number of words in the short stories

Submitted by Kathy-ann Daniel on 21 May 2008 - 2:05am

One of our study buddies made a very good observation. He noted that the number of words CXCrecommendsfor short stories in paper 2 of the English A exam is 400-450 words. He also checked and realised that all of the short stories that won the annual CXC short story award for their year were over 450 words.

Now the question is this: how canshort stories that are over the lengthrecommended by the CXC examiners win the annual short story award? I have no answer to that question. I also asked around on our team and no one else seems to have an answer. So if anyone out there has checked this out already and knows anything about this, please feel free to post.


guest (not verified) 22 September 2008 - 11:37pm

I read the English A short stories here and you are right. They are much longer than the 400-450 words that CXC recommends. Maybe the short story that wins the award this year will have 400-450 words. We will just have to wait and see.

guest (not verified) 7 January 2009 - 10:07am

How can you set a standard for people, 400-450 words for the short story answer and then give awards to pple who break the standard by writing stories longer than 450 words. Isn't something wrong with that??!!
C'mon pple what is CXC doing??!!

why that is the situation, maybe you could ask someone at your school or in the Ministry of Education where you are.

Write de story as long as I want so long as it good or keep to de 450 words in case dey penalise me? Somebody tell me someting quick, June coming.

admin 23 January 2009 - 8:51pm

I have never responded to the comments about the number of words in the CXC short story question because frankly, I didn't know what was going on.

Finally, I think I have an answer that might help to explain the situation. While CXC says that the answer to the short story question should be 400 - 450 words, this is meant only as an approximation. This means that your short story can be over 450 words. If you write a good story that is somewhat over 450 words, you will not be penalised for it. You can even win the CXC short story award.

So, for those students who were wondering about how long to make your CXC English A short story, I would focus on the quality of the writing first, then worry about the length of the story.

guest (not verified) 23 January 2010 - 3:05am

Do you have the short story that won the CXC award for 2009? I would like to read it.

CXC real playin' wid us students. None of the short story that win the CXC best short story anywhere near 400-450 words!

You believe one year CXC give the short story award to somebody that write over 900 words?!?!?

CXC say, "short story answer, not more than 400-450 words" and give the CXC best short story to a man dat write ah 900 word short story!

"No more than 400-450 words for the short story question" riigghht.... CXC..... riigghht!

Okay, I checked. Yes, you are right, the short story that won the award in 2003 was 905 words long. It was more than twice the recommended length for the CXC short story answer.

I do not know why short story answers that do not meet the length criteria are given the CXC best short story award. I do not. Any answer I could give you would only be a guess.

The only thing I can think to say to you is that you should try to write the best short story answer that you can in the CXC CSEC English A exam and not worry about the length of it so much.

If anyone else who is reading this has a better explanation or answer for Archie, please feel free to jump in.

dom_latina (not verified) 21 October 2011 - 5:58pm

Okay people as an English Language teacher in the fourth and fifth forms generally I give my students this rule of thumb. When tackling the CXC Exam, the only section of the exam in which the word count is strictly adhered to is section one -the summary writing question. For the short story/ descriptive essay and the argumentative essay students are given free rein to express themeselves, particularly in the short story section where imagination is supposed to come into play.The word limit is really intended to keep students within a time frame. It is estimated that students should be able to write a well-formated short story within 35 minutes. However, there are students that are capable of thinking quickly and writing even faster, therefore, these students are able to write 900 word stories and still have time left over to complete the remainder of the exam. Rule of thumb, read, read, read. Polish your story writing skills and let your imagination go. Students who enjoy reading are the ones who score top marks in the English Language exam.

admin 22 October 2011 - 8:09am

In reply to by dom_latina (not verified)

Thanks for the advice dom-latina!

Its good to hear directly from someone who has been involved with teaching for the CXC CSEC English A exam.

We have had a lot of discussions here about this issue of the number of words allowed in the CXC CSEC short story answer. People have gotten really upset and mad in trying to make sense of this issue. I am glad that you gave us your understanding of it.

Thanks again!

Well folks, there you have have it. The number of words (400-450) CXC recommends for the short story and persuasive essay is just that, a recommendation. If you can write fast and think fast; if you can develop a great story of over 450 words in 45 minutes, do it!

Don't bother to try to limit your short story to 450 words. Do try to make sure that your short story is as captivating and as well-written as you can make it.

guest (not verified) 12 October 2013 - 11:06am

reading the comments and i remembered when i wrote cxc english. it is unfair to those who did adhere to the word limit that cxc provided because we have been taught that we would be penalised for going too much over the word limit. students may have had a deep sense of imagination and would have had more things to write, but in the case of exceeding the word limit, they would not have done so. for this reason, it is that the short story, is therefore short and not a novel. these students who have well written stories should not as so much be penalise for it because they simply followed the rules. and those who exceeded the word limit, by even twice the amount...lucky you!

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