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Preparation for the Examinations



The English Examinations are happening on the following dates:

  • TUESDAY 22nd May: Literature (a) – Of Mice and Men and Touching the Void
  • THURSDAY 24th May: Literature (b) – Poetry “Conflict” Comparison and Unfamiliar Poem
  • TUESDAY 29th May: Language – Non-Fiction Reading and Writing
The formal revision programme for these examinations runs as follows:
  1. Literature (a): Monday 21st May – All day
  2. Literature (b): Wednesday 23 May – All day
  3. Language: Friday 25th May – All day

Best Practice Preparation:

The best preparation you can do for these examinations is practice answering the prior exam questions. You have received a number of these from me in class, but if you need to find more, you can easily access past papers at the AQA English Language and English Literature sites. (It is often a good idea to have a look at old papers simply as a way to become more familiar with their format)

If you write practice papers on your online journal, I guarantee you will receive detailed written feedback from me – usually within minutes, but at most, within 24 hours.

Always contact or come and see me if you have questions.

There is a wealth of revision information online and many study guides that can help guide your prep – but at this stage one of the most important messages we can give you is to trust your own learning and knowledge and practise the WRITING side of the exam. Instead, go to your online journal and view some of your own past work and read the detailed feedback – making sure you understand your own personal next steps.

Personal Wellbeing:

Just like a big game, an examination asks a lot of you mentally and physically. Don’t let yourself down on the day by arriving late, tired or hungry. Get into the habit of eating a decent breakfast and get some decent sleep. Avoid excessive socialising in the weekends leading up to the big day – but still keep in mind that rest is as important as revision in the week leading up to a big exam.

Be positive. Remember all the impressive progress you’ve made. Believe in yourself. Pay close attention to the questions. Trust your own responses. Give evidence for everything.

Don’t get stressed that 11 years of your life and hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on educating you so that you can achieve in these few small examinations. Just be yourself – the smartest, most eloquent, most intelligent, version of yourself.

Definitely wear your best tie.



Exam Marking Schedules

You’ve now received the marked papers for your mock exam – you can access the marking schedules from the following link to see what is expected and identify your areas for improvement.

Mock Exam Marking Schedule

Tosin’s Analysis of “The Yellow Palm”

The poem ‘The Yellow Palm’ is a poem portraying the problems which are present in Bagdad, Iraq; the problems the author experienced. I personally think that the poem shows the experiences which are experienced when walking down ‘Palestine Street’. What can be seen, what happens and how it happens.

In the poem, there is a lot of references which seem to relay the message that there was a lot of heartache in Palestine and that in just one street, all of these tragedies could occur. However, what is Palestine, and why is there a war there? Palestine is an area and Palestinians are the people which live in it. The current conflict is between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Israelis do not want the Palestinians in Palestine as they believe it is their territory.

So, the heartache quotes. In the first verse, the person narrating the poem (most probably the author) begins to speak of the things which he was seeing ‘I watched a funeral pass’, ‘blood on the walls’ (of a mosque), ‘met two blind beggars’. These quotes seem to suggest that Palestine at the time was a very broken area if you like. There was a lot of struggle.

‘I met two blind beggars // and into their hands I pressed my hands // with a hundred black dinars’’. This quote is an act of support in the sense that, the person saw people who are less well off than he is and therefore decided to give them money, even considering the circumstances that the area is in. The author has used this to show that there is a glimmer of hope and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The theme of the poem seems to revolve around the colour yellow, even in the title of the poem yellow is included. Yellow can mean many things, happy – a sunny day. We associate yellow with negative things also as well, such as the yellow of a dead white person; decaying skin. This association is what I think the author has decided to include in this poem. The effect of ‘dead’ is what is pictured when I read this poem.

Also, yellow can resemble a desert; wasteland. A territory which has being run down by the negative conflict which ‘lingers in the air’. The author has made the theme of the poem yellow to create an uninhabited, an inhospitable place to be in.

Poetic Language Glossary

The following is a quick glossary of language terms often used in the analysis of poetry. Please never use a term you are unsure of in an examination. It is always better to explain what you understand is happening in the language in your own words rather than attempt to use fancy technical terms and use them incorrectly.

Poetry “Conflict Cluster” Practise Exercise – Prior Examination Question

Your homework – preferably online if possible – is to answer the following question (derived from a previous examination) and check it against the official examiner’s marking rubric published below.


Compare how poets present the effects of conflict in “Belfast Confetti” and one other poem from Conflict


Compare how poets present the experience of soldiers in ‘Bayonet Charge’ and one other poem from Conflict

What grade would it have been given?

Link to marking rubric

Annotated Practise Answer (2) to GCSE English Literature – Touching the Void

The following papers were completed in 35 minutes in class in response to the prior GCSE English Language question:

What is the significance of the title of “Touching the Void”?

Annotated Practise Answer (1) to GCSE English Literature – Touching the Void

The following papers were completed in 35 minutes in class in response to the prior GCSE English Language question:

What is the significance of the title of “Touching the Void”?

Essay Practice

As a moment of coalescence in the process of responding to the novel “Touching the Void” the students have two periods to write an essay using questions from prior exam papers. The essay will then be marked  and used as a basis for an essay writing development workshop next week.

The students could select from the following Questions:


How does Simpson show how difficult it was for him on the mountain after he was injured?


How does the writer portray Simon in the book?


Choose a passage from the book which you find especially tense or exciting. Write about the methods Simpson uses to create tension or excitement in this passage.


What is the significance of the title in “Touching the Void”?

The Content of your Practice Examination

Watch for trick Questions

You will be answering three distinct sections in the English Practice Examination next week:

  1. Non-Fiction Reading: Where you will be asked to read a series of passages and excerpts and answer a series of questions on these – remember to read each question carefully and make sure you are clear as to whether it is asking for comprehension, understanding, language or presentation analysis
  2. Writing: You will be asked to produce two pieces of writing, both of which will have a specific purpose. Pay close attention to the number of marks awarded for each of these and allocate your time accordingly. Remember that in the writing section the accuracy of your writing and your language choices are being assessed.
  3. Unfamiliar Poem: In this section you will be given a poem that you are unlikely to have seen before and asked to analyse its language and meaning. Remember to quote from the poem and name the language features or devices you notice along with your view of their effect.

In addition to having a clear head about what to expect from this examination you should also arrive to the examination well-rested, well-fed and with all the equipment you need to succeed (don’t be a student who arrives to an English examination without a pen and who has to wait for 15 minutes while the invigilators shuffle around looking for one!)