Updated: Apr 29
With teacher assessments soon approaching, we know that English papers are not as straightforward as Maths and Science. Here at ED TREE, we’ve compiled some of our top revision and exam tips to help students smash both Language and Literature papers.
Learn and Know the Content!
Students often make the mistake of coming into exams with gaps in their knowledge. This becomes evident in their responses, limiting the quality of their work and overall marks. Students must ensure they are reading the course books, films or adaptations required of them to answer the exam questions. Sometimes this can be a challenge but here are some techniques worth noting:
50 page per sitting method – Reading different books with different lengths can be a difficult task. A good way to tackle this is for students to set themselves a target of 50 pages each time they sit down to read. This is a manageable way to get through the course books without it being too much to take in.
Using online resources – Whilst school teachers will provide material to help with understanding content, language and themes, there are a plethora of online revision guides and videos to look at on YouTube.
Knowledge test – For students to make sure that they are experts in their course material, it is a good idea to take a blank piece of A4 paper and jot down key events and themes from memory. This is particularly useful for English Literature.
Storyboards or Flowcharts – Students who are visual learners may find it easier to convert all that written text into a storyboard or simple flowchart to cement their understanding.
Read Your Exam Board's Mark Schemes (Edexcel, OCR, AQA etc.)
The mark scheme is not just available for teachers to use and consult. Students aiming for top grades must familiarise themselves with the mark scheme beforehand, so they know exactly what the examiner is looking for. English is not assessed through a right or wrong answer, rather students will be marked on their argumentation and how well they do this. This involves ticking off the Assessment Objectives that have been set out (AO1-AO5). Identifying these AOs in essays often is a good technique for students to adopt.
Practice GCSE English Exam Questions
This is key for students hoping to ace their exams. English revolves around a candidate’s writing ability and the only way to get good at this is through practise. In preparation for exams, students should look at past papers and set themselves a question or two each week to complete. If writing out a whole essay is too time-consuming than doing essay plans for different questions is also a suitable alternative. Some students may want to push themselves by writing answers under timed conditions if this is something they struggle with.
Annotate and Plan
Students should never attempt an exam question without annotating the extract or text followed by a short plan. This will allow students to correctly map out their ideas and arguments, so they don’t lose sight of what the question is asking. The exams are designed to give students about 10 minutes of planning time before starting essays, so this is highly recommended.
Point, Evidence and Explanation
Always follow a structure when writing out paragraphs or responses. The PEE structure may have different variations depending on what students have been taught at school. However, they all have the same purpose which is to help students form and structure an argument with clarity. This would not apply to creative writing tasks, but it is relevant across both papers.
SPAG and Handwriting
Spelling, punctuation and grammar could cost students marks if it is overlooked, particularly in the Language paper. The only way to improve these skills is through practise. Taking note of previous feedback and implementing it every time a new question is attempted is the best way to tackle this. Finally, handwriting may seem like something out of a student’s control, however, it is extremely important to have legible handwriting or students risk their papers not being marked.