Are you taking your GCSE English exam this summer and looking for advice on how to achieve a top grade? In this article Michael has compiled some useful insights, tips and guidance on how best to prepare for the GCSE English exam and his top tips for achieving a Grade 9.
Do I need to revise for English Language?
YES. When it comes to revision, my students always tell me that they need to prioritise their set texts for English Literature. However, it is just as important to know the shape of your English Language papers inside-out.
Which English Language questions will require language analysis? Which questions are focused on structure? How much time should you spend on a 20-mark question? Knowing the format of your English Language exams will allow you to move through the questions much more confidently, and give you mental space to engage originally with the passages.
How many quotes should I learn for set texts?
When revising for English Literature, memorising quotes is undeniably important. Be crafty when selecting your quotes: make sure they open up multiple themes. When Lady Macbeth says “Unsex me here,” she addresses her ambition to be strong like a man. When she takes Macbeth’s blood-drenched daggers from him and says, “My hands are of your colour; but I shame / To wear a heart so white,” she addresses the themes of her ambition, her disregard for the divine right of kings and Macbeth’s frail masculinity. This second quote will be relevant to a much wider variety of exam questions.
There is no set rule for how many quotes you need to learn per text. I recommend 10 quotes, including a mixture of longer quotes – Romeo wanting to “shake the yoke of inauspicious stars / From this world-wearied flesh” – and handy shorter ones – Juliet and Romeo being “star-cross’d lovers.”
How do I impress my examiner in GCSE English, is the examiner’s mark subjective?
There are clear, evidence-based mark schemes for GCSE English Language and English Literature. However, it is very important to remember that your marks for English answers are not totted up one by one, especially for longer essay-based answers. Instead, the examiner will read your whole answer and come to a judgment as to the overall level of your quote analysis, argument and written expression.
Remember, therefore, that the examiner is a human being. Ask yourself, would you read your own essay? If you were marking a stack of exam papers, would you be impressed, beguiled and surprised by your essay’s argument?
What gets me a 9 in GCSE English?
For high-achieving students, the line between an 8 and a 9 can appear frustratingly elusive! In my experience, the achievement of a 9 is not a matter of ticking extra boxes. If you are directly answering each question, quoting and close-reading accurately to establish wider meaning, this should secure you an 8. Ascending to the heights of a 9 is about impressing the examiner with the overall fluency and structure of your answers, as well as original, dynamic readings of your set texts.
A couple of key revision questions that I ask students of mine aiming for a 9 are:
- Are you reading fun and challenging new texts in your own time? The more you read independently, the sharper and more limber your mind will be for the unseen passages in your English Language papers.
- Does your critical knowledge of your set novels, plays and poems extend beyond “headline” themes? How well do you know Banquo or Macduff in Macbeth, or Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet?
GCSE and IGCSE English Tuition
With tutors based in London and available online to families around the world, Keystone is one of the UK’s leading private tutoring organisations. Find out more about our GCSE English Tutors and our IGCSE English Tutors.