Exams Ahead

Help! English Exams Ahead

As a Teacher of English for over 12 years and mother for over 8 years, I know all too well how demanding life can be. As parents, we are constantly being reminded of the importance of literacy and Maths in ensuring a bright and successful future for our children. Well here, I’ll write specifically about the English Language GCSE. If you are the parent of a school-age child, it’s never too early (or late!) to read on to find out:

  1. What the requirements for the examination are.
  2. How you can prepare/support your children at home.


Let’s Break it Down:

The English Language GCSE consists of 2 exams sat on two separate occasions, each lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes. Whilst there are a range of exam boards (AQA, OCR, Edexcel) all Language exams require students to successfully hit 6 Assessment Objectives (plus 3 for Spoken Language presentations conducted in school). The reality is, you can support your children in developing these from a young age and in creative ways. I’ll list the objectives and provide some suggestions for supporting your children in line with the exam criteria.


The GCSE Assessment Objectives:

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254497/GCSE_English_language.pdf

Mrs. Zara’s Top Tips:

These are not exhaustive, but will go some way in providing recommendations for ways to engage with your children, and encourage their engagement with the assessment objectives:



  • Watch the news/documentaries as a family. Encourage your children to summarise stories, events, facts and ideas in a concise way.
  • Question your children about the novel they are reading/studying. Ask them to support their comments with clues from the text. A discussion may go something like this:


Parent: What page are you up to of your novel, son?

Child: Page 87.

Parent: Who’s the main character?

Child: A boy called Bruno.

Parent: How would you summarise his personality in two words?

Child: Naïve and kind-hearted.

Parent: Interesting, why did you say naïve?

Child: Well because he doesn’t seem to understand that his mother has been crying, even though her eyes are red.

Parent: Ah, can you read me the section that shows his innocence?

Child: (looks in novel) Here, on page 47 it says…

Parent: Awesome. Do we know anyone who reminds you of Bruno? How so?


Sounds idyllic, I know. But the more you dialogue like this, the more natural it will become. And you don’t really need to have read the novel yourself to be able to drive this kind of discussion. Your child’s responses will lead your questioning.



  • Find a politician’s speech on YouTube. Listen to it together and discuss how he or she has used words and what effect it has on the listener. Speeches could range from those from Martin Luther King to George W. Bush to (dare I say it) Donald Trump.
  • Have a family film night with popcorn and all the frills. Discuss the camera shots and angles. What does the camera focus on and why? How does the director want the audience to feel?


AO3 & AO4:


  • During dinner, talk about a controversial topic. Say, Social Media, youth violence or immigration laws. Discuss issues openly, sharing different perspectives. Encourage understanding of other people’s viewpoints, even if you ultimately disagree with them.
  • Read/watch and discuss the same issue/topic from two different news outlets. Discuss the differences in the way the topics are presented. Take The Sun and The Guardian, for example. The way they write about Meghan and Harry may differ somewhat! Discuss how effectively the writers have communicated their ideas.



AO5 & AO6:


  • When watching family episodes, invite your children to write a review or summary of the programme.
  • Purchase your child a plush diary- one that they will enjoy writing in. Invite them to reflect on their day daily. Invite them to write and illustrate- to jot ideas, to write stories, to create shopping lists.
  • Assign your children the task of drafting letters to companies and service providers on your behalf. It is important that our children recognise the difference between formal writing and a colloquial style of written expression.
  • Read newspapers as a family. Discuss the content but also the organisation of the article. Aim to read both tabloid (The Daily Mirror) and broadsheet (The Guardian) papers.
  • Write your child a note/letter with mistakes in it. Challenge him/her to correct your spelling, punctuation and grammartical errors. Every child likes to be in charge and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.

My final tip would be to foster a reading culture in your home from a young age. Read mainly fiction but also non-fiction materials. Your children will need to be comfortable reading and understanding 19th Century (by Charles Dickens, for example) through to 21st Century texts. Until your children are intrinsically motivated, why not offer extrinsic prompts? There is enough out there to dissuade our children from education/critical thinking, so let’s do what it takes to encourage them, offering rewards along the way.


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