Checking your work – English GCSE

We know that exams can be terrifying, and that often you find yourself running out of time towards the end. But there’s no need to panic – Tavistock Tutors are here to help!

Ensuring that you effectively plan your time for an exam is crucial. It is important to leave enough time at the end of an exam to check your work. Here at Tavistock Tutors we have a guide of things to go through at the end of the exam to improve the standard of your writing.

Why is proof reading important?

Every year, and in every exam board, from AQA to OCR, there are always thousands of students who fail to check their work.

It could only take a few minutes, but if you don’t check you work, students often submit their exam paper with lots of mistakes that haven’t been noticed. If you don’t manage to correct these mistakes, then they could reduce the number of marks you can achieve in an exam, especially if your SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) is repeatedly wrong.

Make sure that you reach your full potential in your English GCSE by racking up all of the available marks. Make sure that you start getting into the habit of leaving enough time in your exam technique to check your writing before handing it in!


How do I check my work?

Whether reading your own work, or someone else’s in class, the general process should be the same. Try and read through the writing carefully and follow the checklist below to ensure that you cover all potential things that may need to be rewritten or improved.

If you’re checking your work during class rather than under timed conditions of an exam, it may be helpful to write comments in the margins of your pages with a different coloured pen.

Writing comments in a different coloured pen will help the comments to stand out when looking through your notes for revisionand making small comments such as “be more specific” will be useful reminders of how to improve your future work!

Don’t be afraid to cross things out in your work – being able to critique your own work is essential if you are to recognise weaknesses in order to improve your writing!


Checklist for checking your work

Checking each sentence

  • Try and read through each sentence in your head as you write it. It can be very easy when you’re nervous in an exam, to try and get out all of your ideas as fast as possible. It’s great that you’re oozing with great ideas but try to make sure that your sentences are still easy to understand. Try and quickly check they make sense to you before moving onto the next.
  • Use a variety of sentence types and styles and remember that shorter sentences are often clearer and crisper sounding. An occasional ultra-short sentence can add real impact to writing.
  • Read each sentence before you proceed to the next to check it is fluent, accurate and complete. Does it follow on logically from the previous sentence?


Overall argument

If you’re aiming to achieve the top grades, then it’s important that your work linked throughout with an overarching line of argument. This becomes more important in A-level English, but it is a great idea to start thinking about overall ideas which help to tie in all of your different ideas.

Unity is important within your work, and all of your paragraphs should link to your main argument!


Checking every paragraph

A paragraph is a series of sentences (often at least five) that develop from a single topic sentence used to introduce the point of the paragraph. Paragraphs are a useful way to help organise your ideas in a logical manner, by having each paragraph focus on a separate idea.

Avoid creating overly short paragraphs as this suggests either a) you do not know what a paragraph is or b) that you have no explained the point of the paragraph in sufficient detail. Try to make sure that each paragraph flows naturally on from its predecessor by using the final sentence of each paragraph to subtly ‘hook’ into the topic of the next paragraph.

Organising your ideas

Good organisation means putting your answers into a logical orderand linking them in a coherent way.

You shouldn’t give the examiner any reason to stop whilst they are reading your work, so this means that your writing should flow as naturally as possible. Make sure that the ideas within your paragraphs are presented in a logical manner, by providing similar points next to each other. Otherwise your work might appear disorganised as if you are jumping from one idea to the next.

By using appropriate transition phrases and connectives, your ideas will be linked in a sophisticated way.

Some helpful transition phrases include:

  • additionally
  • besides
  • furthermore
  • in addition
  • by comparison
  • similarly
  • however
  • in contrast
  • nevertheless
  • on the other hand
  • otherwise

These connectives can be used within your paragraphs to help link ideas together but are also helpful at the start of new paragraphs. At the beginning of each new paragraph, try and include a main topic sentence which introduces your new argument to the reader.

Your paragraphs should demonstrate unity, which means that all of the ideas included within your paragraph should relate to the topic sentence, and each paragraph should try to link with your overall argument.


How do I show the examiner I want to change my paragraph?

Sometimes when you’re proof reading your work, you might want to add additional ideas or maybe you’ll realise that you’ve included way too much in one paragraph.

It’s important that you don’t include too many ideas in one paragraph, as this could make them confusing and unclear. If you want to try and split your paragraphs, then simply put this mark where you want to mark a paragraph break: //

So if you want to correct a paragraph, simply write //, and then in your margin write // = new paragraph. The examiner will not mark you down for this so long as you haven’t forgotten all of your paragraphs.


Checking your SPAG

As well as making sure that your writing is clear and coherent, it is important that your SPAG is accurate and precise throughout, to ensure that your writing is of top quality.

SPAG stands for Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. Though it may be a minor part of your writing as a whole, it is important that you get into the habit of having strong SPAG so that you can bag some easy marks!

Examine each comma

A very common error and poor style is to use a comma instead of a full stop to end a sentence. This makes two or more stylish, short and crisp sentences into one long, drawn out and boring sentence! Always end each sentence with a full stop – or a semi-colon if you know how to use this punctuation mark.

Look at every apostrophe

Apostrophes are used for two reasons – but so many students fail to use them effectively. If two words are made into one in what is called a ‘contraction’, an apostrophe is inserted if any letters have been missed out. So ‘should not’ becomes ‘shouldn’t’

And when one thing belongs to another thing or person, this is shown by adding apostrophes to the owning noun.

For example:

  • The school’s entrance shows that this is ‘the entrance of the school’
  • ‘Alan’s book’ shows this is ‘the book of Alan’.
  • Similarly, you go ‘to the doctor’s’ and ‘the chemist’s’ as well as to ‘Sainsbury’s’ and ‘McDonald’s’ because you mean ‘to the doctor’s surgery’, ‘the chemist’s shop’ and so on.

It’s or Its?

Watch out for it’s. With an apostrophe it only ever means it is or it has, as in ‘it’s cold’ or ‘it’s got three toes missing’. If you mean belonging to something which has no identity and can be described as ‘it’ then you don’t need to use an apostrophe.

For example:

  • it, as in its fur is shiny and smooth, no apostrophe is used.


Tavistock Tutors

Producing high quality work for you English GCSE always comes down to providing strong ideas which are presented in a clear and sophisticated manner.

It always comes down to the simple fact that our work is always stronger if we double check our work after writing it. This means you can avoid sloppy mistakes which could prevent you from attaining the grade your deserve.

If you want to talk to one of our professional English tutors who can teach you how to better proof read your work, feel free to get in contact with us today!


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Additional resources:

Do I Need to Memorise Quotes for English GCSE?
English GCSE Analysis Toolkit
English Language GCSE Past Papers

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