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How to get a grade 6 or higher in your AQA English Language GCSE paper?

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Revising for my GCSE's were days I'll never forget. In retrospect, I spent far too many hours revising when all I needed was a mentor or coach to advise me to work 'smarter.' It sure would've saved me a lot of time and effort, not to mention alleviate a lot off my plate (yes, teenagers have their struggles!). But hay ho, we live and learn.

But you don't. See below my personal ramblings and take on how you can save a lot of time and finally hit the jackpot on results day, particularly if you're in year 9 or 10.

You don't want to be this kid....

First and foremost, you want to focus less on what you want to say, and more on what examiners want! One of the hacks I learned was to spend less time revising the set text books, and more time studying the mark scheme. After all, you're not writing to impress your neighbour or friend, but your examiners! Have the end in mind in everything you do, and your world will change altogether. You'll begin putting the effort in where its needed rather than where you want it!

Have the end in mind in everything you do, and your world will change altogether. You'll begin putting the effort in where its needed rather than where you want it!

I started taking this approach to also understanding my client's brief and killing it with the final product, or delivering Distinction worthy essays at University and impressing my tutors. I always knew my exam responses, or essays were not my intimate diary entry, but for my examiner, tutor, or client - so hit the brief!

Now, as much as I'd love to solve all your angsts, we don't want this post to turn into an overspill of therapy-ing! Instead, I will offer you a a few nuggets for when you're approaching each question of your AQA English Language paper 1 (thank me later ;))!

Let's go...!

Question 1

• Pick-out the key information. Examiners are assessing your ‘comprehension’ skills. This isn't the how or why, it's just the what.

• Read the question first and begin foraging for your response as your reading the inserts.

• Ensure you check where in the source the examiner wants you to lift information from.

• Don't take short cuts - Always write a full sentence for each answer!

Question 2

• Discuss and analyse the writer's choice of language. This includes the linguistic and literary features which I cover in my e-courses.

• For the language features, this includes: sensory words, present continuous verbs or emotive adjectives among others!

• Identify literary techniques for every quotation you use. Examples include: extended metaphors, personification or pathetic fallacy!

• Discuss the effect the choice of words has on the reader. Is the writer creating fear/ambiguity/intrigue or fascination? No writer writes haphazardly, particularly any that has been chosen to analyse!

If you're aiming for 8 or higher, find the patterns in the language used and any deviations from the pattern! So for example:

'The writer uses complex sentences to highlight the intricacy of the puzzle the inspector needed to resolve, although there is an instance where the writer uses a simple sentence.... This shows that...'


'Readers are immediately immersed in the aguish-led riots, specifically the furious, rowdy protestors, however silence beckons when... This shows the brutal, cold hearted nature of the regime... '

Add layers to your argument which proves to your examiners that you're not simple minded or overly literal.

Question 3

How has the writer structured the text to interest you as a reader?

• This question will always ask you to discuss the WHOLE of the extract. You must:

• Identify structural techniques and use evidence from the text. What is interesting about the beginning, middle and end of the piece?

• Discuss the EFFECT the choice of structural techniques has on the reader. Why is the beginning hooking? How does the language, setting, character or mood change as the text develops? In the same way script writers for every winning Marvel movie cared about its chronology and ordering, writers care about structure when writing. The order of any story is what makes you invested in the character or plot.

Examiners Tip! Other than looking for what appears in the text, look out for what's missing! Witheld information is just as important as information that's given.

Question 4:

To what extent do you agree with someone’s opinion?

Remember, you don't have to follow the crowd. Whatever choice you stand by, fight your corner! You MUST!

• Support your opinions with numerous quotations and TECHNIQUES.

• Discuss and evaluate the EFFECT the choice of the writer’s language and structural techniques in your chosen quotations.

In preparation for you exams, you'll be:

− Writing about sentences. So make sure you understand the different types of sentences there are. There's: simple, compound and complex!

− Writing about a single sentences that will be worth selecting as a quote!

− Writing about structure. Refer to the worksheet above!

− Writing about word choice, so know the difference between a verb and a noun! You can take my Basics to Grammar course!

− Critically evaluating a text. Know the effect of the metaphor or simile used, nothing is haphazard.

− Comparing texts: looking out for the similarities and differences and working out what is important!

Once you've understood the makeup of language and started navigating your critical thinking, you can finally start contouring your own meanings. And this is where Section B of the paper comes in. You're tasked with either writing to inform, argue, persuade or create fear.

At Articulately, we help you understand words and meanings so you're thinking critically and engaging on the appropriate examiner level, but also how to navigate around creating meaning through your own verbiage and typology. We've been trained by AQA examiners, so we can guarantee that you'll pass with flying colours.

Get in touch to see how I can tailor a learning plan way before the exam deadlines are creeping in. There are one-one's, group studies and crash courses available for you to sign up for!

Simply drop me a line at

Useful websites: Excellent advice for writing: Excellent support & revision for sentence construction:

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