Paper One of the AQA GCSE English Language examination has two sections. The first is based on comprehension questions and the second requires you to write at length. There are three options: writing to argue, persuade or advise. Below you will find suggestions about how to approach each.


General Advice for Paper One

  • Read the questions before the extracts.
    This will help you to identify the important aspects more quickly.
  • Look at how much each question is worth and divide up your time appropriately.
    For example, if a question is worth 27 out of 54, spend half of your time on it.
  • For longer answers, plan in advance.
    Even if this plan is only a few words long, it will help you to structure your response, which will impress the examiner.
  • Always check your work.
    In an English exam your English should be good! Silly mistakes are easily avoided.
  • Write in the appropriate way.
    If asked to write a letter, set out your response properly. For example, if asked to write a newspaper article, use headings and sub-headings.

Writing to Persuade

  • Be sure you know the audience for your writing and the form it will take.
    "A magazine for teenage girls or a leaflet for pensioners."
  • Involve your readers by asking rhetorical questions.
    "Would you allow this to happen to your family?"
  • Use facts and figures.
    These add authority to your writing. "5% of greenhouse gases come from farm animals."
  • Offer your own opinions with details to support your ideas.
    "I think cows are dangerous because I have been attacked by a herd of them, and so understand the threat they pose."

Writing to Argue

  • Structure is important.
    A paragraph plan may seem like a waste of valuable time but it will help you construct a logical and coherent argument.
  • Use the arguments against you to your advantage.
    By 'responding' to the opposite side of the argument, saying why it is wrong, you will make your argument seem even stronger.
  • Be clear about WHAT you think should happen and say WHY.
    Always support your points; it is ineffective to say something is needed if you don't say exactly WHY.
  • Alternate between your arguments and those of the opposite side.
    This will make your writing seem balanced, and reflect the thought you have put into your point of view.

Writing to Advise

  • Think about audience and form.
    As always, think carefully about to WHOM you are writing and in what FORM (letter, article).
  • Plan beforehand.
    Try to think of five areas on which you will offer advice.
  • Give precise details in your advice.
    For example:
    "I suggest you start your revision now. You should aim to spend one hour per night, broken up into 20 minute sections, on your revision."
  • Detailed reasoning should support your advice.
    For example:
    "By doing this you will have longer to digest the content and so learn it better. The short bursts of revision mean you can concentrate fully; the longer you revise the less you take in."

Preparing for the exam

  • Practise writing on any subject under timed conditions. By doing this you will develop both speed and accuracy if you carefully check what you have done.
  • Ask someone to read through your work to check for basic errors.
  • Learn spellings that you often get wrong. Even if you are a 'bad speller' there are steps you can take to minimise the problem.

Examination Tips

  • Plan, plan, plan.
  • Periodically check that you are sticking to the subject.
  • Use paragraphs.
  • Support what you write with examples, statistics, opinions and so on. This will help you to present well developed points.
  • Check, check, check. The last five minutes should be given to checking. This is not a waste of time.