AQA GCSE English Language

Paper 1: Question 1

On this paper you are given one short story to read, and then four questions to respond to. You can download a copy of the text and questions at the bottom of the page.

Take about 5 minutes to read the text. Make sure you do this with a pen in hand, and underline anything that might come in useful later.

Question 1 will then ask you to re-read a short section of the text, and to list 4 things you learn about a particular character or aspect of that paragraph. There are 4 marks for this question, and you should take about 5 minutes to answer it.

Top tips

  • Keep it simple – don’t infer meaning, but take your ideas directly from the text.
  • Don’t rush – it can be tempting to do this question quickly, but make sure you read the question carefully and write in full sentences.
Paper 1: Question 2

Question 2 will ask you to focus on a paragraph of the text and explore how the writer uses language to explore a particular idea.

Language means words, phrases, or language devices (for example, metaphor, personification, adjectives…) – essentially, you are being asked to consider aspects of the text which are smaller than a sentence.

Aim to write 3 paragraphs, exploring 3 aspects of the writer’s use of language. There are 8 marks for this question, and spend about 10 minutes on it.

Top tips

  • Avoid empty phrases – phrases like “this creates a picture in the reader’s head” or “this makes me want to read on” apply to any text, and will not gain you any marks on this question. Instead, be specific about the connotations of a word, what a symbol represents, or the atmosphere created by a particular phrase.
  • Extend your ideas by using because/but/so.
Paper 1 Question 3

Question 3 will ask you to explore the structure of the text.

A structural device is any technique the writer has used to give the narrative shape. Think bigger than the size of an individual sentence, and consider these questions:

  • How has the writer started the text? How have they introduced character, setting, or theme? What are they focussing on, and why is it important that they are drawing the reader’s attention to this detail?
  • What does the writer shift or change in the central section of the text? Is there a change in tone, atmosphere, pace, setting, character, or focus? Why has the writer chosen to draw your attention to these details?
  • How does the writer end the text? Does the text end suddenly and without a sense of resolution? Or does the text end with a sense of conclusiveness?

You should aim to write 3 paragraphs, one on the beginning, one on the middle, and one on the end of the text. Remember to include evidence and exploration of the writer’s reasons for choosing particular structural devices. There are 8 marks for this question, and spend about 10 minutes on it.

Top tips:

  • Make it clear that you are focussing on structure: use words such as focus, shift, and zoom.
  • Avoid empty phrases: don’t write that the “writer structures the text in this way to interest you / make you read on”. Instead, ask yourself what atmosphere the text creates, or why the writer is focussing your attention on a particular detail.
Paper 1: Question 4

Question 4 will ask you to focus on a section of the text, and consider it in light of a critical statement. The question asks you to consider whether you agree with the statement or not.

This question is worth 20 marks, and should take around 20 minutes. You should write 4 paragraphs.

Top tips:

  • Plan: start by creating an agree/disagree table. Gather your ideas, including mini-quotations from the text. Then number your ideas 1-4 or XXOX.
  • Include analysis: students often become so focussed on arguing a point of view that they forget to zoom in and analyse the writer’s methods. So make sure you identify language techniques and explore why they are used.
Paper 1: Question 5

Question 5 will ask you to write a description or a narrative based on an image or a prompt. Writing a well-crafted piece of creative writing in 45 minutes can be a challenge, but with plenty of practice this is an excellent opportunity to pick up marks.

There are 40 marks for this question. 24 marks are for content and organisation. This includes the depth of your characterisation and the ideas, as well as your vocabulary, and use of language and structural devices. 16 marks are for your technical accuracy, which includes spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and vocabulary.

You should spend around 45 minutes on this question, and aim to write 2-3 sides.

Top tips:

  • Pre-prepare a round character and a range of scenarios to adapt to the exam task.
  • Balance the quality of writing with the level of detail. Don’t write more than 3 sides, as you will inevitably make technical mistakes. But don’t write less than 1 side, as you need to demonstrate the ability to sustain the use of language and structural devices.
  • Use a circular structure to demonstrate your ability to use structural devices, and to bring coherence to your writing (setting – character – flashback – character – setting).
  • Use a motif throughout to bring coherence to your writing.
Paper 2: Question 1

One this paper you are given two non-fiction sources to read, and then you complete 4 questions on these sources.

Start by reading the sources with a pen in your hand, underlining any rich phrases that you might be able to use later on. It might help to write a 10 word summary at the end of each source.

Question 1 will direct you to look at one source. You will be given a list of 8 statements about this source, and will select the 4 true statements. There are 4 marks for this question, and you should take about 5 minutes to answer it.

Top tips

  • Write “T” and “F” beside the statements before making your final choices.
  • Double-check to make sure you are selecting 4 true statements (not 3 or 5!).
  • Then shade in the circles to show your choices.
  • Don’t rush – it can be tempting to want to do this question quickly, but that can mean you sacrifice marks.
Paper 2: Question 2

Question 2 will ask you to write a summary of the differences or similarities between the texts. It will give you a specific topic to focus on.

There are 8 marks for this question, and you should spend about 10 minutes on your answer. You should write 2 comparative paragraphs.

Top tips

  • Plan your answer using the method demonstrated in the video.
  • Use a formulaic structure to answer this question. The method demonstrated in the video is designed to meet the requirements of the mark scheme.
  • Infer meaning and explain your ideas – why are the texts similar/different? What messages are they communicating?
  • You do not need to support your response with analysis (zooming in).
Paper 2: Question 3

I usually recommend that students complete Question 1 followed by Question 3. This is because these questions are about a single text. You write about both texts in Questions 2 and 4.

Question 3 will ask you to focus on how the writer uses language in one source.

Language means the use of words, phrases, or language devices (such as similes, personification, pathetic fallacy – there is a full list in the knowledge organiser at the bottom of this page).

There are 12 marks for this question, and you should spend 12-15 minutes on it. You should aim to write 3 analytical paragraphs.

Top tips:

  • Avoid empty phrases, such as “it creates an image in the reader’s head”. Watch the video to see what the alternatives to this are.
  • Focus on the effect – why does the writer use particular words or language devices? What atmosphere or impression do they create? What are the connotations?
  • Keep track of your time – and if you reach 15 minutes, you must move on to the next question.
Paper 2: Question 4

Question 4 will ask you to compare both writers’ use of language. Make sure you read the question carefully, as it might specify differences or similarities. Unlike Question 2, you need to include analysis of language.

There are 16 marks for this question, and so you should spend 15-20 minutes on it. You should write 2-3 comparative paragraphs.

Top tips

  • Plan your answer using the method demonstrated in the vide.
  • Use connectives to link the texts.
  • Zoom in and analyse language – why has the writer chosen one word and not a different one? What are the connotations of that word? What do the images symbolise? What message is the writer communicating?
Paper 2: Question 5

Question 5 will ask you to write a text which aims to persuade your audience, or argue a point of view.

The question will specify the genre, audience and purpose of your writing.

  • Genre: this is the type of text. E.g. article, speech, blog, letter
  • Audience: this is the group of people your text is aimed at. E.g. consider whether the audience is formal (broadsheet newspaper, politician) or informal (a speech for your class, tabloid newspaper), and the age group of your readers
  • Purpose: this is the point of your text. E.g. are you writing to explain your point of view in detail, or to argue an idea?

There are 40 marks for this question. 24 marks are for content and organisation, and 16 marks are for technical accuracy. Watch the video to find out more.

You need to write 2-3 sides for this question.

Top tips

  • Plan your response. This will help you to create a coherent answer which is well structured.
  • Use narrative to engage your reader, add detail and examples, and as a way of including descriptive techniques. Watch the video to find out how to do this.
  • Proofread your work. Don’t lose marks for forgetting capital letters, apostrophes, and full stops.
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