Passing GCSE English Language

The key to passing English isn’t a love of poetry, novels or being able to write a ‘good story’: it’s the ability to breakdown and understand a complicated course and make it into easily digestible chunks that let you know how much you’ve already done and how much you’ve left to do…

In Class:

  • You complete four written assignments and gaining full marks in all of them would mean that you already had 20% before you even sat an exam. There’s a Shakespeare assignment and a Prose response: they’re worth up to 7% each to you. Then there’s the Media and Original Writing assignments: they’re worth around 7% between them, which doesn’t sound like a lot - but it only takes a single mark to make the difference between the grade you want and the grade you don’t.
  • Speaking and Listening assignments (20%) are completed in class time and take the form of three equally weighted tasks: an individual, group and whole class response to a variety of stimuli. Some students don’t seem to take these as seriously as written coursework: they should, as the Speaking and Listening assignments are worth just as much and can provide an ideal opportunity for a confident speaker to excel.
  • And that’s it: work in class can get you up to 40%!


  • There are two, equally weighted at 30% each: this is a good plan, because it means if you have an ‘off day’ during one exam, it doesn’t wreck your chances of doing well overall.
  • Paper 1: 1 hour 45 minutes. It starts with an hour-long response to ‘unseen’ stimuli: consequently, you can’t ‘revise’ the topics - although you need develop your knowledge of fact and opinion, presentational devices and information retrieval and analysis. The second section - 45 minutes - will want a response from a choice of writing to argue, persuade or advise questions: you only do one.
  • Paper 2: 1 hour 30 minutes. Often, students dread for one key reason: poetry! However, it’s not all that bad: candidates respond to a single question (there is a choice) on the Other Cultures Poetry (45 minutes), looking at a common theme or language or stylistic features: revise the poems, it shouldn’t represent too much of a problem. Also, you get the pomes in the exam so it’s not like you need to ‘learn’ them. The final section is another extended writing section like on Paper 1. It’s on writing to inform, describe or explain and, again, you only to respond to one of the questions.


  • Know your course inside out and keep a close eye on your progress through it.
  • Tick off coursework assignments when you’ve completed them and keep a record of your speaking and listening grades; work out the percentage you’ve already achieved before you sit your exams.
  • Revise past papers; think about how well you could do as your knowledge of the course develops.
  • Break it down into short-term achievable goals - and you’ll find it isn’t so difficult to pass after all.

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