It is clear that those who study the other single texts tend to face easier questions (as was the case last year with The Great Gatsby). So there were straightforward character questions on Pride and Prejudice and Empire of the Sun, for instance, and a typical 'vision and viewpoint' one on the bleakness of Never Let Me Go. Perhaps some schools will reconsider tackling Shakespeare as the single text.
The two modes in the Comparative section were Vision and Viewpoint and Cultural Context (at the expense of the probably more popular Theme). There were fair questions here.
Tediously, of course, most of the talk will be about poetry (70 out of 400 marks), and the setters threw another curve-ball here after yesterday's Heaney essay on the language paper. His poem 'The Peninsula' appeared as the unseen poem - a very tough and perhaps disconcerting choice for candidates under pressure. This is no 'Mid-Term Break', with some dense language (particularly the winding final sentence) and ideas. Heaney did not appear as a prescribed poet, and it is clear that the SEC is sending a message about 'poet-spotting' (Plath came up again). Perhaps of more concern is the very wordy and sometimes tortuous nature of the questions' diction itself. It's entirely possible that many candidates will not have understood 'evocative' in the Yeats question. The Larkin question was the most 'loaded', with an awful lot to think about and deal with : 'a perceptive observer of the realities of ordinary life in poems that are sometimes illuminated by images of lyrical beauty'. And the three 'd' words in the Dickinson question (four!) will have taken plenty of intellectual energy too: dramatic, disturb, delight.
At Ordinary Level, there were no such demands, with straightforward questions on Macbeth and the comparative, and Heaney's 'The Underground' and Plath's 'Child' being given accessible questions. The unseen was 'Coming Home' by the Welsh poet Owen Sheers.