English Language Exam – Writing

You are tested on your writing skills in Section B of the exam. Firstly, ensure that you allow enough time to complete this part of the exam – one hour. Don’t overrun during the reading section!

There are two questions to respond to – question 5 asking you to inform/explain/describe, and question 6 asking you to persuade/advise. Read the questions closely to find out the purpose and audience for your writing. For example, in this question: Write a letter to your local MP persuading them to improve the facilities for young people in your area, you are being asked to write a letter (you should adopt the form by using an address and Dear Sir/Madam) to your MP (which suggests that it should be formal) persuading (use persuasive techniques).

Once you have established purpose and audience, you are ready to plan. It’s worth spending a little time planning so that you don’t ‘burn out of ideas’ half way through writing. Decide what the main points of your description/argument are going to be. These can be developed and will become your paragraphs.

Now you are ready to write! For both questions, you are being tested on your communication, organisation and accuracy:

Writing Overview

Here are some ideas to help the organisation of your writing:

writing paragraphs

Writing features

Here is a writing toolbox with a reminder of what to include:

writing toolboxAnd finally, the all important mark scheme. Aim high!

writing grades

Last Minute English Language Paper Tips (Higher Tier)

Tomorrow is the big day for AQA English Language students; it’s exam time!

There are plenty of posts on the blog to help you focus on skills for each question, but this post should give you a good overview of what is being asked from you in each question. Thanks to those in class today who helped to create these guides.

Reading Section (Part A) 1 hour (plus 15 minutes reading time)

Reading Paper Tips

Writing Section (Part B) 1 hour

Writing Paper Tips

The exam is a test of your reading and writing skills. Make sure that your answers are as detailed and accurate as possible, this is your chance to show off your literacy skills to the max! REMEMBER – Answer ALL questions and stick to the timings!

Good Luck!

Of Mice and Men – Revising Themes

In class today, we started by planning a response to the Argue/Persuade question using our 5 point essay plans. We then had 10 minutes to write mini-articles to persuade young people to volunteer. We were advised to include plenty of persuasive techniques.

Miss Ryan would like to congratulate all on their writing today. Some very thoughtful planning and considered ‘slow writing’ made for a range of lively and engaging Band 3 and 4 responses – well done year eleven!

In addition to the fab writing, we also did a bumper symbols and themes revision session for Of Mice and Men. We started by using a slide on symbols to try and select relevant quotations:



Admittedly, our quotation recall skills were rusty – so this should continue to be an area for revision for us. However, when it came to themes, we did brilliantly.

Miss Ryan wrote six key themes on paper and we spent 10 minutes passing them around in groups. This meant that as time went on, we had to think in greater depth about what we could add. It started with us recalling main events and details, then we added quotations as evidence. By the 4th pass we had to zoom in and consider the effects of words and techniques in the quotations. Here is what we came up with:

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After this, we got back into groups and created essay plans for each of the themes using this question template:


Here are our essay plans:


power plan1


lonliness plan


barriers plan


violence plan1


friendship plan

Dreams (1)

dreams plan 1

Dreams (2)

dreams plan 2

All in all, there was impressive scope in today’s revision session. Year 11 are displaying hard working, pro-active attitudes during lesson time and producing some great work. Here’s an overall reflection of today:

Revision reflection

Mega Revision

In today’s lesson, we adopted a new approach to revising. With just two weeks to go until our first exam, we decided to keep revision short and sweet and focus on 2-3 topics per lesson.

Today we looked at a writing question from the language exam, a Character and Voice comparison question and an Of Mice and Men extract analysis. We focused on using planning time effectively to maximise exam performance. Here are some examples of what we did:

Writing – English Language Question 5:

writing planning

Student examples – paragraph openers:

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Character and Voice Poetry:

comparing poems

Here is a tally chart to show which poems were selected for comparison by the class:


Student examples – plans and quotations:

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Of Mice and Men – extract analysis:


Student examples – PEE language/technique and effects:

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You can use the materials in this post to continue revision by having a go at answering one of the exam questions we explored today. Additionally, you can reflect upon the topics that have been covered to help you plan your next steps for personal revision:

revision reflection

Happy revising! 🙂




English Language Exam: Writing Tips

The best way to prepare for the writing section is to practise writing! (Obviously) But if you’re looking for some tips or inspiration, hopefully this post will help you out.

Firstly, you should consider what is required of you in the exam. It’s important that your writing is fluent, accurate and interesting. You need to prove that the last 11 years of learning literacy at school were not in vain. Here is a simplified overview of the assessment criteria for the writing questions (Questions 5 and 6)

GCSE Writing Criteria

You need to show that you can write confidently for a range of purposes and audiences. The exam has two writing tasks; firstly question 5 asks you to write to explain/describe; secondly question 6 asks you to argue/persuade.

In order to achieve full marks in the communication and organisation criteria, you should make sure that ideas are organised into logical, flowing paragraphs and that you use a range of techniques appropriate to the purpose of the writing. Below, you will find two examples of each writing type with various techniques that can be used in the exam. Both responses are from past paper questions:

Question 5 – Explain/Describe

Description Techniques

Question 6 – Argue/Persuade


In addition to using relevant techniques and organising your ideas, you must ensure that your writing is grammatically correct. The focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar is high on all English exams this year. Take a closer look at the assessment criteria for SPaG:

spag focus


Remember to use a range of sentences in your response. Recall the methods that you have learnt in class, including the slow writing technique where we varied sentences by using ‘Simple/Compound/Complex/Repeat’. Here is a reminder of the three  major sentence types:

Sentence Types

You should also vary your vocabulary to try and impress your reader. The best way to develop your vocabulary is by reading a wide and varied range of sources; you could also include vocabulary that you have learnt during your study of the poems. As an extra task, why not use these word clouds to revise new vocabulary and add new words to your repertoire:

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Happy revising 🙂

English Language Exam: Writing Questions

In the second half of the Language exam, you will have to write two pieces of non-fiction. You have an hour to complete the tasks:

writing timings



Firstly, be aware of TAP; text type, audience and purpose. You are being tested on your skills at writing particular types of non-fiction texts for specific purposes.

writing TAP REAL

The next thing you need to do is plan. It’s best to follow the five paragraph essay plan under exam conditions. It is a rather predictable format, but will ensure that your essay is organised:

writing 5 para plan


Once you have the skeleton of your writing planned, it’s time to add the meat and write. This is your chance to prove that the last 11 years of learning literacy were not in vain (not too much pressure eh?) Write in a way that is interesting and engaging for the reader, choose vocabulary carefully and develop detail in your writing. You should also be aware of the conventional style of the particular type you have been asked to write; for description, evoke the senses; for persuasion, use rhetorical questions and hard-hitting facts. Here are some features of the four writing styles:

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Proof Reading

Try to allow some time for proof-reading your work. One-third of the marks available are for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Ensure that sentences make sense, and are clearly structured using a range of punctuation. You could also check that your paragraphs are suitable and well linked, and that spelling is correct – maybe even change a word or two to add variety to vocabulary. Here is the mark scheme for accuracy of writing:

writing mark scheme - accuracy

Here are the mark schemes for the top two bands of both writing questions (A*-D):

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To revise further you could read articles online (Click for link to websites):




You could also plan and write responses to the following questions:

  • Argue whether life is hard or easy for teenagers in the 21st century.
  • Write an argument either for or against having metal detectors in school.
  • Write an informative article for the local newspaper about opportunities for young people in your town.
  • Write an informative blog about someone you admire – it could be someone you know, or a famous figure.
  • Describe a scene in a war-torn area.
  • Describe your dream home.
  • Write a letter to your local MP to persuade them to invest more in facilities for young people.
  • Write a speech to your classmates to persuade them to vote for you as ‘Student of the Year 2013’.