Why I should revise for my GCSE English exam

Many students find GCSE English Language a difficult subject because they feel that they can’t revise for an English exam.  The key to understanding any English exam is to fully understand what the assessment objectives are and how to achieve them through your answers. Once you understand this format you will be well on your way to getting a high grade in your English Language GCSE. The article below is going to unravel what each assessment objective is and how to achieve it through your answers.

Success in GCSE English Language is all about understanding the assessment objectives like the back of your hand. You need to know what they really mean and how you can work with them when you answer your exam question.

AO1 – is all about how you extract information from the text

AO2 – focuses on analyzing language and structure

AO3 – wants you to show that you can compare and contrast texts

AO4 –  requires an in depth evaluation of the text

AO5 – measures your creative writing

AO6 – is all about your vocabulary and grammar.

So let’s look at each of these objectives:

  1. Understanding AO1 is the difference between getting an 8 and 9 – it is the simplest assessment objective and is used in the questions below on your paper. It isn’t a high number of marks but these few marks can make a difference between an 8 and a 9.

This is used in the following papers

AQA: Paper 1, question 1 & Paper 2, questions 1 and 2

Edexcel: Paper 1, questions 1 & 2; Paper 2, Questions 1 & 4

To achieve AO1 you have to read the given texts and extract the information that is relevant to the question. You don’t have to provide in-depth analysis you just need to show evidence so the question is pretty straight forward.

Common mistakes: Don’t give overly long quotations. You only need to include the relevant words or phrases otherwise it looks like you are being vague and not and you don’t really know which information to extract. E.g. if a metaphor has been used to describe something, do not write the whole metaphor out again, just say what it is actually describing. So is a writer describer pterodactyls as ‘flying tents’ if you wrote that they were ‘flying tents’ you wouldn’t get the mark. If the questions says explain you can’t just use the quote as you need to explain what it means. Always take time to ready the question properly.

  • AO2 for GCSE English is all about taking examples of language and structure from a the extract and analyzing their effect. Nearly all schools use an anacronym P.E.E which simply means Point, Evidence, Explain. To achieve the higher grades you have to look beyond the surface meaning of the text which is hard. You could use the following questions to help you when you are analyzing a text:

WHY did the writer use this specific word?

WHAT is the writer trying to convey?

HOW does this make the reader feel?

What are the connotations of this language?

Does the structure reflect the content of the extract?

Is the writer making a reference and why are they doing this?

This will be used in

AQA: Paper 1, question 2 and 3 and Paper 2, question 3

Edexcel: Paper 1, question 3 and Paper 2, questions 2, 3, & 5.

Common mistakes to avoid when answering AO2 questions is giving surface level analysis and forgetting to comment on language and structure, or using standard phrases like “creates an image”

  • To nail that grade 9, AO3 is very important, you will need to look for similarities and differences across two pieces of texts. You should try and write an equal number for both texts to show a balanced piece of work. You need to try and work variety into your comparisons, so try not to over analyze adjectives in each example. Use these questions to help you when compare and contrast two pieces of text:

What is the writer trying to convey?

How is the tone different or similar?

Do the writes use particular literary techniques and what is their purpose?

How will the readers interpret the text?

What emotion is the writer trying to create and how do they do this?

This will be used in the following questions:

AQA: Paper 2, question 4

Edexcel: Paper 2, question 7b

  • Understanding AO4 is almost as essential as AO3 in your English Language Exams with AO4 question you will be given a statement relating to the extract and you need to give a response and state how far you agree with it. (Edexcel you will have to evaluate if the writers aim was achieved). These questions are all worth 15 marks or more so it is really important that you know how to answer them if you want to get a 9 in your exam.

There are 2 main things to evaluate; you need to assess the source in relation to the statement and consider the writers methods. If you follow your P.E.E structure, what the source shows and how it links to the statement will be your point but you still need to evaluate it after your example. The writers method will be your evidence and then you must evaluate it,

With these questions there aren’t any rules on what methods you can analyse, meaning there are lots to choose from, so it can be really beneficial to make a mind map when you are revising all the different literary techniques.

This will be assessed in the following papers:

AQA: Paper 1, question 4,

Edexcel: Paper 1, Question 4 and Paper 2, Question 6

  • Don’t neglect AO5 as this the assessment objective for the creative writing task.  The creative writing part of the English Language exam is hugely important and is worth half the marks on the paper (Edexcel paper 2 AO5 makes up 24 of those marks). Creative writing can be daunting for some as there is now no extract to follow, its whatever you decide to write about but with the correct practice and preparation the creative writing questions will be a lot easier to tackle. There are many techniques to use for creative writing so if you are really struggling think about texts you have analyzed in your class already and the creative skills that they have used. It is important to use structural techniques as well as language if you want to push your marks up. Students who get the highest grades in their exams will have to be able to craft a piece that will get a response from the reader. You will need the examiner to be able to see clearly what you done so try and achieve this with language techniques like pathetic fallacy or hyperbole.

The exam papers that will include these questions are:

AQA – Paper 1, question 5, Paper 2, question 5

Edexcel: Paper 1, Question 5 or 6 and Paper 2, Question 8 and 9

  • AO6 is the assessment objective for the creative writing questions and it assesses the candidates range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect with accurate spelling and punctuation.

This mark is dedicated to your vocabulary and grammar and is worth 16 marks in your final creative writing question. So, to get your grade up this mark is essential. A useful tip is write down the various forms of punctuation and tick them off as you use them, ensure you use as many as possible. Try and boost your vocabulary, use a few long words. Try and use words you can spell as you don’t want to lose marks for poor spelling.

This will be assessed in the following questions:

AQA – Paper 1, question 5, Paper 2, question 5

Edexcel: Paper 1, Question 5 or 6 and Paper 2, Question 8 and 9

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