English Essay Tips for the GCSE

Written by lisa magloff
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English Essay Tips for the GCSE
The English GCSE exam is a requirement for students in England who want to go on with further study and university. (exam image by Petro Feketa from Fotolia.com)

The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is the main qualification given to students in secondary schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Students typically study for their GCSE exams for two years and take the exams around age 16. Although GCSEs are available in more then 40 subjects, the English exam is required for any student wanting to go on to university. There are several different English exams, but students generally need to answer at least one essay question.

Plan the Structure

Critical planning is the key to doing well on the English GCSE essay. Make sure you understand the question and the type of essay that is required, such as an essay designed to persuade, or a creative essay. Decide how you will approach the beginning, middle and end of the essay, before you start writing. Write an opening sentence that has an impact and draws the reader in. Find the appropriate citations and examples to fill in the meat of the essay. Don't just let the essay trail off at the end - know how your essay will end and plan a closing paragraph or closing sentence that summarises the information in the essay.

Grammar and Vocabulary

Vary the structure and vocabulary used in your essay to keep the reader interested. Keep the reader in mind at all times and use the appropriate tone and vocabulary for your topic. For example, slang may be appropriate for a creative writing essay, but not for a formal argument. When you are finished with the essay, go back over your work and check your grammar -- make sure all of your apostrophe's are in the right places, and correct any spelling mistakes.

Writing to Argue, Persuade or Instruct

This is a popular type of essay question on the English GCSE exam. This essay topic typically requires you to write a letter or an informational article. If you are writing a letter, remember to use appropriate endings and beginnings, such as 'Dear' and 'Sincerely,' the address and date. Make sure you use the appropriate tone for your intended audience. Your essay should include an introduction that states the reason why you are writing, followed by the evidence for your argument and concluding with a statement of what you want to happen.

Essay to Inform, Explain or Describe

This type of essay question often comes up on the English GCSE. The question will tell you whether your essay should be written to inform, explain or describe. If informing, use straightforward language and make sure you convey all of the necessary information clearly. Keep readers interested by adding more information than is strictly required. If writing to explain, make sure you are writing to the audience specified and that you fully explain the topic. If writing to describe, you can use your own thoughts and feelings to add interest to your essay. Use devices such as metaphor and imagery to add further interest and focus on the important parts of the story.

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