How can I revise GCSE English Language?

28.02.22

There’s a common misconception (especially among Year 11 students) that you can’t revise GCSE English Language…

But we’re here to smash the myth!

It’s true, it is more obvious what you must revise for English Literature. These are the novels, plays and poems that you have studied. So, you can revise plot, characters, themes… you can learn quotes. That’s simple enough, right?

But how can you revise for English Language? The exams include unseen fiction and non-fiction extracts that you’ve never seen before. How can you revise something you’ve never seen before? For the Writing section, you don’t know what type of text you will need to write, or what the topic will be – Impossible to revise for, surely?

Wrong.

So, how do you revise GCSE English Language?

Knowledge, Process, Practice

The key to success for GCSEs (in any subject) is a three-step process: knowledge, process, and practice.

Knowledge is your skills and understanding of topics. For English, that means your understanding of how writers use language; how they use language features and techniques to achieve effects on the reader: similes, metaphors, personification, etcetera.

So, that’s the first thing that you can revise. Do you know all the techniques? Can you identify them in a text and explain the effect of them on the reader?

How do you apply your knowledge?

But knowing stuff only gets you so far; it’s what you do with that knowledge that counts. How you apply your knowledge is the process. And what you really have to do with your knowledge for GCSE English Language is to answer exam questions.

So, a major part of revising English Language is to develop your understanding of what each question is asking you to do. You need to be confident about which skills you need to show for each question and what the assessment objectives are. It’s important to know what the examiners looking for. For example, information retrieval, language, structure, comparison, etcetera.

The good thing about exams (if there is a good thing!) is that there should be no surprises when you open the exam paper. Choose any question from a paper, and if you were to put the exams for the last 5 years side by side, you’d notice that the questions are virtually the same – almost word for word. Only the extracts themselves are different.

Focus on:

What the question is about?

What are you being assessed on?

How many marks are available and how long should you spend on the question.

Practice makes perfect

Finally, after knowledge and process comes practice. Okay, so practice might not make you perfect in English. But it is the only way you are going to reach your potential. This means that practice questions should be a big part of any revision schedule for English. 

Revision needs to be active rather than passive. Endlessly reading through revision notes (even if they are the best revision notes in the world) will be next to useless. You need to be doing something with the notes – and the best thing to do is to practise exam questions.

If you think a private tutor could help, get in touch with the TutorRight team for more information.

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