A Comprehensive Guide to IGCSE English Language

Your Complete IGCSE English Handbook

Are you a homeschooling parent seeking clarity on the IGCSE English Language 0500 Exam? This comprehensive guide is here to help. From registering for the Cambridge English Exams to honing your child’s writing skills, this post delves into crucial information and strategies to ensure success in their IGCSE English language course. We’ll explore core topics from paper 1 such as comprehension, implicit and explicit ideas, summaries, text analysis, and directed writing. We’ll also delve into paper 2 components like directed writing, narrative writing, and descriptive writing. This guide will equip your child to ace their IGCSE English exam!

The Role of Reading and Writing in IGCSE English Language Exams

While it might seem simplistic to boil it down to reading and writing, these two skills encompass what’s required. Of course, speaking abilities are also important, and if beneficial, students should consider taking the speaking exam. However, most private candidates typically focus on papers 1 and 2.

Understanding the Exam Structure

The Two Key Components: Paper 1 and Paper 2

In the English course, our abilities to read and write are paramount. Paper 1 focuses on reading, and paper 2 centers on writing, but there’s a clear overlap. To demonstrate your reading proficiency, you must articulate your thoughts, and the writing components require you to engage with texts that serve as source material.

Choosing the Right Exam: The Significance of Oral Endorsement

When registering for exams as a private candidate, opt for 0500 with oral endorsement. However, the oral endorsement is optional. If you’re not a private candidate, you may have the choice to write paper 1 and complete coursework for your reading component. This coursework portfolio comprises 3 assignments requiring expertise in descriptive, narrative, argumentative, discursive, and persuasive writing.

Be entertained by this AI generated image of someone doing… something. I rate it 5/10.

Deep Dive into Paper 1: Reading Skills

Unraveling the Art of Comprehension: Implicit and Explicit Ideas

Paper 1 requires you to answer comprehension questions, and evaluating implicit and explicit ideas. If you’re unclear about what that means, implicit ideas are hidden within the phrase and need to be teased out. In contrast, explicit ideas are clear and straightforward, requiring little deep inspection.

Evaluating Moods and Attitudes: The Key to Full Marks for this section

You’ll need to evaluate the moods and attitudes of characters or the writer from a given piece. Full marks require a thorough explanation of your findings. You must learn to communicate your thoughts effectively and clearly. Many questions on this exam aim to assess your ability to evaluate ideas accurately and effectively.

Decoding the Sentiment: The Heart of Character Analysis

Decoding the moods and attitudes of characters or the writer can seem challenging. But remember, literature reflects human emotions and sentiments. Mastering this skill requires an empathetic approach toward the characters and the writer. Look for verbal cues in their dialogues, actions, and reactions. Analyzing the choice of words can provide valuable insight into their emotions.

Example time

For example, the writer’s tone could range from critical, disapproving, or sarcastic to appreciative, admiring, or passionate. A gloomy setting might indicate a melancholic mood, while a vibrant one can imply joy and excitement. Pay attention to nuances in the text—the punctuation, sentence rhythm, metaphors, and similes all contribute to the overall sentiment of the piece.

Remember, comprehensive evaluation isn’t about stating the obvious; it requires digging deeper, understanding the subtext, and articulating the subtle emotions the text offers. That’s the key to achieving full marks and truly appreciating literature.

Diving Deeper into Evaluating Moods and Attitudes

When evaluating moods and attitudes in the reading comprehension section, think like a detective. Moods can often be determined by the language and tone used by the author. For instance, words like ‘gloomy’, ‘dreary’, and ‘dark’ suggest a somber mood, while words like ‘bright’, ‘cheerful’, and ‘lively’ indicate a more positive mood.

Attitude, however, is slightly more nuanced, relating to the author’s or character’s personal feelings towards a subject within the text. Bias, sarcasm, seriousness, humor, or other distinct sentiments conveyed through the text can reveal attitude.

To score full marks, you must correctly identify the mood and attitude and provide clear explanations for your interpretations. Refer back to the text, using direct quotes as evidence to support your analysis. This thorough exploration shows the examiner that you’ve engaged with and understood the text at a deeper level.

The Power of Synonyms: Understanding Words in Context

You’ll also need to find synonyms of words to demonstrate your understanding of word usage in a given text. This means you must understand words in their context.

Building Your Vocabulary: Exam Preparation

Active reading

Expanding your vocabulary for exams involves active reading. This means more than just scanning the text; slow down your reading speed, and paying attention to new words and phrases. Consider keeping a dictionary nearby to look up unfamiliar words. By understanding their meanings and how they’re used in context, you’ll gradually incorporate these words into your vocabulary.


Next, consider using flashcards as a method of learning new words. Write the word on one side of the card and its definition on the other. Review these cards daily, and try to use these new words in your daily communication. The more you use a word, the more solidly it will become part of your vocabulary. You can also use online platforms that offer digital flashcards and vocabulary games to make this process more enjoyable and interactive.

Diversified media intake

Lastly, try engaging with diverse forms of media such as novels, newspapers, podcasts, or films. Each source uses language in slightly different ways. This will expose you to a wide variety of words and phrases, including colloquialisms, idioms, and jargon. Additionally, participate in discussions, debates, and conversation clubs as these activities will also force you to think on your feet and use new words in real-time. Remember, consistency is key; expanding your vocabulary is a marathon, not a sprint.

Mastering the Art of Summation: What to Write and How to Write It

Be entertained by this rendition of summation. 9/10! Full score with rice

You’ll also be tested on your ability to summarise a text. The purpose of the summary is to determine whether you can discern relevant information when answering a specific question. You get marks for both what you write and how you write it.

Read the text thoroughly

To begin summarising a text, read the entire text thoroughly. Understand the context, the overarching theme, and the major points presented. Highlight or underline key phrases or sentences that encapsulate the main ideas.

Take notes

Next, jot down the primary points in your own words. A good summary doesn’t merely replicate the original text; it condenses the information and presents it in a simplified manner. Stay true to the original meaning while avoiding unnecessary details or examples.

Rough draft

Then, construct a rough draft of your summary. Note that you will be editing it as your final, you wont write a final draft. Begin with a clear introduction that outlines the text’s main theme or thesis. Continue by outlining the key points, ensuring that your summary flows logically and coherently.

Turn your draft into a final with some crossing out

Finally, revise your summary. Ensure that you have accurately captured the main points and the overall meaning of the text. Check for any grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. Your summary should be accurate, well-written, and polished, providing a comprehensive understanding of its main points and context to someone who has not seen the original text.

The goal of the summary

Remember, the goal of summarization isn’t to replicate the text verbatim, but to reduce it to its essential points, making it easier and quicker to understand. You’ll be given specific questions, and you need to answer those questions through your summary. Your choice of key points will be dictated by these instructions. Practice is key to mastering this skill, so take every opportunity to summarise articles, chapters, or even entire books.

Analysing Language for Effect: A Gift for Your Future English Studies

A person giving a gift to their future self at the entrance of a time machine. I rate it 9/10.

Beyond this, you’ll be directed to two paragraphs in a text and asked to explain how the writer has used language for effect. You’ll need to reference three words or phrases in each paragraph and analyze their effect. This skill is particularly useful for future AS or A-level English studies, as that course contains loads of text analysis.

The process of writer’s effect

To effectively analyse the effect created by the writer’s use of language, begin by identifying the overall effect of the paragraph, then find three words or phrases that the writer has used to convey a particular sentiment or image related to what you said the overall effect is. These could be metaphors, similes, alliteration, or other literary devices. Then, strive to understand the connotations of these words or phrases and the emotional response they aim to elicit in the reader.

Structure is everything

A clear and well-structured response is essential for effectively communicating your analysis. Ideally, your answer should be divided into two distinct paragraphs. The first paragraph should discuss the first paragraph that you were asked to look at, while the second paragraph should do the same for the second paragraph being referenced. You need to ensure that you are analyzing in depth rather than just stating the effect. We need to know that you understand how the language is creating the effect – what is it about those words or phrases that are creating that effect? This neat and orderly structure will enhance the comprehensibility of your answer and facilitate a more rigorous and comprehensive analysis.

Directed Writing: The Final Component of the Reading Paper

Directed writing is the final component of the reading paper. While it involves writing a text, it summarises many of the skills in the exam and requires you to use texts as a reference to write a piece in a specific style and format (using language for effect) where you are answering specific questions that have been set out for you, requiring summary skills, skills related to implicit and explicit meaning, and rephrasing things to create a coherent piece of writing.

It’s the everything for me

The nature of Directed Writing tasks demands a multifaceted skillset, encompassing not only a comprehensive understanding of the source text but also the ability to manipulate language to suit a given task. This is where your prowess in reading comprehension and analytical skills come in handy.

Your success in Directed Writing is contingent upon your ability to adapt to the task at hand, which could range from writing a formal letter, an article, or a speech, to crafting a narrative or descriptive piece. The key is to understand the specific requirements of the task and tailor your writing accordingly.

Example time

For instance, if you’re tasked with writing a formal letter, ensure you adhere to the conventions of formal writing – using a formal tone, avoiding colloquial language, and structuring your letter appropriately with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. If you’re asked to write a newspaper article, aim for a catchy headline, an engaging lead paragraph, and include quotes where relevant.

What is being assessed here?

Regardless of the task, keep in mind that you are always being assessed on your ability to articulate ideas clearly, use appropriate language, and structure your writing effectively. Therefore, it’s crucial to plan your response before you start writing. Outline your main points, organize your thoughts logically, and ensure that your writing flows smoothly from one idea to the next.


Remember to proofread your work before submitting it. Check for any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or awkward phrasing. A polished piece of writing not only demonstrates your command of the English language but also shows that you’ve taken the time to refine your work, which can leave a positive impression on the examiner.

Deep Dive into Paper 2: Writing Skills

A person Climbing into, or out of (I'm not sure) a pot of ink
A person Climbing into, or out of (I’m not sure) a pot of ink. I rate it 7/10.

Paper 2 focuses on your writing skills. You’ll be asked to write two compositions: one directed writing task and one creative writing task.

Directed Writing: Conveying Information Clearly and Effectively

The directed writing task will ask you to write a piece of non-fiction. This could be a letter, an article, a report, a review, or a speech. Regardless of the format, you’ll need to convey information clearly and effectively.

Understand the Task: The First Step to Success

The first step to success in directed writing is understanding the task. Read the instructions carefully. What is the purpose of the piece? Who is the intended audience? What format should it be in? Knowing the answers to these questions will guide your writing and help you to create a piece that meets the task’s requirements.

Planning Your Response: Laying the Groundwork for a Well-Structured Piece

Once you understand the task, plan your response. Think about what points you want to make and how you want to structure your piece. Write an outline to guide your writing process. This can help ensure that your piece is well-structured and that your ideas flow logically from one point to the next.

Writing Your Piece: Articulating Your Ideas Clearly and Coherently

When writing your piece, keep your audience in mind. Use language that is appropriate for the intended readership. Ensure that your ideas are expressed clearly and coherently. Use paragraphs to organize your points and to make your piece easier to read.

Editing Your Work: Polishing Your Piece to Perfection

After you’ve written your piece, take the time to revise and edit it. Look for any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or awkward phrasing. Make sure that your piece is well-structured, that your ideas are clearly articulated, and that your language is appropriate for the task and audience.

Creative Writing: Unleashing Your Imagination

AI generated image of a person unleashing their imagination. I rate it 8/10.

The creative writing task will ask you to write a narrative or descriptive piece. This is your chance to show off your creativity and storytelling skills.

Choosing a Topic: Finding Inspiration for Your Story

When choosing a topic for your creative writing task, think about what interests you. What kinds of stories do you enjoy reading? What themes or ideas do you find compelling? Use these as a starting point for your own story.

Creating Your Characters: Bringing Your Story to Life

Characters are crucial to any story. Spend some time developing your characters. What are their motivations? What challenges do they face? How do they change throughout the story? Do you want the audience to love them or hate them? Creating complex, believable characters can bring your story to life and engage your readers.

Characters are often best explored through what they say, this might be the voice in their head, the words that they use or the way that they interact. Learn how to write compelling dialogue and you are on your way there!

Setting the Scene: Painting a Picture with Words

Descriptive writing is all about creating a vivid image in the reader’s mind. Use sensory details to describe the setting, the characters, and the events of your story. Make your reader see, hear, feel, smell, and taste what your characters are experiencing.

Remember that you should be aiming to show, rather than tell.

Building Tension: Keeping Your Readers Hooked

A good story needs tension to keep the readers engaged. Build suspense by setting up conflicts and challenges for your characters. Keep your readers guessing about what will happen next.

Writing Your Story: Letting Your Imagination Run Wild

When writing your story, let your imagination run wild. Don’t be afraid to take risks or try new things. Experiment with different narrative techniques, play around with language and explore different themes and ideas.

Revising Your Story: Perfecting Your Masterpiece

Once you’ve written your story, revise it. Look for any areas that could be improved. Are there any parts that are confusing or unclear? Could the pacing be better? Is the language appropriate for the story and audience? Don’t be afraid to make changes or rewrite parts of your story. The goal is to create the best piece of writing that you can.

n Conclusion: Preparing for the IGCSE English Exam

Preparing for the IGCSE English exam requires a strong foundation in reading and writing skills. By understanding the structure of the exam and the skills it tests, you can develop a study plan that will help you succeed.

Strategy for Success: Engaging in Group Classes

A group of people who don’t exist. I rate it 9/10.

One highly effective strategy to prepare for success in the IGCSE English Language exams is to engage in group study sessions. These sessions not only allow you to practice your reading and writing skills but also offer an opportunity to learn from others. They provide a platform for active discussions, thoughtful debates, and collaborative learning, all of which are essential for enhancing your comprehension and communication abilities. In addition, joining a homeschool co-op or working with friends can greatly enhance your preparation. Consistent effort is crucial for IGCSE English as it is not just a stepping stone but an end in itself. While working through the textbook is important, receiving feedback and engaging in discussions surrounding the content are equally vital. At Threndol Tutoring, we offer weekly IGCSE group classes that span over 4 hours. These classes are meticulously crafted to cover all aspects of the curriculum in depth, with a special focus on reading, writing, analysis and proofreading techniques. By participating in these group sessions and collaborating with peers striving for success in IGCSE English Language exams, you will have the opportunity to work on practice papers, receive constructive feedback, and enrich your learning journey. Together, we can gain a thorough understanding of the subject and perform at our best.

Remember, practice is key. The more you read and write, the better you’ll become. Take every opportunity to practice your skills, whether it’s summarising a news article, analysing a poem, or writing a short story.

With dedication, hard work, and the right strategies, you can ace your IGCSE English exam and open up a world of opportunities for further study and career advancement.

Additional resources

While this comprehensive guide provides an overview of the IGCSE English Language 0500 Exam, it’s important to remember that every student’s journey is unique. Tailor your study plan to your strengths and weaknesses, and don’t hesitate to seek help if needed.

There are numerous resources available online, such as past papers, sample essays, and study guides, which can provide additional support as you prepare for the exam. Scroll through my blog to check if there is anything useful for you here too. Furthermore, consider seeking feedback on your writing from teachers or peers to identify areas for improvement.

Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:

1. Time Management: Practice working within the time limits set by the exam. This will help you gauge how long to spend on each question and prevent you from running out of time.

2. Review Feedback: If you have access to past papers or mock exams, make sure to review the feedback provided. Understanding where you lost marks in the past can help you avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

3. Keep Reading: The more you read, the more you’ll improve your comprehension skills and vocabulary. Try to read a variety of genres and text types to broaden your understanding of different writing styles and techniques.

4. Practice Writing: Regularly practicing writing will not only improve your writing skills but also help you get comfortable with producing high-quality work under time constraints.

5. Stay Positive: Preparing for an exam can be stressful, but remember to stay positive. A positive mindset can boost your confidence and performance.

Finally, remember that this exam is just one step on your academic journey. Whether you’re aiming for top grades to secure a place at a competitive university, or simply looking to use it as a stepping stone, what matters most is the effort and dedication you put into your preparation.

With consistent practice and the right resources, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle the IGCSE English Language 0500 Exam. Good luck!

Igniting Your Curiosity

I feel like we spend so much time building into our kids that we neglect ourselves. So today’s session is about how we can ignite curiosity in ourselves first. Well, it starts with that. Starting to bring in curiosity, we cannot even begin to bring curiosity into our children’s lives when ours comes from a lack of inspiration because day-to-day motions cause us to forget.

My theme is to be like that bee hive. Bees in a bee hive are very focused on their specific task, but I want to bring into my life and my students’ lives a focused activity but from a place of curiosity. So we can approach pretty much everything from a place of curiosity. A bee goes toward a flower because it’s colorful and interesting to them.

To me, curiosity really comes down to a desire to figure it out or try it, but curiosity is also that ability to take risks. I remember when I was younger, I got up and made coffee and burned myself in the same spot. I thought about that a lot over the years because I mean it was probably just my curiosity – I wonder what would happen if I did that again. So curiosity can be dangerous. We are raised and grow up in a world where curiosity is prevented.

When I say curiosity, I specifically mean interest in anything. There is nothing that is too unimportant to research, nothing that my kids are interested in is unimportant because the point of learning is to learn and grow. Yeah, I’ll get into that later. The beginning of a curious student, a curious approach to Cambridge or any exam, is really us as parents having that vibrant curiosity.

A beehive can only thrive when the queen is vibrant and strong. Our household too, is only strong when we as parents have that vibrancy. Our children only learn when our curiosity brings life. We can’t be lifeless and tell them that they must learn when we are not learning. That doesn’t mean that we must learn what they are learning because honestly I do not care about some aspects of TikTok dances. But I am interested in my children, so if they are interested in it, I will engage.

It becomes difficult to nurture our own interests when we feel we need to teach our child math or read this book with them. Everything we do becomes built around learning what they need to learn. But I want to challenge myself as well as my kids – let’s explore and learn because we are curious. If we force our children to sit and work 8 hours a day but they are only doing it because we said so, I feel that lacks inspiration. Especially as homeschoolers we are able to bring things into learning for the sake of interest and exploring different facets of life.

I got my kids silk worms not because it was part of a curriculum, but because they asked how silk is made and how the life cycle of silkworms work. So we’re exploring that, but I’m not doing it because I must do this topic now. I find learning engaging when it comes from my own interest. My son and I were looking up loud music theory videos, not because he “needs” to learn music theory, but because we were both interested.

The thing is, we need to show our children that learning can follow from our inspiration. So how do we build our own curiosity? That is a challenge that I don’t have the answer for everyone, but here is the answer for me. As a kid, my curiosity was stifled by teachers telling me I was wasting my time, that what I was doing had no value. It was stifled by being told I failed at something, like failing a spelling test, which really wasn’t failing.

Does it matter if I enjoy learning spelling words or not? Does it matter whether I sit for 7 hours a day and write essays or whether I sit and journal? Does it matter if I learn biology through a textbook or by working out statistics related to genetics? These are ways we can approach learning, but we get caught up in doing what the textbook or curriculum says – how a “good” student should be.

I feel the first step is to believe that we as adults can learn the same way a child can. We can acquire new languages, learn absolutely anything we want. I often joke the difference between being an expert in something versus knowing nothing about it is a late night for me. When I want to learn something, I’ll be up until 3am researching, writing, listening to music – hanging out with myself. I’m not learning for any deadline, I’m learning because I’m genuinely interested in the topic. There is no value in rote learning, but I can still learn deeply.

So our first step is having the confidence in ourselves that we can learn. Then, actually taking that initial inspiration and committing to learn something new. After that, it’s important to have the skills to properly research a topic. Many of us, when I was in high school, it was not so easy to find information. Now we live in a world with unlimited access to information, yet we know nothing because we get so overwhelmed. Our strategy for researching something is typing it into Google and reading the first result. There is so much more depth we can go into. We don’t have to just skim, we can really dive deep. I’m going to send everyone some tips on how I research a topic, because without being able to properly research, our curiosity can’t be fully explored.

Our curiosity can also be explored through experimenting. I wonder what will happen if I add this spice to my curry? A year ago my curries were terrible. After talking to a student who gave me some tips, that changed everything – it was the best curry I’d ever tasted. From there I developed a bit of an obsession with curries and tweaking recipes. It’s really just because I’m curious what I can create. So what if I burn the rice, or the computer crashes – I’ll just reload the operating system. We can and should explore things even if they go wrong sometimes. Of course some experiments are dangerous, like throwing a glass against the wall. We need to find healthy ways to explore curiosity, but in order to teach healthy exploration, we must know what lights our own curiosity first.

Is it too late to ignite curiosity in children, even if they are 15 or 16? I don’t think it is. I’ve had students come to me who completely lack curiosity or care about learning. They don’t care about math or English. After just 2-3 months in my course, they absolutely love the subject because it stops being about judging if they are good or bad at it. Instead, it becomes about all the fascinating things there are still left to learn. So curiosity in our children can easily be revived with the right approach.

Curiosity is already in our children – we just need to reignite it. We can reignite their curiosity by being passionate learners ourselves, and also by encouraging whatever specific interests they have. If they are interested in rocks, listen to them talk about rocks for hours, explore rocks with them, sit with them while they categorize their rock collection. If they’re interested in multiplication tables but they’re only 5 years old, let them explore and get excited about numbers. Don’t shut it down by saying they are not old enough. Let them be curious. Let them get excited about learning. If they are completely wrong, you might want to gently help guide them, but only if it’s the right time and space. If they’re not open to input in that moment, you can correct it later and show them exactly how something works later on.

How do we apply this concept of curiosity to academics? I do use textbooks and standardized resources with my students, but they have never seen me open a textbook in front of them. I reword everything, even if I’m copying something directly from a book, to paint ideas as ideas we are discovering together. I never present anything as coming from an outside textbook. It’s framed as an idea, an exercise we’re figuring out together, something we’re exploring. I’m not the expert – I am knowledgeable, but I don’t take an “expert” position. I present myself as a co-learner with my students.

For example, in one of my IGCSE classes we did a curiosity day. We read a short text, and pulled out one highly quotable sentence. I had them post it in our online forum. Then, only after they did that initial exercise of looking at the meaning in context, I told them the next step. I said let’s now take this quote out of context as an exercise. I told them to take the exact same sentence, but place it in a totally different fictional context and explain how that changes the meaning. I did this exercise along with them, using a quote about bees. They came up with creative examples, and were able to look at how radically meaning can change depending on context. By the end, they didn’t even fully realize everything they had learned about language. They just knew they had fun with the activity.

It sparked their interest because everything can be turned into a learning opportunity if you start with curiosity. When we are introducing any topic, look to tap into what already interests students and start there. I was doing some math with a student who was bored by the material. I asked what he was personally interested in lately, and he was really into comparing the protein content and quality in different protein sources. So we looked at if he needed to consume a certain amount of protein each day, how could he get that through different sources like whey versus plant proteins that have different percentages of protein per gram. That became a starting point to explore concepts like ratios, percentages, nutrition etc.

From that practical real world example, we could branch out to cover what was required in the syllabus he was prepping for. As we cover each official topic, we take it off paper and into the real world. Yes, it’s more intensive to teach this way, tailoring lessons to the child’s interests – but I only provide the starting point or framework, most of the time my students then self-direct learning. They go and excitedly geek out about the topic, researching more deeply on their own. When my A-Level English students come to class, they tell me about videos or articles they found, sharing how language has evolved and affected culture over time. I give them the opportunity to direct their own learning.

Yes we still have a checklist of topics to cover, but trying to rigidly fulfill the checklist is not going to lead to engagement. In some circumstances like a time crunch, I will give more guidance. But the ideal is that students decide for themselves what fascinates them and how they want to explore it. When students are 15, 16, 17, as parents we need to stop hand-holding and let children take responsibility for their learning.

I’ve seen that when parents clearly communicate that “this is your responsibility and I will back you up,” those students excel not just on exams but in life. I had one student who started math with me in 10th grade struggling, but his mom and I were united in making it his journey that we were guiding, not forcing. It was wild for me watching that respectful dynamic. He finished high school math with me, went on to university, and after his first year there he became a tutor for other college students in advanced math topics. Then at one point I even needed help teaching accounting to my other students, and he came to teach the class!

We can explore integrating curiosity into any subject if we just let go of our own anxiety about whether our kids are learning the “right” things on the “right” timeline. We cannot measure their success based on a letter grade on an exam. I’ve seen students get As across the board, but when it comes to life skills and relationships they struggle, because school was only about chasing the exam grades, not actually retaining knowledge and cultivating curiosity. School is about learning how to learn. The things we explore, topics we cover, those are secondary.

Something very important I want to share is that I learned so much of what I know about teaching methodology from people who are not professional teachers. My pedagogy is influenced by the Charlotte Mason approach – that you should learn from those passionate in their field, not necessarily someone who just wants to sell you a textbook. There are wonderful people who write textbooks, if it’s their passion. But most conventional textbooks are churned out for profit, not passion. It’s okay to make money, but when profit is the focus over sharing knowledge, students suffer.

The biggest shift in my teaching came when I stopped trying to meticulously plan lessons, and instead focused my energy on learning from people who are true experts in whatever I’m interested in. When I want to learn about bees, I read books by beekeepers and entomologists, not generic textbooks. Books represent so much concentrated insight, as authors have to go through a lot to get published. Yes, some books and blog posts out there are poorly researched, but the best way to learn is to go straight to primary sources from those passionate in their field.

Instead of saying okay, I need to teach this English concept of textual analysis, let me go learn about it from some other teacher doing the same exam. No – let’s go learn from literary critics, linguists, what have experts in analyzing language said and written about it? Let’s go beyond the minimum textbook content. The textbook is our starting point but never the endpoint, because exams are not the purpose of learning. Exams are just milestones along the way, because we are lifelong learners.

I know a lot of what I shared probably sounds quite idealistic or radical to some. But I promise you, my students love learning. People who come to me hating math or English, within months completely shift their perspective. I have students spend hours of their free time studying linguistics, and they aren’t even my full time students! I only see some of them 4 hours a week, and they come to class during holidays too just for fun. It’s not because I’m some amazing teacher – it’s because of the respectful, curiosity based, mutually inspiring approach I take.

If anyone has questions, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to share more specifics on applying this philosophy to different subjects. I’ll be sending everyone who attended this session some follow up notes too, with daily prompts to get you thinking about growing your own curiosity. Then that vibrant curiosity will naturally overflow into your home and children’s lives too.

Mastering A-Level English: The Ultimate Exam Study Guide for Students, Parents and Teachers

As an A-Level English teacher, I always (mostly always because sometimes these kids are super stressed out) enjoy my tutoring sessions with students who are preparing for their exams. Earlier this week, I had an especially fruitful online session with one of my students.Here are some of the key concepts we discussed, as they may benefit other A-Level English students who are also gearing up for their exams.

Analysing the Features of Diverse Text Types

One of the major skills assessed on the exam is the ability to analyse the features and conventions of different text types. I encouraged my student to actively seek out examples of real-world texts, like ads, op-eds, brochures, podcast transcripts, travel guides, etc. and catalog them in a database (I love Obsidian because you can make notes on them in the same place, but you could also load them onto Google drive and add links in a Google sheet). This will help develop familiarity with diverse text types. For each example, students should note details such as:

  • Date
  • Type of text
  • Key features and conventions
  • Intended audience
  • Purpose

Building this database over time will prove invaluable when it comes time to analyse unfamiliar texts in the exam – and when it comes time to write in these different forms.

Distinguishing Between News and Commentary

We also discussed the difference between news reports and article/commentary pieces. While news aims to inform readers about events, articles take a broader approach, providing context, opinions, and analysis. This distinction is important when evaluating the purpose and perspective of a text.

Crafting Descriptive Writing

In addition to analysing texts, students must also demonstrate strong writing skills in the exams. We explored descriptive writing techniques using vivid examples from renowned authors. Good description appeals to the senses and transports the reader into a scene. I encouraged my student to study these examples and take notes on effective techniques to hone their own descriptive writing.

Tackling Paper 1 and Paper 2

Exam success requires tailored preparation for Paper 1 and 2. Paper 1 evaluates reading comprehension and text analysis abilities. Paper 2 assesses writing skills. I suggested strategies like close reading diverse texts to understand rhetorical devices, and clearly communicating ideas for specific purposes and audiences.

Grasping Key Concepts

Finally, we discussed foundational concepts applicable to both exam papers:

  • How language creates meaning and style
  • Audience influence on writers’ choices
  • Using creativity in language
  • Understanding diverse influences on language
  • Language evolution over time

Contemplating these big ideas will enrich students’ analysis and writing.

While you may not have been in the session, you would do well to apply some of these ideas in your own studies. What A level English study strategies have you found most helpful? Please share your insights below!

If you would like to work with me WhatsApp me by clicking here.

Newsletter signup

Sign up to my newsletter!

Please wait...

Thank you for sign up!