Tips to help you smash your English exam | Walsall College

Tips to help you smash your English exam

Are you in your last year of school? Are you re-sitting your English GCSE? If so, you’re probably sitting through lesson after lesson, watching your teachers give you tips and exercises (pen and paper kind) to help prepare for the big GCSE exams.

Those capital letters make a lot of people sweat under the collar. But there’s no need to if you’re well prepared. So we thought we’d give you some tips that - hopefully - won’t make your eyes feel heavy.

In our first exams blog, we’ll be looking at English Language. Believe it or not, achieving a grade 4 or above in English is a pretty big deal, whether you’re planning to be a teacher, an engineer, a designer or a chef.

From writing covering letters to impress your future boss to crafting an email persuading clients and customers to work with you. Knowing how to communicate is key. Not just to opening doors, but also to get on in life.

So here, we’ll take you through question 2 in Paper 1. This one focuses on Language Features, asking you to look at how the writer uses language for a particular reason.

Below is a popular example of question 2, which some of you may be familiar with: 

Why INFERENCE is important (and no, it’s not a new Hollywood movie)

Notice the three bullet points? Take note of them because you need to comment on them and include them in your INFERENCE.

INFERENCE is where you will get most of your points for this answer. Go big with this – ask yourself “why has the writer used this feature?”, “How does this feature affect the story and how I see it?”

Does “Bewildered multitudes” paint a picture of a few people stepping off the tram and power walking off as if they know exactly where they are going?

Think about what images, words and phrases spring to mind when you read them. Now, let us take you through the bullet points:

Bullet Point 1 - Words and phrases

These relates to the words and quotes you will lift from the text. Look at the describing words, comparisons (the sky glimmered like a…) and what pictures come to mind when you come across words like ‘bloom’ and ‘sparkled’.

Be sure you only include the relevant part of the quote. You don’t have time to write masses.

Bullet Point 2 – Language features and techniques

The extract in question two is made up of a number of language features that help the reader envision what the writer is seeing when they penned their story. This bullet point asks you to find these!

Revise some language features that will score you more marks: Metaphor, Adverb, Personification, Emotive Language and Imagery.

Bullet Point 3 – Sentence Form

This is probably the most challenging of them all. But try reading aloud and you’ll see that different sentence lengths makes you read a passage a certain way. And makes you feel a certain way.

If we’ve confused you, here is an exercise for you:

Passage 1

He walked through the open door. The floorboard creaked under his foot. He squinted in the darkness. He thought he could make out another door, when he heard a bang. He jumped and turned around. The door was shut behind him.

Passage 2

He walked into the dark room and squinted because he couldn’t see properly. He thought he could see another door to walk through, but there was a bang that scared him and he turned around to see the door was shut behind him

Which passage had you hooked? Which one made you feel more uncomfortable for the poor guy walking through this dark and creepy house?

Long sentences often create a sad or laid back mood to the story, whilst shorter sentences can either build tension or excitement. What’s happening in the story will help you decide.

Try commenting on this when it comes to your exam, as it will help you secure those all-important marks to get your grade 4.

Need extra help?

Don’t worry, Mr Bruff is here to the rescue. He may not have a cape, but he does have his own Youtube channel, and the superpower to help you smash your English exam.

You can watch is video here:

Remember, stay calm, take plenty of breaks and do your best!

For more information about enrolling on a course at Walsall College, please call 01922 657000 or email

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