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SQA National 5 English: An expert guide to National 5 RUAE

Note: the techniques and approaches listed are not exhaustive and definitive. Rather, they are based on analysis of the last 7 years of SQA RUAE N5 past papers and are only suggestions.

Before Beginning the Questions:

Before you begin the passage, always ask yourself two questions:

· what is the passage about?

· How does the writer feel about the subject?

The answer to the first question helps you with context, whilst the answer to the second question will help you identify the types of words, sentence structure, images and tone the writer will use. The italics before the passage will often offer a guide to these questions but do not always offer definitive answers.

Types of question


Understanding Questions

For the most part, these questions involve putting information into YOUR OWN WORDS. For a number of years this has been signposted in the question with the words, ‘use your own words in your answer.’

Your basic approach to doing this should be:

· Find the information

· Highlight it

· Put it in your own words

How do I put things into my own words?

There are a number of strategies for this:

· Substitute one word for another

· Substitute a phrase for a word

· Ask yourself: what idea is the writer communicating?

· Interpret/ quantify numbers and dates. This is something that candidates often fail to do but it is quite simple. For example, 1920 becomes over 100 years ago and 140, 000 000 becomes an enormous number.

Context Questions - rare

These are usually worth 2 marks. You should say what the word means(1) and how you know this form surrounding words(1). For the second mark, quote and say how these words helped you understand.


Question: Show how the lines 28-42 help you to understand the meaning of the word ‘Armageddon’

Answer The word ‘Armageddon’ means total destruction. (1st mark). I know this because he uses phrases such as ‘the end of the world is nigh’ which shows the word means the world would be destroyed. (2nd mark).

The underlined parts can always be used when doing this type of question.

Link questions.

Remember you can also get link sentences and you would just deal with them in this way:

1.You find the part of the sentence that links to the paragraph before then quote it

2.Say what it links to in the paragraph before


3.Quote the part that links to what is still to come

4.Say what it links to


Question 2019 Paper.. By referring to any part of the sentence in line 28 (‘The futuristic nature…, he says’), explain how it helps to provide a link between the writer’s ideas at this point in the passage.

Answer: ‘futuristic nature’ links back (1) to ‘space age’ (2) or a summary of this: the advanced technology mentioned in the last paragraph


‘didn’t understand’ links forward (1) to ‘didn’t know their purpose’ (2) or a summary of this: weren’t sure how to use drive-thrus as mentioned in the rest of the paragraph

Analysis Questions

These questions involve looking at techniques, using quotes, and offering explanations. When answering, think: what does it mean? Why is it being used?

One quote and explanation will get you two marks- one for the quote and one for the analysis. Language or style questions mean you can comment on any of the following. Try to keep your quotes short and focused.

Sentence Structure

Remember to be detailed- what is being emphasised? Also, you should remember to quote at all times. The underlined parts should always be used when answering these questions. Remember to quantify- ‘the amount…’ is not enough; you must say ‘the huge amount…’ etc.

Short sentence: bluntly emphasises its content, adds drama.

Example: The short sentence ‘There is a lot to be done.’ bluntly emphasises the writer’s belief that there is much work to be completed in combating these industries.

List: emphasises variety and number of things.

Example: The list ‘other cultures … climates’ emphasises the huge number of things that air travel allows people to experience.

Repetition: emphasise something- say what is being emphasised.

Example The repetition of ‘We need’ emphasises the idea that society as a whole must come together and fight these companies.

The above are the most likely features of sentence structure. Indeed, knowledge of the three techniques listed above would be able you to answer any analysis question from the past 7 years which allows you to comment on sentence structure.

However, you might also comment on topic sentences- the first sentence in a paragraph – which might bluntly introduce the topic.

You might comment on how sentences start ‘Originally … After that’ which might communicate a sequence.

You might also be asked about parallelism- where sentences are repeatedly structured/ balanced in the same way.

Example: ‘Don’t buy a baby walker, your toddlers might brain themselves. Don’t buy plastic baby teethers, your baby might suck in harmful chemicals.’ This emphasises all the things they discourage you from buying and underscore their idea that there is threat everywhere/ everything is dangerous/ has consequences.

Word Choice.

You should try to say what the definition/ connotations of these words are and why they are used. Try to keep your quotes to 1 word if possible

Follow this structure:



context (he, she they, it)

2 connotations

Example: ‘crammed’ suggests they were kept in claustrophobic, unpleasant conditions


If you are dealing with imagery – usually a simile, personification or a metaphor – then there are two stages:

  1. say what the connotations of the image are- give two connotations

  2. say what connotations the subject shares with the image, again giving two but using different words.

Example: ‘Just as a tumour is unhealthy, ugly and can lead to serious illness or death (stage 1), so too was London destructive to the country, filled with disease and unpleasant to look at. (stage 2).


Often a part of sentence structure but not the first thing you should look at. Look out for colons and dashes that come before an explanation- they introduce an expansion or explanation, a list or extra information. Say what it is a list of or extra info about. To find out what is being introduced, look just before the dash or colon.

Semi-colons split up a list, creating a definite break between each item. They also set up a contrast

Inverted commas show speech. The writer might use them to show they are someone else’s words and not the writers, to show a quote, or show the writer doubts what is being said. It might also be used to mock an idea

Parenthesis is a regularly used feature- it is information contained within two rackets, two dashes, or two commas. You should say that parenthesis is used to emphasise the extra information contained within the punctuation.


You should try and quote with these questions. They are similar to analysis questions but you should say how effective something is

Say it is effective and why using quotes as evidence.

Mostly, they ask you about how effective a sentence or a paragraph is as a conclusion- look for links to ideas earlier in the passage or even the title and state what they are. This gives a sense that the writer is summing up/ emphasising a point.



  1. this is effective because…

  2. quote (1 mark)

  3. links back to _________ say what it links back to

  4. earlier in the passage/ at the start of the passage (2nd mark)


This is effective because ‘in a different century’ (1 mark) links back to the mention of the 1970s and 1980s earlier in the passage (2nd mark)

You might also be asked about introductory paragraphs. Look for the following:

It introduces what the passage/ essay will be about- say what.

Questions compel the reader to think… or ask questions that will force you to read on to get the answers

Use of the word ‘you’ involves the reader

Short sentences/ powerful word choice.

Other types of Nat 5 questions

Attitude and how the writer’s language shows this

1/ say what the attitude is

2/ quote

3/ explain the quote

Explain what the writer means by ‘____________’

In this question, you should explain what the words mean. You will be helped to do this by the lines you are directed to. It is very similar to a context question.

We hope this RUAE N5 guide provided some great help and support to you and wish you well in your N5 English course.

If you need support in National 5 or Higher subjects you can book classes here.

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