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Timed GCSE English Exam Practice

Many students ask, “How can I prepare for GCSE English?” This post is the answer to that age-old question. Some even say, “You can’t prepare for GCSE English.” I really worry hear I hear that! Preparation is possible – and vital.

Timed practice is vital for GCSE English exam success; most students, however, do very little. Some students may complete a two year GCSE English exam course and only ever do two full timed practices for each exam paper (during school mock exams) and I suspect some do even less than that.

This post will show you just how much useful timed GCSE English exam practice you can do because there are bundles of marks to be gained by following this simple advice.

1. Find a GCSE English Past Paper

Find and print out a full past paper for your qualification. Three sets of AQA GCSE English Language past papers are available through this site: Specimen 1, June 2017, November 2017. Other AQA sample papers are available to buy.

Past papers for other boards and qualifications will appear on this website over time.

In the meantime, search online or ask your tutor/teacher for a practice paper to help with your GCSE English exam practice.

2. Choose a reward

Give yourself an incentive by choosing a reward you will claim at the end of this period of intense, concentrated, hard work. It could be something delicious like a cake. Or, it could be time spent on social media. Or perhaps you could buy yourself something nice (but affordable).

Creating an incentive will make it more likely you will resist the temptation to give up, or check your phone, or give half-hearted attention to your task.

As a result, when you finish and claim your reward, it will be all the sweeter.

3. Avoid Distractions

Back in the 90s when I was doing my exams the most distracting thing was the football results on Ceefax. Now, you have the world in the palm of your hand. And it is excruciatingly exciting. Turn it off.

Find a quiet place and ask your friends and family to leave you in peace. Gather all the materials you need (past paper, answer sheet/paper, pen) and you are ready.

(If you have the use of a laptop during exams, practise with a fully-charged laptop. Disconnect it from the WiFi and, ideally, use a word program with its auto-correct/spell-check/grammar-check functions disabled.)

4. Use a clock

Look on the front page of the question paper to find out how much time you should spend on the exam. If you have extra time, you will need to do a little maths to add 25% (or 50%) to the exam time.

Then, write a Start Time and an End Time clearly on a piece of blank paper and keep it near you as you do the exam.

Actually, you could even be more precise because failure to spend the correct amount of time on the different exam sections is a common reason for losing marks. Therefore, write the times for when you should move on to each next exam section as well as the start and finish time.

Finally, use a clock or a watch to track the time – NOT your phone.

5. Get the job done

Start and then don’t stop. Don’t look up, don’t slump back and don’t drop your pen. Maintain a close focus on the job at hand – and get it done.

Try to push past any boredom you might feel. The exams aren’t trying to be exciting so feeling bored is part of the price you pay to get the job done.

Also, push away any expressions of frustration about having to do exams in the first place. Nothing at this point is going to change the fact that you will be doing this exam so don’t waste energy on frustration. Use your energy to get the job done.

6. Enjoy your reward

Then, mark your last full stop on the page, put the lid on your pen and sit back. You will be tired, fed-up, bored, perhaps your joints will be stiff. But, you’ve done the job and there is a reward waiting for you.

Enjoy. You deserve it!

7. Practise all over again

But don’t forget to do timed GCSE English exam practice again. And again. And again. In fact, every time you put pen to paper and practise the concentration and technique needed to succeed in your exam, you will get better. I guarantee it.

And one day you won’t have to do exams any more and (hopefully) all your troubles will be over!

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Published by Edward Mooney

I am a highly qualified and experienced English tutor based in the UK. I founded this site in 2019 to help students of GCSE English learn how to reach their full potential.