Level Spanish course, but you can also refer to our in-course resources and the Quizlet lists for inspiration.

Assessment Objective 4 (AO4)

This measures the student’s ability to show knowledge and understanding of, and respond critically and analytically to, different aspects of the culture and society of countries/communities where the language is spoken. The description for the highest marking band is as follows:

Knowledge of the text or film is consistently accurate and detailed. Opinions, views and conclusions are consistently supported by relevant and appropriate evidence from the text or film.

💡Tip: Support each of your points with relevant and appropriate evidence.

Although you are not strictly required to learn quotations by heart (according to the AQA examiners, it’s enough to paraphrase something that a character said), it’s important to have a clear idea of specific events and plot points to reinforce the arguments that you make.

When you re-read your book or re-watch your film, create a knowledge organiser such as a table or mindmap with your own notes on important characters, themes and plot points so that you can revise them easily and have plenty of examples for your essay.

A clear structure is essential to help you organise your ideas. When you plan your essay, make sure there is a reference to the text or film to demonstrate every point that you make and help you to develop your argument.

You can follow this framework:

Introduction - The beginning must include a brief outline of the topic and, very importantly, your thesis statement (the sentence that sums up the central point or idea of your essay).

Each of the following main paragraphs should develop one strong point that relates and justifies the main idea of your essay, and must be supported with specific examples from the book or film.

Point 1

Evidence from the book / film


Link to title

Point 2

Evidence from the book / film


Link to title

Point 3

Evidence from the book / film


Link to title

Conclusion - The last paragraph should include a short but strong conclusion that summarises your evaluation in relation to the original essay question.

Finally, the descriptor for the top marking band under AO4 specifies that:

The essay demonstrates excellent evaluation of the issues, themes and the cultural and social contexts of the text or film studied.

💡Tip: Focus on evaluation and not description.

As we’ve seen, AO4 focuses on the ability to respond critically and analytically. One common mistake when writing about a film or a text, though, is writing in a descriptive way, simply narrating or recalling events that take place instead of analysing their impact on the subject at hand.

In the same way that a template of the structure can help you write your essay, some sentence starters can guide you to make your paragraphs more analytical. For example:

Make your point:

Es evidente que … / Se puede afirmar que…

Give some evidence:

Una prueba de ello es que …

Develop your point in relation to the original question:

Por consecuencia...

De esto se deduce que…

To summarise:

Use complex language and vocabulary effectively and appropriately.
✅ Employ a broad range of appropriate vocabulary.
✅ Support each of your points with relevant and appropriate evidence.
✅ Focus on evaluation and not description.

Most importantly, practice essay writing as often as you can and use tutor feedback to your advantage!


Kate Maria Languages A Level Academy runs complete A Level courses in Modern Foreign Languages. Find out more about our Spanish A Level course or get in contact to discuss how we can support you.


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