Advice on 'doing well' in your English GCSE Watch
English is a subject that causes fear in a lot of people, including me when I did my GCSE in it. I do not claim to hold the key to everyone getting an A*, but I do believe that I could offer some valuable advice from someone who achieved A* in both Language and Literature and having a full mark exemplar essay on an exam board's website.
I used to think that you needed to speak the poshest Queen's English to score an A*, along with knowing every single writing technique, effect and view point. It goes without saying that good SPAG is needed, however everything else isn't entirely correct.
How to Write:
With English you can have an algorithmic approach by using PEE.
Point, Evidence, Explanation
which can be combined with:
Structure, Message, Imagery, Literacy devices, Evaluation
This mostly applies to Literature but can be adjusted for questions in Language, however when you're writing your essay (about 30 marks I believe) you are marked against a mark scheme that requires you to have an answer in the form of PEE and to speak about everything that SMILE covers to achieve a C.
PEE covers your basics of paragraphing, relation to extract and basic explanation whilst SMILE covers the volume of your piece of writing - the filling inside of the sandwich. To achieve grades higher than C there must be further explanation that's simple, straight to the point and contains unique elements that I'll explain soon.
My general essay followed this structure, with each point using PEE and elements of SMILE:
• Points (four or so paragraphs)
I used to dedicate one paragraph to the structure of the essay and be done with the structure and then try and take elements of SMILE to put into the other points. For example, my second paragraph after the structure would pick a specific quote or point and I'd see if it had imagery - if it did, I wrote about it. If it contained other literary devices (metaphors, simile, rhyming couplets, emotion etc) I also spoke about them too - and explained my opinion of what the effect was and why the writer did it.
That's easier said than done though, how do you actually write a paragraph after understanding the general format?
The key to English is simply: Keep it simple, straight to the point and unique - write a lot about a little
UNIQUE: An examiner will be reading many essays, pieces of writings and will most probably see the same view, same quotes and the same 'old rubbish' again and again. Your writing has to be unique. Picking up on points that you don't think other people would see, relating it to different parts of the book/extract and ultimately to the question. Something that's 'out of the box' is more easily remembered and innovative, scoring you higher marks.
When in doubt, reading online summaries, views of characters, books or even specific chapters and quotes from forums/reviews can give you a different and innovative view. These generally show different people's views and they often explain them through debate and chat.
SIMPLE/STRAIGHT TO THE POINT: If you were asked to explain why the writer uses specific techniques such as metaphors for a particular piece of writing, you shouldn't have a complicated answer full of varied vocabulary - don't get me wrong, having a varied vocabulary is great, but not every word needs to be changed just to make you seem 'smarter'.
Blue: commentary on the answer
Grey: the answer
A simple answer could be, and this does depend on your extract (this was just general) 'The writer uses metaphors (straight to the point) to create a vivid and powerful (varying your vocabulary) image (showing the effect) of... *example given* when they say that '(quote from extract)' (linking it to the extract). I believe that (explaining your opinion) the writer is trying to engage (examiners love this word apparently) the audience (relating it to the everyone) into sympathising with the character because we... *example given* (linking it to the extract - using we, a first person pronoun, shows relation to the extract) yet this could be seen as... (reflective and different view point - evaluating) which makes me think that the writer has used this metaphor to create a different and surreal emotional effect to... (summarising).
Whilst reading this, I see that it may not seem simple! It does take time to understand and get the hang of so you'll need a lot of practise - but you'll find from your exam board's website that the exemplar essays are simple, straight to the point and unique, which is why they achieved the best grade possible and became an exemplar - to help students. Looking at them allows you to actually understand what the examiner wants and how to give them your best piece of writing in my opinion.
Write a lot about a little - pick a quote or something small from the extract, write a lot about it whilst being detailed picking up on everything about it.
Try to use quotes to explain quotes, e.g "The fire blazed with menacing grey smoke, each flame getting closer." You could explain that the writer mentions that the 'fire blazed' with 'menacing smoke' that was 'grey'. This means that... - this creates some variation to your work instead of simply listing the quote and explaining it.
Getting there slowly with technique but no way will this be one of the 7 As I need to get out of my 10 gcses :/