How to get an A* in English Language

Some indicators of A* potential in English for both reading and writing.

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  • Created by: Katie
  • Created on: 19-05-13 11:33


In reading questions you should:

  • Be confident in knowing what the question means.
  • Try to dig deeper into what the article is saying by using terms such as seems, suggests, implies, infers, emphasises.
  • Comment briefly on what the text is about, the author and then comment in detail using PEAL paragraphs on the key terms in the question, eg. presentation and language.
  • Make sure you use all puncuation correctly.
  • Make sure that you use complex vocabulary and not just the first word you think of.
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In writing questions you should:

  • To be able to write in a formal tone.
  • You shouldn't write using your own opinions unless the question specifies (such as: write about something that scared you or made you wonder when you were a child.)
  • Write in a tone that will engage the reader and make it interesting, whilst staying confident in your writing.
  • Use a range of puncuation correctly.
  • Identify the purpose, audience and format you should write in and apply this to your work.
  • Vary your sentence length and structure.
  • Vary the length of words that you use.
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There are certain things that an examiner looks for in reading questions, these include:

  • Analysing language - you need to show that you know what the question means by writing for the correct audience, purpose, genre and the format. You should also make sure that you are creating the right tone for the piece of writing eg. whether it needs to be formal or informal.
  • The use of short quotes - to get even better marks make sure that you select quotes from different parts of the article and embend them into the point you are making instead of starting a new sentence every time.
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Characteristics continued

Reading question - continued

  • The use of technical terms - make sure that you identify the technique used but don't over do the use of technical terms. 
  • Don't say that the article is DEFINATELY saying something it can always be implying something, so make sure you state this and explore the different interpretations of it.
  • Identify the selection of vocabulary and explore the possibilities of why the writer may have selected these words.
  • Is the point repeated? It echoes the ideas that ...
  • Always refer to it as 'we' not 'I' as others will have read the article.
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There are also certain things that an examiner looks for in a writing question, these include:

  • The ability to write with a clear purpose and impersonally.
  • The punctuation has been used for effect and not as an after thought to gain extra marks.
  • Using semi-colons. 
  • Have some mysterious sections that make you think and some sections that clarify things exactly.
  • Avoiding the use of the same words to describe something and very little repetition.
  • Writing a piece of fluent writing that doesn't confuse the reader by jumping around.
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Writing Tips

  • Vary the length of your paragraphs, some for effect eg. short and long paragraphs.
  • Also make sure that you do the same but for your sentence lengths.
  • You could, if it would fit with the purpose, shift between formal and informal tone, language techniques and vocabulary.
  • Make it as impersonal as possible for the format of writing (as long as this isn't something requied by the question or format).
  • Make it have an interesting opening and a conclusion that finishes it all of or ends with drama.
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Your choice of vocabulary can make a big difference to what grade you get as it can increase your marks. One of the best ways to improve your vocabulary is to read a lot.

Some simple ways to improve your vocabulary in the reading section is to use more verbs that analyse what has been said in an article by saying words such as 'suggest, imply, describe, demonstrate, convey or seem' these are all great words to use when analysing an article.

Try and add words such as 'might, could, may, should, probably or perhaps' into your work. You could even combine these modal verbs and adverbs with the analytical verbs by saying 'this may suggest that' or 'this could demonstrate that'.

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Use pronouns and always avoid saying 'I' or 'me' as this will then add in personal feelings or thoughts, this isn't wanted by the examiner. The only time necessary to use this is if the question specifies that it wanted YOUR opinion.

Try to use more ambitious vocabulary to add precision to your work whilst being used subtly to your work. You could use words like: inhibit, insular, implacable, morose, lithe, feral, chide, deride, gluttony, empathy, brazen, superfluous, staid, innate or even wanton.

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What can you say about layout?

It can be hard to decide what to say about the layout of an article but think about the 3 words 'What? Who? How?' these can really help to expand your writing.


What are your first thoughts about the layout? Is it effective?

What is it designed to do? To catch your attention? To surprise you?

What is common about the layout compared to other leaflets or wesites? Whats unusual about it?

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What can you say about layout?


Who do you tthink it was written or produced by?

Who is the target audience?

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What can you say about layout?


LAYOUT: oragnisation, chronological or non-chronological order? Hyperlinks? Summary boxes? How much text/images?(why do you think this?) Is there a colour scheme? WHY is it layed out like this?

IMAGES: What are the images of? Why have they picked these images? 

TEXT: What is the heading like? Is it formal or informal? Are here any sub-headings? If so what are they like? Are there any icons/logos/or computer generated images? Have they put information in bullet points? Why have they done this?

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What can you say about language?

Another key feature that you are often asked to talk about is language. Here is another way to think about the What? Why? and How?


What is the text about?

What is the type of text? Is it informative? Persuasive? Or entertaining?


Who wrote it?

Who or for what purpose is it written for?

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What can you say about language?


STRUCTURE: is it in chronological order or not? Are there varied length of paragraphs? Why is this (to create affect?) Are the ideas linked together (either by time phrases or pronouns such as he, she)?

SENTENCES: are they varied in length? Why do you think they have done this? Are the sentences statments, questions, commands or informative sentences? Does this fit the purpose? Why have they done this? Are the sentences formal?

WORDS: is it formal or informal (eg. is not, isn't, could not, couldn't)? Do they make it personal to the reader? Is it serious or humerous? Does this fit the purpose and audience?

Tone? What is the tone like?

What language devices does the writer use?

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