Exactly one month remains between now and the IGCSE first language English exams for May 2024. Meanwhile, I’m sure that all of you out there are casually preparing.

So here I am today with a couple of handy exam tips to remember as you go into exams!

Let’s begin!

Tip #1:Read your questions.

Questions or prompts are like the addresses that you put into Google Maps or Waze whenever you want to go to a destination. Clearly, Google Maps is powerful and it will get you to anywhere it is that you want in this world. But if you put in the wrong address, you will find yourself walking through a jungle, encountering a lion in South Africa, or drinking near droplets of water as you try to navigate through the dunes of the Sahara Desert.

Essentially, if you don’t know the question, then how can there be an answer?

This is why you should always read your questions. Pay attention to the specific wording. Because often, many of you answer questions that were not asked. You do not pay attention to the specific request that was being made of you. As a result, when you answer, it all seems to be a reply constructed in your head that does not respond to what was demanded of you. How can you be rewarded in that case? It’s impossible. Pay close attention. Read it twice if necessary and only from there, complete your response. Imagine that when you are writing your responses, you are actually having a conversation. Familiarize yourself with the question and answer process and ask yourself, if I were in a conversation with this person who is writing out these lengthy replies, would I understand them? Do I have enough information? If you were to talk to some of yourselves and just imagine that you knew nothing about the context of a question or the way that it was supposed to be answered, you would see that more often than not, more information is actually required relative to what, in most cases, you would actually provide. Pay attention and imagine that the person who is listening to you is completely unaware of the situation. Not to the point that you imagine that they are stupid, but instead, consider whether you are providing sufficient or comprehensive information that will meet their needs.

Tip #2: Plan Your Answers

Before diving into writing, spend a few minutes planning your answer. This step is crucial for structuring your thoughts and ensuring a coherent and compelling response. Draft a quick outline that includes your main points and examples. This planning phase helps you stay on track and cover all necessary aspects of the question.

Tip #3: Use Direct Quotes Sparingly

When answering questions, especially those that ask for analysis or interpretation, it’s tempting to rely heavily on direct quotes from the text. While quotes can strengthen your argument, they should be used sparingly and effectively. Instead of letting the quotes speak for you, interpret them. Explain their relevance and how they support your argument. This demonstrates a deeper understanding of the material.

Tip #4: Manage Your Time

Time management is critical in an exam setting. Allocate your time wisely across all questions, leaving enough space for planning, writing, and revising. Be aware of how much time you have for each section or question, and adjust your pace accordingly. It’s often helpful to start with the questions you find easiest to build confidence and ensure you score points where you can.

If you’re taking too much time on a question, move on to the next question – remember, it’s about making sure that you get to answer all the questions and putting your best foot forward, not just about getting one individual question correct!

Tip #5: Review and Revise

If time allows, always review your answers. Check for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Ensure that you have fully answered the question and that your argument is logical and well supported. Sometimes, in the heat of writing, you might miss out on small details or make typos. Revising allows you to polish your response and catch any errors.

Tip #6: Stay Calm and Confident

Exam nerves can be a significant hurdle. Practice calming techniques such as deep breathing or positive visualization before and during the exam. Remember, preparation is key. The work you’ve put in while studying will support you. Trust in your abilities and the knowledge you have accumulated.

Final Thoughts

Preparation doesn’t end with understanding the material; it also involves understanding how to take the exam. These tips, along with diligent study and practice, will help you navigate the IGCSE First Language English exams more effectively. Good luck!

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