How to Revise for GCSE English

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GCSE English By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: English » GCSE English
Last updated: 13/02/2018
Tags: english, gcse, revision, skills

"But Miss, how do I revise for English?" 

Students often assume that 'revision' equates to memorising a list of facts and regurgitating them in a written exam. However, in the world of closed book exams and unseen texts, the new specification of GCSE English demands that students become confident in the skills or reading, inference, synthesis, crafting language effectively and deliberately and being judicious in their choice of language. These skills, when preparing for an exam require far more than memorising and recalling. 

It is particularly challenging, in the English Language specification, where students are faced with unseen texts and expected to be able to decode, infer, synthesise and critically evaluate an author's intentions. How does one do this with a text that they have never set eyes on? 

"Those who read succeed" - this age old maxim displayed in school libraries and classrooms up and down the country has never rung more true. The demands of the new specification require that students are confident readers and that they have developed experience of reading texts across different centuries, genres and authors. In a practice exam in my Year 11 class, the students were asked "How does the author create a sense of apprehension?" 10 students failed to even begin this question because of their lack of understanding of the word "apprehension". It is absolutely essential that students are able to read and understand the vocabulary that is now used in these new exams. A child's reading age becomes a very valuable piece of information, as it is an indicator of whether they are able to access the vocabulary that is now used. 

So what do I tell my students in response to their question? I offer the following practical exercises to help them prepare and improve their skills in English: 

- Read a newspaper article everyday. Write a list of the words that you did not understand and look up their meaning. Build up your own mini glossary as you are going along. 

- Use your new vocabulary when speaking. If you have learnt what apprehension is, could you use it in a sentence? The more new vocabulary you use in your speech, the more you will retain when reading and writing. 

- Check your reading book at the school library. Many of our students carry around a compulsory reading book to read during tutor time or at home, but how many of them are reading books that are appropriate for their reading age? It is essential that students are accessing high brow, advanced vocabulary when reading for pleasure. 

- When reading an article, formulate an argument on it. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Write a counter article in response to what you have read, developing your arguments throughout. 

- Synthesise your set texts. Start by summarising each chapter of the novel you are reading down to an A4 page summary. Reduce that down to a list of bullet point notes. Reduce that further to a list of key words. Reduce that list of key words to a set of pictures. How much of that chapter can you now remember?

Revising for English can be a challenging task at first glance, but through regular engagement with the English language from a range of angles, there is no reason why every student could not flourish. 

Farihah Chantler GCSE English Tutor (East London)

About The Author

Experienced English Teacher and senior leader in a school in Tower Hamlets. I'm also an examiner for AQA for the current specification for GCSE English Language.

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