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How to Get Top Marks in GCSE English Language

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

With the GCSE English exams on the horizon, it’s all hands on deck! As one of the core subjects, English Language is a cause of stress for many students – due to its utmost importance, paired with the fact that there is no telling which extracts will come up in the exam. Revising English Language is essentially revising a set of skills, which many students struggle with.

Student looking at black board in GCSE English lesson

However, don’t fret! In today’s blog, we are bestowing our top tips to get top marks in GCSE English Language. Are your pens and paper at the ready? Let’s get started!

For Top English Language Marks, Consult the GCSE Mark Scheme

Whilst you may be left in the dark as to which extracts you’ll be analysing, there are top secret clues aplenty. Well, they’re hardly top secret; they’re scattered all over the internet! Not sure what we’re chatting about? Two words: mark schemes! Exam boards give students a helping hand by publishing their mark schemes on their websites. Mark schemes essentially provide you with all the answers you need! We’d advise studying the mark scheme thoroughly – particularly the top levels. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with what examiners are looking for in order to award the top marks; you can, therefore, hone in on these particular skills when practising. What’s more, when it’s officially showtime, you should ensure that you leave 5 – 10 minutes or so to read your answer with a critical eye. You should check through the completed paper, alongside the memorised mark scheme in your head, and ensure that you’ve ticked off all of the top criteria. For example, have you made a reference to structure? And are you coherently answering the question? When under exam pressure, it’s all too easy to go off-piste, and using the mark scheme as a guide will provide imperative cohesion to your answers. To save you searching, here are the links to the GCSE English Language mark schemes – for each exam board! Click here to find the mark schemes for Edexcel, AQA, OCR and Eduqas / WJEC - (you’re welcome!).

Do Your Detective Work

We’re aware that this isn’t a blog about Literature (sorry, Sherlock, not everything’s about you!), but Language exams do require a certain amount of detective work – both before and during. How so? Well, despite the unseen nature of the texts you are set to tackle, you can always read up in preparation. Explore different types of texts from different eras – ensuring you include the good ol’ 19th century! – and familiarise yourself with the routine of reading and analysing an unknown quantity. What’s more, during the exam, you need to be wearing your detective cap. The English Language exam is all about being perceptive; try to notice as much as you can about the text in question, and come up with original, insightful ideas. Remember: there is no such thing as a ’wrong’ perception of a text. So long as you can back up your analysis with a convincing argument, complete with evidence, then the examiner will be a happy bunny!

Best marks in GCSE English Language

Deep Dive into Analysis

Speaking of analysis, your analytical skills are one of the most crucial assets to help you achieve top marks in GCSE English Language. So, you need to ensure that you are well-versed on all literary techniques – and yes, that includes knowing the difference between a simile and a metaphor! – and knowing how to spot them in a quotation. What’s more, you need to be able to phrase this in a confident way; all mark schemes are looking for a fluent, assured writing style. There are many tried and tested acronyms for the perfect paragraph, from PEEL to PRTEZEL, and they each stress the importance of making a clear point, and using a quote as evidence. However, many of these acronyms also encourage you to ‘zoom’ into specific words within this quote. We would suggest “writing a lot about a little”; squeeze as much goodness as you possibly can out of that quotation, whilst ensuring that everything you say is relevant and refers back to the question. Also, if you’re looking for those sought-after top marks, think about analysis in two sections: language and structure. Many students neglect structure in their essay writing; structural analysis can be anything from punctuation to sentence length, to the paragraphing of the entire piece.

Keep Track of Time

Exams often feel like a race against the clock. However, many make the mistake of getting carried away with their fantastic analysis of the first half, and end up panic-rushing through the Writing section. Remember: the Reading and Writing sections hold equal weighting in your final marks, so require an approximate 50/50 split of your time. The best way to ensure that you honour this is simply by being strict with yourself. Keep an eye on the time – either by occasionally glancing at the exam hall clock, or by wearing a watch – and dedicate specific, practised time slots to your planning and writing for each section. Be efficient, but don’t rush! Remember that the exam is designed to give you enough time to complete the paper to the best of your ability. Take a few deep breaths – you’ve got this!

Student practising timing for English Language exam

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s an age-old cliché, but it’s true. Again, whilst you may not be able to brush up on specific texts, you can sufficiently practise the skills needed to score top marks in GCSE English Language. In the run up to your exams, try to do one practice paper per day, if you can. Also, aim to complete the paper in exam conditions – including that all-important, super strict timing! Additionally, practice papers provide an excellent opportunity for you to evaluate your own work in light of the mark scheme, and identify areas where you can improve, in order to secure the grade you’ve always dreamed of!

We hope our top tips for top marks have been helpful! If you’re still feeling panicked in the run up to exam day, there is another option: you can always enlist the help of an expert English Language tutor. Titanium Tutors have a wide range of excellent English tutors available – both online and in-person – for any period of time. This could include a short burst of revision sessions in the run up to exams, to provide you with any extra support you need. Contact us here for more information, and keep an eye on our blog for more top tips to score top marks in your GCSEs! From the whole team at Titanium Tutors: we wish you the best of luck with English Language this year! We believe in you (and you should too!).


Blog Post Crafted by Lizzie

Lizzie is one of our experienced English tutors. She is also an actress, singer and composer. After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BA (Hons) degree in English Literature and Drama, she went on to teach secondary school English for a year, and has been tutoring alongside her other passions ever since!


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