A Guide to the English IGCSE Paper One

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Apr 18, 2010
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The Official Student’s Guide To The 0500 English IGCSE Examination
By Daniel Stavisky

Paper 1 question 1

Skim read the passage for gist before you look at the question. Then scan the passage to
find the answer to each of the questions in turn.
• Be aware that the questions are graded in an increasing level of difficulty.
• The answers to the questions, except for the last summary question, will be found in
chronological order in the text.
• Responding precisely to the wording of the question is very important in this part of the
• Notice how many marks there are for each question. This will help you to understand the
length of the answer and the number of points required.
• There is no need to repeat the whole of the question before beginning of your answer.
‘He means that...’ or ‘It is because...’ are enough to provide a grammatical introduction to
your sentence.
• Where you are asked to give a word or words you do not need to answer with a full
• When you are asked to find words they are separate not consecutive words unless you
are told otherwise. Do not give several words if asked only for one, even if you think there
are other correct answers.
• Notice which questions specifically ask you to use your own words and do not then repeat
in your answer any of the words contained in the phrase to be explained.
• Notice exactly which part of the passage is to be summarised in the final question and do
not include information from other parts of the text.
• Your summary must be in a paragraph of continuous writing, not as a list.

Paper 1 question 2

• Use the bullets points to help you structure your piece of writing.
• You are expected to develop the ideas contained in the passage, and add original details
of your own, but your response should remain based on the passage and not stray too far
from it. This is not a creative writing exercise.
• Remember that the quality and accuracy of your writing is being judged in this part of the
paper, and Writing carries the same number of marks as Reading (10 each).
• You will be rewarded for showing a wide range of vocabulary and an ability to sequence
and punctuate your sentences, and the use of an appropriate register for the task.
• Make sure your style and structure suit the genre of the written response you have been
asked to produce. For instance, a magazine article differs in style and structure from a
news report.
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Apr 18, 2010
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A Guide to the English IGCSE Paper Two

The Official Student’s Guide To The 0500 English IGCSE Examination
By Daniel Stavisky

Paper 2 question 1

• The passage will be literary and/or contain description of a person or place or both. You will have to be sensitive to atmosphere and show appreciation of the feelings of the characters in your response.
• This question is rewarded not only for identification of relevant material in the passage but also inference, development of the ideas and use of supporting detail. There are therefore four types of content required to show advanced comprehension for a top mark out of 15 for Reading.
• For full marks out of 5 for Writing you need to demonstrate structure, sequence, and ‘awide range of original and appropriate language’.
• It will help you enormously to highlight the material you are going to use in the text, andthen write a quick plan in order to organise it into a logical structure before you startwriting your response. This will enable you to avoid repetition and to make sure you arefully answering the question.
• Use everything which is relevant, not just some of the material. On the other hand, theremay be some parts which you should ignore because they are not covered by thequestion.
• Do not drift away from the text; everything you write must have a direct connection with it and be supported by references to it.
• Before you start writing, decide how formal the task is and adopt an appropriate tone.
• Though you can use short quotations from the passage within your response, you should not copy big chunks of text (you may use ellipsis to show where one quotation starts and another ends) and you should use your own words when not actually giving details.
• If the question has several parts you can either integrate the two, e.g. advantages and
disadvantages, or deal with them separately. You can decide on your own structure foryour answer, but what matters is that there should be a structure of some kind, and onewhich the reader can discern.
• What is important is that your answer should be divided into paragraphs, as all
continuous prose should be.
• If you are given bullet points to remind you what should be included, use them to check you have covered what is required, and they can also help you to structure your answer.
The material from the passage should be put into the appropriate section and not

Paper 2 question 2

• The second half of this question will be more demanding than the first. You need to give equal attention to each part and provide at least half a page for each.
• You should aim for 5 relevant quotations in each part of the question. Give the quotation,in quotation marks, explain its meaning, and then explain its effect on the reader. You cannot get higher than 3 marks if you only identify quotations, or higher than 6 marks if you discuss only meanings.
• For 10 out of 10 you should give a full range of explained effects and link them into an overview which shows understanding of what the writer was trying to achieve in the passage as a whole.
• Do not select a quotation which you do not understand as you will not be able to explain either its meaning or its effect.
• When explaining a quotation do not repeat the words used in it. Do not repeat quotations; you cannot get credit more than once.
• Generalised and subjective comments such as ‘The writer makes me feel as though I am there’ and ‘The passage is cleverly written’ gain no marks and give the impression that you are failing to find things to say.
-If you do use technical terms, such as onomatopoeia, makesure they are correctly used and that you are able to justify its intended effect.
• Select brief quotations only, of between one and four words. Do not lift whole chunks oftext, or clump quotations together, or list them. Each one must be focused on specific use of language and explained separately.
• Introduce your choices of language with phrases such as ‘gives the impression of’,‘suggests that’, ‘makes me think that.’ Do not say over and over again ‘This has the effectthat...’
• Once you have arrived at an overview, do not contradict yourself, e.g. do not say that onequotation makes a character seem physically old and another one makes her seemphysically young. This suggests that either the author has ‘got it wrong’ or you have misread the piece, more likely the latter.
• Things to look for are: use of the five senses; use of contrast; use of colour; use of noise;links between subject and environment; surprising, or unusual words; words which create sound effects; unusual or dramatic punctuation; imagery (similes and metaphors)

Paper 2 question 3

Though this question is called Summary it is not a summary in the sense of being a general description of a situation but instead it is a focused list of the specific ideas or details contained in the passage, after anything irrelevant to the two questions has been removed.
• Find all the points you can for each part of the question; do not stop when you get to 15 as these may not be the same ones the examiner has on their list. The only way to be sure of getting all 15 Reading marks is to use everything relevant.
• To get all 5 Writing marks you need to show evidence of clear and concise summary style throughout, precise focus and the use of your own words.
• Do not attempt to synthesise the two passages as this is not required, is not rewarded; itmakes your task more difficult to attempt to do so as they may not be directly comparable.
Treat the passages separately and focus on the exact wording of the question.
• Do not give your summary in the wrong form as this is penalised i.e. do not offer bullet points or a list, or write in the first person, or comment on the content ofthe passages, or present a narrative, or use quotation.
• The lengths of the summaries of each passage should be roughly equal.
• Though you must use your own words whenever possible, you do not have to find
synonyms for technical objects e.g. solar conductors.
• Both halves of the question are equally important and should be answered in the same way and given the same length of about half a page.
• Summaries much longer than half a page will be penalised in the Writing mark.
• To be concise enough for summary style and to get in all the points you should use complex sentences containing two or three points in each.
• Do not repeat points, or express them vaguely; (these will be given an R (repetition) or PNM (point not made) respectively in the margin, and discounted.
• There is no need to introduce or conclude a summary, and doing so wastes time and words. Start by using the wording of part of the question e.g. ‘The features of the desert were...’
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Re: A Guide to the English IGCSE Paper Three

The Official Student’s Guide To The 0500 English IGCSE Examination
By Daniel Stavisky

Paper 3 part 1

This is a genre transformation question, and you will be required to show awareness of style characteristics, persona, and audience. Put yourself into role, and address your audience directly.
• There will almost certainly be two texts, perhaps in different genres e.g. a letter and adialogue. The question will require you to assimilate information from both texts so you must not ignore one of them.
• Your answer will not be in the same genre as either of the texts, and should therefore bein a different style from both of them, and all material from the passages must be modified to suit the new genre.
• The recommended structure for the response will be offered in the wording of the question, and should be followed. To quote from the principal examiner’s report:
‘Candidates should always bear in mind the importance of structure and a sense of audience is an exercise such as this’.
• You will try to use as much of the passages as possible, as it will all be relevant (unlike inpaper 2 q.1) but you will have to change the way you express it; for instance a dialoguebetween friends would become reported speech in another genre, or just an opinion indirectly referred to.
• Do not write as yourself unless you are specifically told to do so.
• There will be at least two factors to focus on, e.g. advantages and disadvantages. Youwill need to make two lists before you start in order to make sure you have enough material for both sides of the question. Examiners will use A and B, or pros and cons, in the margin to identify points on each side and to assess the balance of the two.
• The third element of this question is evaluation; you will have to decide which of several options is better and present reasons why you have formed this opinion and justify it.
• Make strong transitions between points/paragraphs e.g. ‘Yet another reason to support this proposal is...’
• Do not get distracted by peripheral issues; for instance if you are asked how money should be spent, don’t discuss the fund-raising methods.
• The opening needs to clearly introduce the situation and purpose of the task, and will be rewarded if it puts the reader in the picture.
• Though you cannot make up things which are not in the passages, you should try to useyour own ideas in the way that you extend those of the passages, provided that they are ‘based on the reading material’.
• The aim of the response is likely to be persuasive, and paragraphs should be linkedappropriately for the structure of a progressive argument.
• Remember to be consistent in your adoption of style and voice, and keep in mind the purpose of the piece of writing. Use rhetorical or other persuasive devices if appropriate to the task.
Openings to compositions are important as they engage the reader
• It is essential that you choose a question out of the six available which you understand and which best suits your writing abilities
• The three genres of question are marked differently for Content and Structure; They are marked according to the same mark scheme for Style and Accuracy. The style of expression of the three genres is very different, so you need to be aware of the characteristics of each.
• Whichever type of essay you choose, it should be planned first. If after 5 mins you have only managed to collect a few ideas for your choice of title, switch to another one. The plan should contain between 6 to 10 points or ideas, which can be developed into paragraphs, if the essay is going to be of a suitable content and length. Aim for approx. 8 paragraphs and 400 words
• Generally, maturity of content and expression is required for higher marks i.e. maturity for a 16 yr old.
• This is the only part of the 0500 exam in which you can show off your range of personal vocabulary, so make good use of the opportunity.
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Apr 18, 2010
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Re: General Tips For 0500 English IGCSE Exam Papers

The Official Student’s Guide To The 0500 English IGCSE Examination
By Daniel Stavisky

General tips for 0500 exam papers

Do not write rough drafts. You cannot afford the time to write out every answer twice; plans are sufficient.
• Take two different coloured highlighters into the exam. You need to annotate all the passages, and it is especially useful to use two colours for the summary and other questions where there are two types of material asked for. But don’t go mad with the highlighting! Only single words or short phrases should be highlighted in a text, otherwise
you are not precisely identifying your useful phrases and will end up with a ridiculous amount of highlighted text.
• Regulate your time and keep an eye on it: in Paper 2, for instance, question 2 should take half as long as questions 1 and 3, which carry double the marks and require more planning.
• If you run out of time on the last question write notes instead of full sentences. You will lose fewer marks for doing this than for continuing to write in sentences but leaving the answer incomplete. Indicate what points you would have made and you will get some credit for them.
• Suggestions for length are given as a number of pages and are there to help you
understand what is expected and what is possible within the time limit. Answers which are shorter or longer will be self-penalising.
• However, the exam is assessing quality rather than quantity. Do not waste time counting words either during or after you have finished your responses. The time would be better spent improving content, expression and accuracy.
• Avoid using ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘then’. These are immature ways of linking ideas and events.
• If you finish the exam early, go back and check your answers again; you may have missed something.
• Do the questions in the order in which they are printed on each exam paper, as there is areason why they are in that order. In particular you should not read both passages on Paper 2 before answering question 1.
• Have a pen (and a spare) for the exam with which you can write legibly and neatly. It is good policy to get the examiner on your side with a well-presented script. Often untidy writing is associated with poor spelling and punctuation.
• Underline the key words in every question, and then use them to plan around.
• Make your endings strong; they are what the examiner has in their mind when they are deciding on a mark. There is no point in repeating anything you have said earlier.
• If you are weak on sentence structure do not attempt over-long and complicated ones in which you lose grammatical control. On the other hand, you should use complex sentences rather than simple or compound structures throughout the exam, as these are what formal English requires and educated writers produce, and they will give concision, precision, variety and maturity to your style.
• Use commas to separate clauses in a sentence. It is sometimes difficult to follow meaning where they have not been used and should have been. Commas are not, however, a substitute for full-stops, and ‘comma-splicing’ is penalised heavily in this exam, as it shows an inability to understand what a sentence is and how the building blocks of language work.
• Use plenty of detail. Every one of your exam answers will benefit from use of supporting detail, either textual, factual or creative.
Avoid repeating either ideas (which spoil the effect of the first time you used them) or language (which gives the impression that your command of grammar is limited or your vocabulary restricted).
• Copying and lifting of whole phrases should be avoided throughout the exam, except when you have been specifically requested to select quotations (paper 2 q.2). Copying gives no evidence of understanding, rather the reverse.
• Don’t guess the spelling of a word you are not sure of if that word exists somewhere on the exam paper. You should, however, try to guess the meaning of a word you don’t knowif you think it is important to your understanding of a text, and you should not be put off byit being a long word. There are three ways of working out the meaning of a word:
i) Is it possible to tell the approximate meaning of the word from its context?
ii) Does it remind you of another word you already know? If so it may be
iii) Can the word be broken down into syllables? If so you may be able to
work out the meaning of the different parts.
• Check through your answer, pretending you are the examiner, to make sure that what you have written can be clearly read and understood. It is usually possible to improve your answer even at this stage by adding a few more words for clarification or support, or by correcting errors, or by making a word more legible. Use carats (^) or asterisks (*) to add extra material above the line or at the end of the piece.
• Do not be afraid to make corrections, using a line through the word(s) and making a clear substitution above or with an asterisk below.
• Keep up your concentration to the very end. Often students start well and then their writing declines in quality as they get tired. Sentence structure, as well as tidiness of handwriting, tends to deteriorate as time passes. Keep producing mature vocabulary even when you’d rather take the easy option and write on auto-pilot; the last questions carry as many marks as the first.
• Don’t ramble; the longer the piece of writing the more likely there are to be mistakes in it and the more time you would have to allow for checking and correcting. Say it once and then move on.
• Checking is crucial for any piece of writing, because slips inevitably occur, particularly
when one is writing fast and under time pressure. If the examiner finds the carelessmistakes you have left uncorrected, their assessment of your writing ability will inevitably be affected.
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