Faculty of



English Faculty

  • To teach the love of reading for pleasure and the pursuit of knowledge.
  • To teach the wonder and power of written forms of expression in a modern world.
  • To teach the confidence of verbal communication and persuasive prose.
  • To teach the importance of listening for comprehension and empathy.

English at EBS

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Careers in English

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English per Key Stage

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Hints and Tips

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Writer in Residence

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English at East Barnet School

The East Barnet School English Faculty aims to provide students with a learning journey that is purposeful, inspirational and most importantly, enjoyable. Our aim is to help students prepare for the challenges and opportunities of life in the 21st century.

The English curriculum is underpinned by the four strands of literacy: reading, writing, speaking and listening and our intent is for students to leave East Barnet School as confident and effective communicators in English.   

We are fortunate in having an excellent Library with the best view in Barnet and we provide students with a range of activities throughout the year such as author visits and competitions to help enthuse and encourage our students to become lifelong readers. Additionally, all students will take part in creative writing sessions with our Writer in Residence, Caroline Green who has published a range of novels.  

Clearly, we are passionate about reading and as part of our adaptive teaching ethos, we regularly introduce new and diverse texts that explore issues arising in society. We are passionate about challenging prejudice and promoting equality. 

We are a part of the Let’s Think In English programme developed by King’s College; this is designed to help students develop their meta-cognitive and critical thinking skills and covers a range of unusual and engaging texts. 

We follow a spiral curriculum at each Key Stage which ensures that students revisit the skills required in their examinations through retrieval practice. 

The large uptake and in both A-Level Language and A-Level Literature and the fact that each year we have students continuing on to study English at universities that include Oxbridge, is a testament to our success. 

a quote from maya angelou who is an inspiration for our english students

English Faculty

M. Parfitt
Head of Faculty

350 (3rd Floor)
020 8344 2100

If you require any further information about the curriculum we are following in this subject, please contact the Head of Faculty.

Possible Careers

an actress sat at a mirror showing an english career

Actor on Stage or Screen

a man copywriting from a career in english

Advertising Copywriter

a lady editing an english book on pad of paper

Book or Newspaper Editor

a crown prosecutor writing an english paper on law

Crown Prosecutor or Lawyer

a librarian sitting at a desk reading english texts with a book shelf behind him

School or Public Librarian

Newspaper or Media Journalist

Radio Broadcast Assistant

TV, Film, Theatre or Radio Screenwriter

Speech and Language Therapist

a female making a video of cooking

Social Media Vlogger or Blogger

English at Different Key Stages

At East Barnet School, we offer English courses throughout all the Key Stages, which provides consistency to our students, allowing them the time to improve their command of the English language. English is a compulsory subject during Key Stage 3 and 4, with students who obtain the required grades taking their studies into the Sixth Form. Our dynamic English Faculty offer many extra-curricular activities to students, encouraging students to engage and embrace their love of English. 

books in a library

English at KS3

Level : Key Stage 3
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leaves and books

English at KS4

Level : Key Stage 4 (GCSE)
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light bulb idea

English Language at KS5

Level : Key Stage 5 ('A' Level)
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book and mug

English Literature at KS5

Level : Key Stage 5 ('A' Level)
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EBS Literacy Policy

Literacy is defined as the four strands of language – listening, speaking, reading and writing – therefore, to communicate clearly and effectively in social and academic situations, our students need to demonstrate proficient use of all four literacy skills.


  • We hold the belief that raising standards of literacy is central to improving achievement throughout the curriculum areas.
  • We recognise that all teachers are teachers of Literacy as we all have a crucial role to play in supporting students’ literacy development.
  • Our vision is to empower all students, from the least to the most able, with a set of thinking, listening, speaking, reading and writing skills so that they have the ability to access, process and express knowledge appropriately in curriculum areas, examinations and life beyond school.
  • As The National Literacy Trust state, we are teaching and supporting our students to develop “words for life”.


  • Raise standards of literacy across the curriculum by teaching, modelling and providing students with the opportunity to develop the skills required for the four strands of language – listening, speaking, reading and writing.
  • Encourage and promote existing literacy initiatives and events, for example, author visits, reading events and competitions, in order to develop and establish a reading culture.

The English Wheel

Due to the changes in assessment and examinations, East Barnet School English Facutly have devised ‘The English Wheel’ which highlights the various skills needed to succeed in the subject. During lessons, teachers and students focus on this skill set, learning the techniques necessary to become proficient in all three strands of English (reading, writing, speaking/listening).

Speaking and Writing

Argue, Persuade, Advise = Point of View


  • Make several, separate, clear key points.
  • Examples, facts, opinions, sources to support argument.
  • New point=new paragraph=clear first sentence.
  • Rhetorical questions, groups of 3, powerful statements.
  • Use “we” to involve reader.
  • Counter argument.


  • Many similar features as argument (see above).
  • Several, persuasive/convincing reasons.
  • Try shock and/or humour.
  • Use “we”, ”us”, ”our” to involve reader.
  • Repetition.
  • Presentational features such as images and bold/emphasised text.


  • Might reassure and/or challenge.
  • Imperatives = ”ask someone…” “talk to…” “do…”
  • Use modal verbs = can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, must, should.
  • Possibly subheadings, bullet points.
Inform, Explain, Describe = Give Details


  • Must clearly give your reader information.
  • Address Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?
  • Address the reader directly using “you”.
  • Use evidence – facts and statistics.
  • Graphs, charts, images.
  • Headings.


  • Must clearly show or demonstrate.
  • Develop the detail in your explanation.
  • Use examples to illustrate your points.
  • Careful step by step order.
  • Paragraphs, headings, sections must be arranged logically.
  • Bullet points, images, graphs and other presentational features.


  • Try to paint a picture with words.
  • Use five senses: Sights? Sounds? Smells? Touch? Taste?
  • Invent similes and metaphors.
  • Use subject specific terminology.
  • Use adjectives and adverbs.
Analyse, Comment, Review = A Considered Response


  • You should be thinking: How? Why? Effect?
  • Usually in the present tense.
  • Technical vocabulary.
  • Headings, images and other presentational features.


  • Many similarities to “review” – see below.
  • Will include your judgement.
  • Might be more personal.
  • Might include “I expected…”, ”I noticed…, “It impressed me …”.


  • Show strengths and weaknesses of something.
  • Contains analysis/evidence/judgement.
  • Connectives – e.g. as a result/however/ consequently/therefore/although.
Imagine, Explore, Entertain = Fiction

For a story, follow this six-stage structure –

  • Beginning=catch reader’s attention.
  • Introduce a problem=trouble of some kind.
  • Gather pace=tension mounts/complications.
  • Crisis=peak of action and tension.
  • Adjustment=cool it/hint at ending.
  • Resolution=put things right or a final twist?

Remember it by BIG CAR

  • Create a setting.
  • Try to create tension, mood and atmosphere.
  • Vary your sentence lengths and structure.
  • Use interesting vocabulary.

For all tasks, ensure you are consistent with tense (past, present or future) and narrative voice (first, second or third person).

Skimming and Scanning

Skimming and scanning are often spoken about in the same breath. They are two techniques that are often used together to save time identifying, locating and using sources of information.


What is skimming?

Skimming is quickly casting your eyes over a piece of text to get the gist of it – and to discover if it is of interest or relevance to you.

There are often clues in the text to help you – for example:


words in bold

“pull quotes in shaded boxes”


  • bullet points.

You skim a text to find out the sort of things it does and does not tell you.

Sometimes you may retrieve a lot of information – for example, a pile of books or a long list of websites from a search engine. It helps if you are able to decide quickly whether the information is likely to be of any use to you. In situations such as this, skimming comes in handy. It is a useful skill to practise because it can save you a lot of time. Skimming is done at a speed three to four times faster than normal reading.

There are many strategies that can be used when skimming. Some people read the first and last paragraphs, you might read the title, subtitles, subheading, and illustrations. Consider reading the first sentence of each paragraph.


Once you have identified sources of information that are likely to be of use to you by skimming, you will probably need to look at them more closely in order to get all the information that you need. Instead of reading through the whole text, you can scan the text to see if you can spot keywords or headings to locate specific information. In most cases, you know what you’re looking for, so you’re concentrating on finding a particular answer.

Active Reading

Definition: A broad number of reading strategies designed to increase a student’s involvement with texts that should result in improved comprehension and retention.

Possible Strategies:
  1. Annotation – labelling some of the following:
    1. Connections between the text and others read.
    2. Definitions of unfamiliar words.
    3. A system of symbols to mark important passages, such as exclamation marks, question marks and asterisks.
    4. Comments of agreement or disagreement with ideas in the text.
    5. Own ideas inspired by the text.
    6. Other examples of concepts discussed in the text.
  2. Highlighting
    Learning to be selective and discriminating when highlighting text otherwise the important points won’t stand out. Scholars recommend highlighting as little as 10 to 15 percent of a page and as much as 50 percent but certainly no more than that.
  3. Mind mapping or other forms of note taking
  4. Free writing
    The idea behind free writing is to just sit down and write for 15 minutes straight. The first step is closely akin to mind mapping. Write down as many thoughts about the reading as you can, but instead of putting them down in a list format, write them roughly in the form of sentences and paragraphs. Pay no attention to writing correctly, and don’t go back to make revisions. Simply endeavour to get as many words down about the reading as possible within a period of about 15 minutes(or any other given time frame), trying not to pause.
  5. Visualising
    Describing the images you see as the writer describes them. Using the details from the text to create the “movie in your mind”.
  6. Clarifying
    Stopping and paying attention. Summarising/explaining what has been read so far. This is a great tool to check understanding of text. Reading on (and sometimes even rereading) and your understanding may change and develop. When finding the answers to any questions you had making a note of them.
  7. Questioning – Asking questions about the text during reading.
  8. Predicting – Trying to figure out what will happen next and how the text might end. Then reading on to see how accurate guesses are.
  9. Connecting
    Connecting personally with the text being read. Thinking of similarities between the text and what has been personally experienced, seen, and heard or read about. Also, connection to anything you may have already read or seen in media (movies, news broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, Internet).
  10. Evaluating – Forming opinions about what has been read, both while you’re reading and after you’ve finished.

There is also a wealth of information on DARTS (Directed Activities Related to Texts) online which may be of some use when reading with classes.

Speaking and Listening Attainment Ladder

Key Stage 5 Speaking and listening
Year 13 You use literary and linguistic meta-language to discuss textual analyses
Year 12 You enjoy discussing different readings of a text, and getting involved in ensuing debates. You are able to factor in contextual issues.
Key Stage 4 Speaking and listening
Year 11 You can initiate speech with an assured use of standard grammar and a wide vocabulary. You can convey difficult ideas and encourage others to participate.
Year 10 You speak fluently, listen closely, participate fully and hold the interest of an audience.
Key Stage 3 Speaking and listening
Year 9 You match your talk to the demands of different contexts. You use words precisely and organise your talk to communicate clearly. In discussion you make significant contributions, evaluating others’ ideas, and you use Standard English in situations that require it.
Year 8 Your talk is more interesting because you are starting to vary how you use your voice and your vocabulary. You ask questions that develop other speakers’ ideas and make contributions that take account of others’ views.
Year 7 You can talk and listen with confidence, changing your language for purpose and audience, using features of Standard English. You listen carefully to others.

Becoming a Writer - Top Tips!

Writer in Residence, Caroline Green has put together some helpful tips if you want to become a writer.

photo of caroline green

People often ask me how they can become published writers. I wish there was a simple answer to this question! Often it is a combination of many things including hard work and a dose of luck. But there are some tips I wish I’d known when I first started out. I’m sharing them so you don’t have to find out the hard way.


Yes, I know. Obvious, right? But when you think about ‘writing’, you might get a certain mental picture. Perhaps you think a writer waits for the ‘perfect moment’ when the muse comes to visit and the words flow. Writers are lucky; they have exactly the right environment and the right equipment. And they never get stuck…


Well, the not-very-secret-truth about writing is that you literally have to sit down and get on with it. Don’t wait for the perfect moment or for inspiration to strike. Write whenever you can. Write the bad stuff and the good stuff will start to come. And as for getting stuck, it’s just a part of the process. It passes (I promise).


Yep. I believe that to become a good writer you have to be a reader. I’m convinced that some kind of strange osmosis takes place when we read. All those words find their way our brains. Even if we don’t immediately know what they mean, they enrich our vocabularies and ability to express thoughts and ideas. I can usually spot the students who are readers every time I work with a group on creative writing.

Be a nosy parker

Writers are often quite shy but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fascinated by other people. Listen in the next time you’re on public transport and you might find a snatch of dialogue for your next story, or even the basis of a whole plot. Humans can be strange and wonderful and by studying what they do, you will open your mind up to a wealth of new ideas.

Understand that 'no' isn't the end of the world

So if you want to be published, you’ll inevitably face rejection.

Publishing is a business, even if it feels like we put our heart and soul into the words we write. Editors will turn many away manuscripts a week and often, it is simply because it doesn’t fit the specific brief of what they’re looking for. It doesn’t mean they hate your book or think it’s rubbish. Chances are that someone elsewhere may feel differently.

I could paper a whole room with my rejection letters. Consider your first rejection from the publishing industry to be a badge of honour. It means you’re serious about your writing.

Key Stage 3 English Hints and Tips

The transition from primary to secondary school can be tricky, but we are here to provide help and support with useful resources

Together we can make literacy both fun and rewarding

Literacy is defined as the four strands of language – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Therefore, to communicate clearly and effectively in social and academic situations, our students need to demonstrate proficient use of all four literacy skills, and that is where we can help!

Reading should be fun, and students can look forward to becoming independent readers who read a wide range of texts

If you feel your child is struggling with reading, please contact our AEN Faculty

Try to make sure your child has a quiet place to read, away from TV and other distractions. It might be useful to have a dictionary or thesaurus available so students can look up unfamiliar words. Students can read anywhere, but if they are making notes, a flat, uncluttered area would be a great place to read. Students should make use of the EBS Library (or local libraries) to borrow a range of different books to broaden their horizons. Remember, reading doesn’t just have to be novels, it can be newspapers, graphic novels, blog posts, and much more!

Key Stage 3 Writing Tips

Personal Organisation

Each day at secondary school is different. Your child has to be well organised and must ensure that:

  • the right books are packed ready for lessons;
  • homework is ready to hand in;
  • games kit is packed;
  • any return slips have been signed.

Some ways to help your child get organised:

  • Make a BIG copy of your child’s timetable and homework timetable and pin them up in the kitchen or on the back of the front door.
  • Help your child make a list of the things which have to be taken to school each day.
  • Make sure your child packs their bag before going to bed and not last thing in the morning.
  • Make sure your child has a buddy who is ultra-reliable with whom they can check details of homework etc.
  • Get your child an A4 ringbinder and some plastic wallets. Use them for storing worksheets and handouts.
  • Buy a stock of Pritt Stick. Use it to stick worksheets and handouts into exercise books.
  • If your child has been absent from school, make sure that they see their teachers and find out what work has been missed.

Arrange to photocopy notes etc produced by a reliable child. If you know your child is going to be away from school, write to your Head of Year well in advance and ask for work to be set.


  • Read and sign your child’s homework diary each week. Check that your child records homework in enough detail to allow them to do the work correctly and by the due date.
  • It will be very unusual for no homework to be set. If your child claims to have completed work ‘in the lesson’, ask to see what they have done.
  • Encourage your child to check the details of homework with another (reliable) student.
  • Display your child’s homework timetable.
  • Try to ensure that your child does homework on the day it is set. Ideas will be fresher in their mind – and there will be opportunities to ask for help and advice before deadlines.
  • Help your child to organise their time. Three subjects a night is an hour and a half’s work – which has to be fitted in around other activities and interests. Homework is unlikely to be done well if it is left until late in the evening.
  • If your child has spent a reasonable amount of time on a homework – ie, the required time plus a bit more, but has struggled or has not completed the work, write a note to the teacher explaining this.


Most subject teachers will set written work for a range of purposes: notes, essays, accounts of experiments or practical work, stories, poems, answers to questions. Some teachers will provide clear guidelines about what is required and offer some support for the writing process. Other teachers may not.
Key points about writing:

  • It should suit the purpose for which it is required.
  • It should be organised, with a clear structure. which follows the order of events or deals with ideas in order of importance.
  • Ideas should be expressed clearly and straightforwardly.
  • It should be as legible and accurate as your child can make it.

The writing process:

The most difficult part of writing is getting started. Your support will be most effective at the planning stage and later at the review stage.


Help your child to consider:

  • The PURPOSE of the writing;
  • HOW MUCH is required; and
  • WHO the intended audience is.

A plan is simply a list of the key points put into the best order. Once the plan has been worked out, the points can be developed into short paragraphs. When this has been done you can help your child to review and correct their work.

Don’t point out every error – clear expression is the most importance aspect of writing: reading the work aloud should help your child identify parts that don’t seem clear. Discuss these and help your child to make improvements.


  • Help your child to read widely and often. People who are good spellers are usually good readers.
  • Go through your child’s exercise books and list all the words which have been spelled incorrectly. Help your child to write them in alphabetical order in the back of their planner. Update the list every week.
  • Make a list of the basic words that your child often spells incorrectly. Pin it up over the place where your child does homework.
  • Help your child keep lists of technical subject words at the back of each exercise book.
  • Help your child look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary – write down their meanings in a notebook.
  • Check spellings a paragraph at a time.
  • Have spelling competitions with a friend and learn 10 words a week.
  • Write out problem words on large pieces of paper and pin them up in the loo or bedroom.

If your child does have a spelling problem, don’t become over-concerned. There are other aspects of writing which are more important. Help your child to do everything else as well as possible!

Spelling Strategies

  • Break it into sounds (d-i-a-r-y).
  • Break it into syllables (re-mem-ber).
  • Break it into affixes (dis+satisfy).
  • Use mnemonics (necessary = 1 Collar, 2 Sleeves).
  • Refer to a word in the same family (muscle ~ muscular).
  • Say it as it sounds (Wed-nes-day).
  • Words within words (I AM ParlIAMent).
  • Refer to etymology (bi + cycle = two + wheels).
  • Use words which are spelled similarly (light, bright, night).
  • Apply spelling rules – eg, doubling consonant for short vowel (writing, but written).
  • Learn by sight (look, cover, write, check).


Some subjects will provide a textbook. This may be issued to your child at the beginning of the year and a lot of the work in the subject will be based around it. Your child will have to bring these textbooks home as they will be used for homework assignments.

In some subjects your child will use a textbook in lessons, but it will not be issued and will not be brought home. Mainstream textbooks don’t always provide support for students who find reading difficult. Textbooks are sometimes difficult to follow: the page layout may be complicated, diagrams and pictures may not always be connected with the writing, and the text may be written in a way that assumes that students have some basic subject vocabulary.


Many teachers produce their own worksheets or use commercially produced materials. Usually instructions are clear and the text is legible, but sometimes print quality may not be good or the teacher’s handwriting may be difficult to read. Your child may have to get used to the handwriting of up to ten teachers!
You can support your child’s reading at home by:

  • Reading textbooks or worksheets together to ensure that your child understands instructions. You might be able to offer alternative words and phrases to help make meanings clearer.
  • Reading notes copied from the board together to check that your child has copied accurately and understands.


Your child may be set research homework for projects or to support work in lessons. Some teachers may set very clear guidelines but others may simply ask children to “find out about…”. You can support your child with research by:

  • Helping them to work out what they have to find out. A KWL grid may help:
What I already KNOW about the topic What I WANT to know about the topic What I have LEARNED about the topic
  • Helping them to find sources of information:
    • Libraries.
    • Reference books.
    • Other publications.
    • The internet.
  • Helping them to select important information.
  • Helping them present information they have found.

Help with Reading

There are lots of things you can do to help your child to improve their reading stamina, vocabulary and general awareness of text. You could try:

  • Listening to audiobooks.
  • Reading magazines and newspapers.
  • Watching TV with subtitles.
  • Doing crossword puzzles.
  • Playing word games – Boggle, Scrabble.
  • Using CD-ROM encyclopaedias and the internet.
  • Watching film/video tie-ins with class readers.
  • Working out song lyrics.
  • Planning viewing with TV listings.
  • Using timetables.
  • Planning leisure activities with cinema listings, bowling, skating, swimming pool information.
  • Following recipes and instructions.

Problems with Work

If your child has a problem with work you could:

  • Get your child to arrange an appointment to speak to the subject teacher concerned rather than try to sort out a problem during or the end of a lesson.
  • Try to help your child to work out what it is they have difficulty with and to ask the teacher for specific help.
  • Make sure your child has a ‘buddy’ – someone who they trust and who is likely to be reliable. Exchange telephone numbers – call for help in emergencies!
  • Get your child to talk to friends about aspects of work they don’t understand – but don’t allow copying of homework.

Write a note to the teacher about work that your child has struggled with – try to identify specific problems.

Additional Support

If your child received support for learning at primary school, you should contact the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) at your child’s new school to discuss the level of support which may be available.

Students who are learners of English as an Additional Language (EAL): contact the teacher in the school responsible for EAL. This may be the SENCO.

You could also:

  • Provide opportunities for your child to practise and develop their literacy skills in their home language through reading – newspapers, magazines, fiction etc.
  • Encourage your child to attend community school – it may be possible, eventually, for your child to gain a GCSE in their home language.

Useful Websites

Provides fantastic factsheets, worksheets, games and quizzes on grammar, spelling, reading, listening, writing and vocabulary. The website also provides lots of great tips on how to proofread and check over work, which you can just print out and stick up somewhere.

For some general information, news, resources and advice on the importance of literacy and what you can do at home to help.




Students also have access to resources via Skooler and SAM Learning

Key Stage 4 Writing Tips

By the time students reach Key Stage 4, it is time for them to be in control of their own learning – although they could still benefit from some helpful pointers at home! As focus turns towards exams, we have compiled a list of helpful hints and tips that work in conjunction with literacy skills.

General advice regarding literacy:

  • Read a variety of texts in your own time regularly. You should be reading fiction as well as non fiction.
  • When reading, highlight and annotate significant parts. Writing notes and summaries during or after reading is also an effective way of revising and remembering information.
  • Knowing how to skim and scan texts effectively will be useful for research, revision and in actual examinations. Skimming is quickly casting your eyes over a piece of text to get the gist of it and to discover if it is of interest or relevance to you. Scanning is looking for specific information when you know what you are looking for.
  • Have a dictionary and thesaurus available in your home and use these when writing to help with vocabulary and spellings.
  • Check over your work once completed.
  • Ask someone at home or a friend to check/read over your work. However parents should draw their child’s attention to errors made rather than correcting them themselves.


  • Where homework tasks are to research, look at a variety of sources; internet, books, magazines, etc. The school librarians can help you to find information that will be most useful.
  • Summarise research; it is very important to make notes in your own words based on your findings. For example, for every useful/relevant page of information you read, sum it up in five sentences in a bullet pointed list.
  • Make a note of all the websites and books you have used and which were useful as well as those that were not.


  1. Highlight key points: Underlining or colour coding is a useful first step to breaking down long pieces of writing into more usable short lists or diagrams.
  2. Make a Mind Map: A mind map is really a spider diagram using COLOUR so that each leg of the ‘spider’ is a different colour. Research shows that colour can help us remember things. You could also include pictures on your map to help you remember key ideas.
  3. The Shrinking Mind Map: The aim of the game in revision is to reduce a lot of material into a small space. ‘Shrink’ your original mind map two or three times by reducing the amount of detail on it but using the same colours for the same ideas. By your final shrunken map, you may have only ten words on it but each word will trigger your memory of all the other ideas that were on your original map.
  4. Song, Rhymes, Mnemonics and Acronyms: Making up catch phrases or rhymes can help you with crucial bits of information, e.g. to help you sort out which is the x and which is the y axis on a graph you could remember “x below y because y goes up high”. It may make you cringe but you won’t forget it! Mnemonics and Acronyms can do a great deal more for you. A mnemonic is a word or abbreviation than helps you remember. An acronym is a word made up using the first letters of a series of other words, for example in English, you must consider TAP before doing a piece of writing:
    1. Type of text
    2. Audience
    3. Purpose
  5. Lists, Charts and Notes
    The traditional way of revision is to make lists of information and it may well be that your brain likes this better than any other way. If you are going to make lists, try and find ways of making them interesting and keeping them short; use the Shrinking Mind Map technique here too.
  6. Study Buddy: Sharing Learning – one of the most effective ways to learn is to teach someone else! So don’t sit and struggle alone!
  7. Practising Previous Exam questions: All exams are written in a coded language because, there are often not many different questions that you can be asked about in particular subjects. What does happen is that the same questions are asked in different ways or wrapped up in what can be confusing language. A massive key to success in examinations is understanding the question that you are being asked. This may sound obvious but so many people, although well prepared, have misunderstood the question and have written down irrelevant information for which they cannot be given marks.

Over 60% of all errors in exams are caused by not reading the question properly.

In the Exam

  • Read the whole of the exam paper before you begin; it is shocking how many candidates do not see the final question at the back of the paper! Your brain also starts to plan for the questions ahead.
  • Take the time to read questions carefully and consider what they are asking you by looking closely at the command words (see below).
  • Highlight key words or important parts in texts.
  • Skim texts to begin with, then scan for information once you have read the questions.
  • Plan your answers before you launch straight into writing longer answers. Use a simple bullet pointed list of key words and ideas you need to include in your answer, then at the end, check over your answer to ensure you have covered all key points from your plan.
  • Check over your answers at the end not only to ensure you have answered all the questions in the paper, but that you haven’t made any errors like leaving out words in a sentence, misspelling words, leaving out punctuation etc.

Understanding Command Words in Your Exams

Account for Explain why something is the way it is.
Analyse Explain your view of why the main points of an idea, text or process are important.
Calculate Show the method and obtain a numerical answer.
Compare & contrast Write about the differences and similarities.
Criticise Analyse and make a judgement or give an opinion but do not just be negative!
Define Give a brief explanation of what something means.
Describe Say what something or someone is like or give an account of events.
Discuss Consider and examine a text or idea and explore it/write about it in detail.
Evaluate Make a judgement about the quality of something, taking evidence into account.
Explain Give reasons for WHY and HOW.
Identify Find and point out the required features or reasons.
Interpret Explain what you understand to be the meaning, or what someone else intended the meaning to be.
Justify Give good reasons for.
Summarise Give the main points of an idea or an argument.

Useful Websites

Provides fantastic factsheets, worksheets, games and quizzes on grammar, spelling, reading, listening, writing and vocabulary.

Great tips on how to proofread and check over your work.

All students should have passwords for this revision website.

Useful for revising all your GCSE subjects.

Ask your teachers for other subject specific revision websites and resources.

Revision for English

Whether you are looking for some subject specific resources, past papers, apps to keep you motivated, tips from EBS staff, or just a weekly revision planner, we have got you covered! Click the button below and check it out!