Tuesday, 17 May 2016

ONLINE IGCSE ENGLISH - Writing and Reading techniques.



The following reading and writing techniques that are commonly used in UK schools in preparation for GCSE & IGCSE exams. Using them will shape your writing and help towards gaining a higher grade.

Writing Devices

PAF (Purpose, Audience, Format)

This stands for:

Purpose- Why are you writing/ or the person who has written the text doing so? When you/ or they put pen to paper, what is the point? Is it to explain, describe, inform, persuade, argue or advise?

Audience- Who is the writing directed at?

Is it a formal audience? For example a Head teacher, a Prime minister, a Monarch, an Employer, a Newspaper editor etc. The tone needs to be polite and respectful.

Or is it an informal audience? The language can be friendly and appropriate to speaking to someone that you are familiar with. The letter may contain the odd slang term (but not swearing) if appropriate.

Format- How is the writing laid out on the page? 
If it is a speech, then it should have an opening address/ welcome and a closing statement. If it is a diary entry it should have a date and reflect it is a diary. If it is an advert it should have persuasive devices and message. If it is an explaining text then it should have imperatives and quite possibly be in a list.

 PALL (Purpose, Audience, Language, Lay-out)
This is the more advanced version of PAF. It is the same, apart from instead of format we say Lay-out. The extra L is for Language.

Language- What kind of descriptive language is used in the text? There could be: Alliteration, facts, onomatopoeia, repetition, rhetorical questions, exaggeration, statistics and themes (remember as AFORREST).

PEE ( Point, Evidence, Explain)

When writing an answer regarding a text you need to support your opinions with quotes from the text. You should do it like this:

Point- Make a point.

Evidence- Use a quote from the text to support the point.

Explain- Now you explain how the quote backs up the point you have made.

For example:

When answering a question about the extract ‘Touching the Void’ such as-

How does the writer’s choice of language show that he has been seriously hurt?

(Point) We know that Joe has been badly injured from his fall by the language he uses. (Evidence) ‘Then pain flooded down my thigh — a fierce burning fire coming down the inside of my thigh, seeming to ball in my groin, building and building until I cried …’. (Explanation) He has used an emotive word such as pain which lets the reader know he has been injured. He also uses a metaphor to describe the pain as ‘fire’. This image lets us know that he is in seriously injured.

 This is a device used to describe and analyse poetry.

T-What is its theme?

W- What words stand out? This is the poet’s choice of vocabulary.

I- What kind of Imagery (mental pictures) have been used and how? Similes, metaphors, alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia etc?

S- What is the poem’s Structure? This could be comments on how many stanzas (verses) have been used, stand alone sentences, rhyming couplets etc.

T- What is the Tone of the poem? Is it happy and optimistic? Is it sad? Does it feel angry or humourous?

Structuring an extended response

Essay responses are where the bulk of the marks on an exam paper are.

Students need to be confident in three areas:

1. Content- What the text is about? Plot? Characters? Themes?

2. Method- How to write an extended answer (see below)

3. Timing- Be aware of the time limit and don’t run out of time.

(All of these above points will be covered in the course and practised in the final ‘revision units’ leading up to the exam in the 2nd year).

Examiners are looking for students who can lay-out their work correctly as well as answer a question. The way to structure an essay response is such:


Create a focused opening which answers the question and may list key points that you will raise in your response.

Main body

Use PEE! You should aim to make between 3 and 5 points in your response.

For each point you should aim to include 2 pieces of evidence from the text (quotes). Typically a point, with two quotes and an explanation showing how this evidence backs up what you say, can be fitted into a paragraph.


This is where you finish the essay.

To create a strong conclusion you should summarise your key points and evaluate. This is where you basically comment on the writer and how they have met the point/s that the question has asked. What was their reason for doing this eg why did they show a character in a particular way or what message were they trying to get across?

Reading techniques:

When tackling a reading exercise think of the following:


Read the question. Highlight key words in it. For example:

In what ways does the writer Saki create a slightly chilling atmosphere in ‘The Open Window’?

You would highlight ‘ways’, ‘create’, ‘chilling’ & ‘atmosphere’.

This is there to direct you to what the task requires.


You now read the text focused on what the question wants. Remember the key words from the pre-scan. Let your eyes run quickly over several lines, left to right. Some people find having a ruler or piece of paper under the lines help to focus on the text, a sentence at a time.

When you find what you want.


Re-read the line again and make a note of what you have found eg descriptive word etc.

Continue to read.

Finish scanning.

Check your list.

Have you found all that you were looking for?

Now it’s time to tackle the question armed with what you have found.

This blog post was written by Andy Mackay, Head of IGCSE English at Blackhen Education.
If you would like more information about our IGCSE English courses, please feel free to contact us at: sue@blackheneducation.com