Top 5 Revision Tips for GCSE English

Written by Dr John Adam for Medic Mind

GCSE English can be a daunting subject, especially with the long texts you can be expected to analyse. That’s why revising early and plenty of practise is so important! Here are our top 5 tips for GCSE English revision.

  1. Get comfortable with essay structures
  2. Use study guides
  3. Read, read, read!
  4. Check the specification and mark scheme
  5. Use different techniques

1. Get comfortable with an essay structure

In the GCSE English exam, you’ll be expected to produce several essays on poetry, fiction or non-fiction texts. You need to be comfortable with a common structure for all of these if you’re going to perform well, so some thought and structured practice will go a long way! 

A good structure to start with in every practice essay is the PEEL technique – that’s Point, Evidence, Explain, Link. If every single paragraph includes these elements, then every paragraph will be on topic and heading for a level 9! 

It is crucial to practise your essay structure in timed conditions. It’s no good having a perfect structure in your head during revision if it’s always taking you well over the allotted time. 

As a general rule, in a 2-hour English exam, divide your time as follows:

  • 10 minutes – to write read and highlight the question and extract
  • 15 minutes – to plan your essay
  • 15 minutes – to write the introduction
  • 1 hour – to write the main body of your essay
  • 10 minutes – to write the conclusion
  • 10 minutes – to read over your essay

2. Use study guides

Study guides don’t have to be books, although they certainly can be! A good place to start is CGP or York Notes, which are both very popular, tried, and tested resources for English GCSE texts and exams. 

Another port of call is the internet. We recommend checking out BBC Bitesize or SparkNotes, which cover the most important texts for every exam board! 

Finally, try thinking outside the box! Listening to revision podcasts is a great way to revise when you need a break from your desk, meaning you can cook, go for a walk, or go shopping whilst studying! GCSE English RevisionPod breaks down a different topic or theme within English Language and Literature in each episode, and Win’s Literary Corner focuses on how to analyse different literary texts. Listening to an episode or two of these is an excellent alternative on one of those days when you just can’t look at another flashcard.

3. Read, read, read!

One of the best and simplest ways you can revise GCSE English is to read! Regularly reading any book for pleasure will help develop your vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing ability without you even noticing. Reading just a little every day is proven to improve your memory, quality of sleep and overall well-being, so get yourself a book, relax, and see your grade improve as a result!

4. Check the specification and mark scheme

Here’s the deal: GCSE English is much more formulaic than you think. Examiners are looking for very specific things to mark you on. As well as this, it’s not unheard of for questions to be repeated almost word-for-word!

If you take the time to look at past papers and really focus on the mark scheme, it won’t take long to get some perfect model answers written up. If the same question then comes up in your paper, you’ll have a great answer all ready to go. If it’s a different question, you’ll have focused so well on the mark scheme that you will be able to use all the techniques that they want to see! 

5. Use different techniques

Revision techniques are not one-size-fits-all, different people will favour different methods, so it’s best to try out a range of approaches. You might find that going over flashcards is the best method for you to use when revising for the unseen poetry section but is not so helpful for analysing your set modern text. So, try a few things out and see which works best for you when revising each section of the exam.

Here’s a few simple ideas to keep revision fresh:

  1. Draw mind maps about each main character from your set texts, and include any key quotes and themes to use when writing about them.
  2. Write out flashcards to remember important quotes, techniques, and context points to support your answers.
  3. Try writing analyses of characters from books, films, or TV shows that you enjoy and ask your teacher to read over them. 
  4. Practise planning essays from past papers.
  5. Get a friend or family member to ask you questions to test you on your knowledge, vocabulary, techniques and your seen texts. 

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