GCSE English Language exams and revision: AQA explains what you need to do

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Our series on exam advice continues with tips from AQA on GCSE English Language

To help you make the most of your remaining revision time, we’ve worked with exam board AQA to create a series of exam advice articles.

In each of these features, you’ll find advice and easy-to-follow tips written by one of AQA’s subject matter experts.

Read on to get the inside track on GCSE English Language, direct from the people who make the exams.

You can also find out more about the AQA GCSE English Language exams on The Student Room here, including the kind of topics they might cover and when they are happening. 

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There are two exam papers and each paper has the same layout each year, so you can use the past papers on our website to help you practise the questions in timed conditions and get used to the format.


  • Paper 1 – Explorations in creative reading and writing. Section A has 4 reading questions about an extract from a story (literary prose fiction text from either the 20th or 21st century) and section B has a choice of two creative writing tasks. The total paper is 1 hour 45 minutes.


  • Paper 2 – Writers viewpoints and perspectives. Section A has 4 reading questions about two extracts from non-fiction texts on a linked theme. One source will be a 19th century text. Section B has one writing task and you will be asked to present your own views on the topic. The total paper is 1 hour 45 minutes.

AQA GCSE English Language tips for students

  1. Read the resource materials carefully and annotate anything you think is interesting in terms of language and structure as you’re reading.


  1. Make sure you select evidence and quotations from the correct lines of the text which are given to you in bold on the question paper (you could even put a box around the lines the questions asks you to focus on to make sure you select from the right bit of the text)  


  1. For the reading questions that ask about ‘use of language’ make sure you select the best examples of language (that you understand) so that you can say how the language features create an effect on you and for the audience. You need to select examples that you can say some interesting things about.


  1. For questions 3 and 4 on both papers, there are no right or wrong answers, as long as you can give evidence! Remember to choose the best quotes for demonstrating your point.


  1. When you’re answering questions that require some comparison, use connectives such as ‘whereas’ and ‘on the other hand’ to help link ideas and evidence.


  1. For the writing section on both papers, you should spend 45 minutes on the questions - 5 minutes planning, and 40 minutes writing your response. It’s really important to use all of the available time when answering these questions as they’re worth 50% of the available marks on each paper.


  1. For paper 1, question 5, use the image as a springboard into your imagination. What does it make you think of, feel, and how would you react? Imagine you’re looking at the image through a camera lens, what would you focus on and why? Zoom in on small details, or zoom out to capture the big picture. Write something you would enjoy reading.


  1.  In paper 2, question 5, you will be asked to evidence your ideas and back up your statements. This can take many forms, but is usually seen through using facts, figures, statistics and then a range of persuasive techniques. As part of your planning and preparation for the writing task, try and write a summary of your argument in a single sentence.


  1. Consider how you link paragraphs  and make use of discourse markers (eg ‘to begin with’, ‘later on’ ‘ in addition’ etc ) to help your argument flow and  improve the overall quality of your argument.


  1. Write less, but instead think more about the points you’re going to make and how you’ll explain and develop each point. Remember also to leave time at the end to check through and improve your work – don’t worry about crossings out and changes, this means you’ve proof read your work!

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