Whether you’re a native English speaker or an English as a Second Language learner, the iGCSE in English Language is a course than can be challenging. There are some extremely key ways of making your experience much easier:
Before the Examination: Revision
Sadly, many students complete their examination without any revision. Most will state that ‘there’s nothing to revise for English Language,’ questioning the methods of learning for a non-fiction examination. However, it is really vital that you are prepared:
- Annotate Your Anthology
If you are taking English Language Specification A, your anthology will be your best friend. You will hopefully have colour coordinated your work according to the key skills: language, structure, themes and comparisons. You will need to memorise these notes, as you will not have access to these annotations in your examination. Memorising can be tricky and you must consider your best method of learning, whether this be using post-its around the house; re-writing your notes or having study sessions with your friends.
- Practise Your Punctuation
This is an absolute must. You must understand the differences between full stops, question marks, exclamation marks etc. It is vital that you practise your punctuation and self-assess. This is the area in your creative writing that will let you down, if you are nervous.
- Read Newspaper Articles
Reading practice is a really good idea. It will assist your reading stamina; reading quickly and efficiently is a skill. You can always create mock questions out of any article and your teacher will help you mark them.
- Know Your Terminology
Sometimes, it is easy to confuse different language techniques. Sort cards and match up exercises will help you to learn your jargon. It is important to prevent that moment in the examination when you sit there wondering what the correct term might be!
- Organise Your Equipment
If you have been organised enough throughout your course to have different colour highlighter for the key skills of themes, structure and language, then take these colours into the examination! You will be so well trained that it will be instinct to grab the correct colour and this will help you to plan your work in the examination. You will be amazed how many students do not take a pen into the examination: don’t be that person and instead collect together a few pens you like writing with.
During the Examination
Inevitably, you may become a little nervous during the examination. This can often lead to mistakes and it is fundamental that you are organised with your time and stick to a plan!
- Plan Your Timings
Each question is worth a different amount. Once the clock has begun ticking, work out exactly how long you have to complete each question and what time to move on. You must leave the right amount of time for the longer questions that come towards the end of the paper. Plan enough time to check your work.
- Read the Texts Carefully
If you are completing Specification A, you should know the texts inside-out and back-to-front. However, you won’t know the questions. Ensure you re-read the texts according to what the question demands. It may require a different angle from what you have previously studied.
If you are completing Specification B, you will not know the texts before the examination. It is a really good idea to read the questions before you read the texts. This will allow you to know what you are reading the sources for. It might even lead to you highlighting your answers when you read it for the first time. This will save you time in the long run.
- Plan Your Answers
It is your exam paper, so highlight and annotate the paper. Try to be organised with the annotations though. Being methodical can save time! However, it isn’t just the extracts that can help you. If you need to highlight the key words of the question, then go ahead.
Really think carefully before you begin writing. Try to consider what you are trying to achieve and what the question demands. Is it a question that requires language analysis? Are you required to compare? Is it just information retrieval? Should you be commenting on structure?
The space provided in your answer booklet can be used for planning. The examiner will understand if you have used some of the lines to plan your response. It shows that you are an organised person and it will inevitably lead to a more cohesive and well-structured response.
Overall though, you will need to make some quick decisions, so be decisive and just go for it!
- Check Your Answers
You must leave time to check your answers. Self-assessment is something you should be well trained in. Check the response for each assessment objective. A first draft of creative writing is never your best work, so do not assume that it will be. You must check the writing questions in particular for spelling, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary etc. There is so much to check for that it is easy to leave yourself short of time. At no point should you ever feel that it is ‘finished.’
After the Examination
Although your English Language examination is finished, remember that some other subjects are still marked for spelling, punctuation and grammar. It is important to keep these skills up-to-date, so ensure you plan times to revise these skills.
Good luck with the iGCSE and happy learning!