Tip 1: Informal letter
You may be asked to write an informal letter to a friend or family member. Often, the question will require you to describe or explain something, or it may ask you to say what you think about a suggestion or a plan. The exam question will give you some ideas, and will tell you what you should include in your letter.
Remember: It is important to show that you can write in an informal style.
Example of opening:
- Hi Sally,
- Dear Mum,
Example of ending:
- Your lovely daughter,
Tip 2: Follow the required number of words
Make sure that you follow all instructions very carefully and write the required number of words. Aim for 15 words plus or minus from the maximum word limit guideline.
For English First Language Extended syllabus, aim for 435 words or so; or in the range of 435－465 words.
For English as a Second Language Extended syllabus, aim for 185 words or so.
Though there is no penalty in writing more than the suggested limit, it would be self-penalising to wrote more as you leave no time for other questions.
Tip 3: Use more adjectives and adverbs
When you write, use your imagination as much as possible, but remember that your answer must always be relevant to the question.
One way to improve your writing is by using more adjectives and adverbs.
- We had food and the music was good.
The above sentence could be made better by applying some adjectives like the below sentence.
- We ate delicious food and the music was fantastic!
Tip 4: Know your marks allocation
For example: Up to nine marks are awarded for content, and up to nine marks for language.
“Content” refers to the relevance and development of ideas; “language” refers to style and accuracy.
Tip 5: Formal letter
Below are some important points about writing a formal letter in your IGCSE exam:
- You do not need to supply addresses or a dates, unless you are specifically asked to do so. However, you need to address the person whom you are writing to.
- A formal letter is the type you write to someone you have never met before or whom you have no personal relationship.
- If the letter begins with ‘Dear Madam’ or ‘Dear Sir’, it should end with ‘Yours faithfully’.
- If the letter begins with somebody’s name, for example ‘Dear Mr. Robert’, it should end with ‘Yours sincerely’.
- Formal letters usually contain at least two paragraphs, use of formal language and no abbreviations.
- Colloquial language is absolutely unacceptable in this type of writing, even though you are asked to write to someone you know such as your grandparents, your parents or your relatives.
Tip 6: Style of writing
You may be asked to write an article or a narrative, describe something or to write something persuasive. It is important that you read the question very carefully and that you express yourself effectively. You should also show that you can vary the style of your writing, depending on the topic.
Tip 7: Summary writing
In all the English subjects papers, you’ll be required to summarise a text. Below are some important points to help you score maximum marks for this section:
- If you are asked to write out your response as a single paragraph, be sure to do so.
- The summary question will direct you to a specific topic in the text, so it is very important that you underline key points and make brief notes before you write your answer.
Tip 8: Keep to the topic
You may be asked to write your opinion about something in the form of a newspaper article, or perhaps for your school newsletter or magazine.
For English First Language, be sure to cover all the bullet points given.
For English as a Second Language, usually you will be given help in the form of a list of ideas or other people’s opinions, but you do not have to use them in your answer. You are free to use your own ideas, just be sure to keep to the topic.
You must show the examiner that you can use the English language for a specific purpose and that you can organise your ideas in a logical way.
Tip 9: Organize your ideas
Although you don’t have much time for planning, you should underline the key word(s) in the question to ensure you do exactly what is asked.
Write very brief notes, putting your ideas into a logical order. Also, check for repetition. When you have finished your writing, check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.