GCSE English Language - Getting a 9

How to Get a 9 in GCSE English Language

In GCSE by Think Student Editor

Many students find GCSE English Language a difficult subject because you can’t exactly revise for the exams easily. The key to understanding GCSE English Language is knowing what the assessment objectives are and how to achieve them with your answers. Once you know how to correctly answer the questions, you’ll be on your way to getting a 9 in GCSE English Language, no problem. This article is going to work through each assessment objective and tell you what they mean and how you can achieve them.

To succeed in GCSE English Language, you have to understand the assessment objectives like the back of your hand; what they mean and how you can work with them when answering exam questions. As aforementioned, the key to getting your 9 is in the assessment objectives, here’s the summary:

  • AO1 is all about extracting information from the text.
  • AO2 focuses on analysing language and structure.
  • AO3 wants you to show you can compare and contrast texts.
  • AO4 requires in depth evaluation of a text.
  • AO5 measures your creative writing.
  • AO6 is about your vocabulary and grammar.

1. Understanding AO1 is the Difference Between Getting an 8 and a 9

GCSE English Language Student StudyingAO1 – “Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas. Select and synthesise evidence from different texts.”

AO1 is the first assessment objective for GCSE English Language and is used to mark these questions:

  • AQA – Paper 1, Question 1
  • AQA – Paper 2, Questions 1 and 2
  • OCR – Exploring effects and impact, Questions 1a and 1b
  • OCR – Communicating information and ideas, Questions 1 and 2
  • Edexcel – Paper 1, Questions 1 and 2
  • Edexcel – Paper 2, Question 1 and 4

AO1 is the simplest assessment objective and is used for the first questions in your paper. Although the rewarded marks aren’t high, it can make the difference between an 8 and a 9 so you really need to get full marks on these questions.

To achieve AO1, you have to read the given text and extract the information relevant to the question. You don’t have to provide an in-depth analysis, you just need to show the evidence, so this question style is pretty straight forward. However, many students make simple mistakes and miss out on marks.

Don’t give overly long quotations, you only need to include the relevant words or phrases otherwise it’s not clear that you actually know what information to extract. If a metaphor has been used by the writer to describe something, don’t write the metaphor but say what it is actually describing. An example of this was in the 2018 AQA Paper 1 extract; the writer described pterodactyls as ‘flying tents’ but if you wrote that there were ‘flying tents’, you would not get the mark. If the question says ‘explain’, you can’t just use the quote as you need to explain what it means. It is very important to take time to read the question properly.

2. You Have to Show AO2 Understanding in the GCSE English Language Exams

GCSE ClassroomAO2 – “Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views.”

AO2 is the second objective for GCSE English Language and is relevant to these questions:

  • AQA – Paper 1, Questions 2 and 3
  • AQA – Paper 2, Question 3
  • OCR – Exploring effects and impact, Questions 2 and 3
  • OCR – Communicating information and ideas, Question 3
  • Edexcel – Paper 1, Question 3
  • Edexcel – Paper 2, Questions 2, 3 and 5

AO2 is all about taking examples of language and structure from the extract and analysing their effect. The best way to structure your answer for this style of question is P.E.E which stands for Point, Evidence, Explain. This structure will probably be very familiar to you since most teachers use it but it is the best way to demonstrate AO2. The harder part is the actual analysis of the language and structure but, with practice, this will become much more intuitive. To achieve the highest marks, you need to give really detailed analysis which goes beyond the surface level meaning.

You could ask yourself these questions when analysing a piece of text:

  • Why did the writer use this specific word?
  • What is the writer trying to convey?
  • How does this make the reader feel?
  • What are the connotations of this language?
  • Does the structure reflect the content of the extract?
  • Is the writer making a reference and why are they doing this?

The main things to avoid when answering AO2 questions is giving surface level analysis, forgetting to comment on language and structure, and using standard phrases like ‘creates an image’.

3. You Must Understand AO3 to Get That Grade 9

GCSE Books to ReadAO3 – “Compare writers’ ideas and perspectives, as well as how these are conveyed, across two or more texts.”

AO3 is relevant to these questions:

  • AQA – Paper 2, Question 4
  • OCR – Exploring effects and impact, Question 4
  • OCR – Communicating information and ideas, Question 4
  • Edexcel – Paper 2, Question 7b

To achieve the top marks in an AO3 question, you need to look for the similarities and differences across two pieces of text. You must try to write about an equal number of differences and similarities to show that your work is balanced. You also need to have variety in your comparisons so don’t analyse adjectives in every example! The best structure to follow for these questions is to firstly say what point the text is making, how the writer conveys this and then compare or contrast with the other extract.

When comparing and contrasting two pieces of text, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the writer trying to convey?
  • How is the tone different or similar?
  • Do the writers employ particular literary techniques, what is their purpose?
  • How will the readers interpret the text?
  • What emotion is the writer trying to create and how do they do this?

4. Understanding AO4 is Almost As Essential As AO3 in English Language Exams

GCSE TextbooksAO4 – “Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references.”

AO4 is used to mark these questions:

  • AQA – Paper 1, Question 4
  • OCR – Exploring effects and impact, Question 4
  • OCR – Communicating information and ideas, Question 4
  • Edexcel – Paper 1, Question 4
  • Edexcel – Paper 2, Question 6

With AO4 questions, you will be given a statement relating to the extract and you need to give a response and state how far you agree (for Edexcel, you’ll have to evaluate if the writer’s aim was achieved). These questions are all worth 15 marks or more, so it’s really important that you know how to answer them if you want to get a 9 in your English Language GCSE.

There are two main things to evaluate; you need to assess the source in relation to the statement and consider the writer’s methods. If you follow the P.E.E structure, what the source shows and how it links to the statement will be your point but you still need to evaluate it after your example. The writer’s method will be your evidence, then you must evaluate it.

With these questions, there aren’t any rules on what methods you can analyse, meaning there are lots to choose from, so it can be really beneficial to make a mindmap when revising with all the different literary techniques. Take a look at this article to maximise how effective your mind maps are.

5. You Simply Cannot Neglect AO5 When Wanting to Hit the Top Grades

GCSE English Language AO5AO5 – “Communicate clearly, effectively and imaginatively, selecting and adapting tone, style and register for different forms, purposes and audiences. Organise information and ideas, using structural and grammatical features to support coherence and cohesion of texts.”

AO5 is the assessment objective for the creative writing questions:

  • AQA – Paper 1, Question 5 (choice between two tasks)
  • AQA – Paper 2, Question 5 (no choices)
  • OCR – Exploring effects and impact, Question 5 or 6
  • OCR – Communicating information and ideas, Question 5 or 6
  • Edexcel – Paper 1, Question 5 or 6
  • Edexcel – Paper 2, Question 8 or 9

The creative writing part of your English Language GCSE is hugely important as it’s worth half the marks on your paper (with the exception of Edexcel Paper 2, and AO5 makes up 24 of those marks). Creative writing can be daunting for some as there’s no extract to follow, it’s whatever you decide to write about. With the right practice and preparation, the creative writing questions will be a lot easier to tackle.

There are many techniques to use for creative writing so if you’re struggling, think about extracts you’ve analysed over the two years and the creative skills that they used. It’s important to use structural techniques as well as language if you want to get the top marks, but many students struggle with the best structural skills to include.

Students who get the highest grades in GCSE English Language will craft their piece to elicit a specific response from the audience. You need to make this clear enough for the examiner to see what you’ve done. Part of this is creating a certain tone and style, you can achieve this with language techniques like pathetic fallacy or hyperbole.

6. The Icing on the Cake For English Language is AO6

GCSE English Language AO6“Candidates must use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation.”

AO6 is the assessment objective for the creative writing questions:

  • AQA – Paper 1, Question 5 (choice between two tasks)
  • AQA – Paper 2, Question 5 (no choices)
  • OCR – Exploring effects and impact, Question 5 or 6
  • OCR – Communicating information and ideas, Question 5 or 6
  • Edexcel – Paper 1, Question 5 or 6
  • Edexcel – Paper 2, Question 8 or 9

AO6 is dedicated to your vocabulary and grammar and is worth 16 marks in the final creative writing question so it’s really important to perfect this if you want to get a 9 in English Language GCSE.

A useful tip for using a variety of punctuation is to write down various forms of punctuation in your plan, then tick them off as you use them – this ensures you have a wide range.

The best way to improve your vocabulary is to read more, even if you’re just reading the texts for English Literature. If you ever see a word you don’t recognise, research the meaning and write it down – the more you do this, the greater your vocabulary will be.

If you’re really struggling to spell a word in your exam, try and find an alternative that conveys the same meaning rather than losing important marks for your spelling.

By using these tips to improve your spelling and grammar, you’ll be sure to secure a 9 in GCSE English Language.