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The 'How to Revise for English' Series: 4 - What Skills Should I Focus on for Revision?

I am lucky enough that I spend my days working with a wide range of students from lots of different places. One thing that seems to stay pretty much the same, regardless of who I'm working with, is the key areas that students need to work on when revising for their English Language GCSE. 

If you're not sure how to get the most out of the next 7 weeks of revision, focus your time for English on the following areas:

  • analysing the effects of the writer’s methods 
    • Look at a text and think: 
      • Why have they used the punctuation they have used?
      • Why does the text start in the way that it does?
      • How does the writer want the reader to feel?
      • What does the writer want us to understand about the characters and their relationships?
      • What time of day is the text set in? Why?
      • Are there any repeated symbols? If so, what do they help us to understand about the mood and tone of the text?
      • Are there lots of long complex sentences? Are there lots of short simple sentences? Is there an even mix? Why? How do the sentence lengths link to what is happening in the text at the point they are used?
      • Is the vocabulary simple or complex? Why? How does this link to the content?
      • How is the setting described? Why?
      • What is the ‘big picture’? Overall, what does the writer want us to understand as a result of having read this text?
      • Are we supposed to have an emotional response to this text? If so, what is it, and why?
      • Has the writer used sensory imagery? What impact does this have on us?
      • Is the text ‘noisy’? Read it aloud: do certain sounds or words stand out? Does the language create a harsh or soft sound? Again, how does this link to what is happening in the text?
      • Has a character been introduced? Has the setting changed? Why do these things happen at this point in the text?
      • What is the pace of the text like? Why? Read it aloud again.
  • punctuation
    • Practise writing sentences that use each of the different pieces of punctuation.
    • Redraft pieces of your own work making sure to include a wider range of punctuation.
  • sentence starts
    • Write a sentence, or find a sentence in a text. Re-write it so that it starts with:
      • An adverb
      • A subordinate clause
      • A noun
      • An adjective
      • Speech
      • Onomatopoeia 
  • planning
    • Choose an image and mind map ideas for writing a story about it.
    • Watch a news report or read a news article and list your opinions in response to it.
    • Print or collect a selection of images. Draw boxes or circles around 5 different areas of the image you could focus on for 5 different paragraphs. Note down words, phrases and ideas for each section.
    • Choose a topic and list descriptions for each of the 5 senses for it.
    • Select a form, genre, audience and topic (i.e. story, fantasy, children aged 12-14, fairies): what impact do you want your writing to have on the reader? List ways to achieve this. 
  • annotation 
    • Get a copy of any text (page from a novel, poem, article, leaflet, junk mail, etc). Highlight key words, phrases and techniques. Make notes by labelling the techniques and words classes, and briefly outlining the effect. 
    • Try using different coloured highlighters or different symbols to classify and organise your notes clearly.
  • overview statements (starting analytical responses to questions by summarising what the writer is trying to achieve, before going into detailed analysis.)
    • Keep thinking about the ‘big picture’. Overall, why do people make the decisions they do?
      • If your hairdresser/barber has hair products by the door, why?
      • Why does Eastenders always end with that theme tune?
      • Why is the Nike symbol a tick?
      • Film trailers are selective in what they show - watch one and work out what the overall intention is.
      • Look at how your friends message you - what are their real intentions? Why do they use the words they do? Why do they ask you questions or give you information in the order that they do?

Revision ideas: 

English is a subjective topic - on the plus side this means there are lots of ideas available to explore, but on the negative side, there is no definitive answer. You have to be brave!

Try out some of these activities for English Language GCSE revision:

- text transformations: choose a text and rewrite it by varying the audience, purpose, formality and/or form.

- play word games: taboo, boggle, word wheels, arrow words, crosswords.

- complete exam questions in timed conditions.

- watch a TV programme or a film - what is the order of events and why? Why does it start with this scene? 

- read a newspaper article and summarise it in 3 sentences.

  • watch two films from the same genre/about the same topic and compare the way they present a certain theme. 
  • List all the words you can to replace: big, small, quiet, afraid, said, ran (and then you can choose some of your own!)


Additional resources to help revise English Language GCSE:

Here are a small few of my favourite online revision resources for English:

  • Mr Bruff videos on YouTube
  • Peak app
  • Seneca Learning
  • BBC Bitesize