English Exam Preparation

These are some words and phrases that are useful for the GCSE English (language, I think) information and ideas exam:

Question 1: Reading for information (10 marks)

This question asks you to “outline concisely” (i.e. summarise in your own words) the information conveyed in an article. NO QUOTING!
I usually literally write it in my own words but it seems you have to mention the article in one of the following ways:

The article opens by stating…
The article states that…
It is stated that…
The author goes on to state that…
Another way in which the article…

Words that can be used instead of ‘states’ (they mean more or less the same thing) are:

Makes it clear

Question 2: Reading for interpretation (15 marks)

This question gives you a different (more persuasive) article on the same topic and asks you to analyse the visual and language techniques the author has used.
Usually there’s a logo and a picture with a caption so you can comment on those straight away before focusing on the language.
Use the acronym VHL to help you remember things to comment on:


Here is a list of visual elements, (or “presentational features” as the exam board likes to call them) for you to comment on:

A silhouetted cyclist wearing a red helmet, with the words "Cycle-Safe" in red underneath it

I was wondering when I'd get to use this logo

Bold, Italics, Underline: Ways of emphasizing words

CAPITALS: Used to reinforce a particular word or phrase

Font: You can draw conclusions from the choice of colour scheme or font style

Logo: Represents a product or company. (Or charity). Adds validity to the text

Photos and Graphics: Add depth and information to the article. Photos can be used to manipulate emotion and attract a reader to the article

Here are some words to describe headlines:

Headline: The main heading

Strapline: A second heading

Standfirst: The introductory first paragraph, often in bold

Sub-heading: Summarises and breaks up sections of text

A basic happy face in a square grid

Caption: Underneath a photo or diagram to explain it

Pull-quote: “Quote that is lifted from the rest of the article”

Slogan: Memorable word or phrase

For language techniques, remember to comment on Words, Sentences and Punctuation.

Here are some word techniques that you can comment on:

Adjectives, Nouns, Verbs, Adverbs, Connectives, Similes, Metaphors, Personification, Alliteration, Onomatopoeia, Collective Pronouns (we, us), Personal Pronouns (I, me), Speaking directly to the reader (you), Assertion, Empathy, Emotive language, Hyperbole, Repetition, Rule of three, Triplets

Sentence techniques:

Simple sentences, Compound sentences, Complex sentences, Rhetorical questions, Quotations, Supporting ideas, Criticizing the opposite opinion, Anecdotes, Shock tactics


Colon: Dash — Question mark? “Quotation marks” (brackets) Comma, Hyphen-¬†Appostrophe’ Elipses… Exclamation mark! Full stop.

Question 3: Reading for interpretation (again) (15 marks)

Another interpretation question. This one challenges you not to analyse the techniques and the effects they create, but to work out the tone of the article. At various points throughout you must describe the tone the author creates. This question is about the WRITER not the reader.
Some words to help you describe the author’s tone are (in alphabetical order!):

Condescending – Like patronising (talking down to someone)
Colloquial – Informal, slang
Cynical – Not believing/accepting. Suspecting alterior motive
Derogatory – Negative/insulting
Didactic – Lecturing / having a moral to the story
Ecstatic – Very happy or excited
Effusive – Making a great show of affection or enthusiasm
Euphoric – Like ecstatic but happier
Forthright – Speaking their mind
Humorous – Funny
Indignant – Defending their dignity from attack
Introspective – Thinking about oneself (not selfish, though)
Malicious – Nasty
Jovial – Jolly
Nostalgic – Fondly remembering the past
Satire – Funny but making a serious point. Like ‘Start to crate time’
Sentimental – Like nostalgic
Supercilious – Behaving like you’re better than everyone else
Vindictive – Wanting revenge
Witty – Funny
Well informed

Question 4 (or 5): Writing (40 marks)

This is the question where it matters whether your writing is interesting and entertaining (in the first three questions it can be as repetitive as you like). You get the choice of two question and have to show off amazing writing. Make sure you plan first so you know when to finish, and have time to check your writing. Make sure you consider the Audience, Layout, Purpose and Style you are being asked to write.
I HATE this question because it always gives me such horrible subjects to write about, (like “Write a newspaper article to persuade parents to encourage children to eat healthily” or “Write a newspaper article entitled ‘We all need some excitement or risk in our lives’“). The trick is to manipulate the question into something you actually want to write about. For instance, I could answer this EVIL, TERRIFYING, DISGUSTING question:

“Write the words of an article for a teenage magazine in which you describe your best teacher, explaining what and how your teacher taught you. Remember, a teacher need not be someone whom you have met at school. A teacher may be a person whom you have met¬†during leisure activities or, indeed, a parent or friend”

…by writing about the internet and what I have learned from it. You just have to find a way around this question!


About Matt

I like writing, filmmaking, programming and gaming, and prefer creating media to consuming it. On the topic of consumption, I'm also a big fan of eating.
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