There have been several adjustments to the GCSE English exams throughout the years. Course content, test design, and student evaluation all play a role in this. For GCSE English, there are typically two primary areas of study: language and literature.

The Department reformed the English language and literature GCSEs for Education in 2013. New lectures started in 2015, and the first tests were administered in 2017.

GCSE English language courses emphasise the development of students’ ability to read, write, and speak effectively. The English Literature GCSE is geared more toward strengthening students’ literacy skills.

Here’s all you need to know about it and tips on how to enhance your chances of passing the test.

Preparation for the English Language Examination

Students will be tested on their knowledge of grammar and structure, all the way to vocabulary, spelling, and punctuation. However, it’s not only about passing the test. Teachers are also concerned about students’ development in these areas.

Students are assessed on the following to get a GCSE English language certificate:

Speaking and listening skills
Writing skills
Reading skills
Knowledge of the common language

To succeed in this GCSE, students will spend a significant amount of time preparing for the test, completely different from other subjects. Because language is an integral part of the GCSE, English classes typically prioritise it.

Writing is the primary instrument of communication, both in written and spoken forms. This is why it makes sense that most of the course material is focused on improving writing skills.

Administration of the Exam by the 3 Different Boards

The three primary boards administering GCSE English exams are AQA, OCR, and Edexcel.
All of them have different standards. The content they choose to teach, the way they present that material, and the test structure are all completely different. Here’s what you need to know regarding the different boards:

AQA: This is the most popular board in the UK, accounting for more than half of the total GCSE English Language exams. It is an independent board that has been around for nearly 30 years.
OCR: This board is government-funded and has been around for nearly 30 years. The OCR board offers both technology-based and non-technology based tests.
Edexcel: This is the third-largest English Language exam board. It’s funded by Pearson, a multinational corporation based in the UK. The Edexcel board has been around for more than 20 years.

The Grading System

The grading scale for the English Language exam is different for each board.

AQA: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2
OCR: A*, A, B, C, D, E
Edexcel: 1, 2, 3, 4, with 4 being the highest

The grades are typically used to assess the student’s overall level of English. For example, a student in a group of other GCSE students may have earned a grade of B2.

Often, that group of students is not the same students with the same grades.
Students can earn a different grade based on their performance in the exam. Some students may consider a lower grade better if they think they performed better or feel it’s what they deserve.

Tips for Passing the GCSE English Language Exam

To succeed in the English language GCSE exam, students need to practice. They should dedicate significant time to writing and communicating, as these are essential skills.
Students will also have to dedicate time to reading to help them understand what they read and listen to.

Finally, practising vocabulary and spelling is essential, as well. Students aiming for higher grades for their language GCSE should take practice exams as often as possible.
Additionally, they should get as many different types of exams as possible. This will help them learn how to adapt and adjust their writing to the various situations they may encounter.


Students interested in taking the GCSE English language need to be very dedicated and willing to take on the challenge. The exam is comprehensive and rigorous, but it’s also rewarding. Students will learn to express themselves in several ways, and the language they understand will help them in other courses.

Passing the GCSE English language exam will look impressive on a student’s resume, especially if they decide to attend university. It will also help them hone their skills and learn to communicate effectively.

We will help you get prepared for your GCSE English Exam. When you sign up to SchoolOnline you will get professional video lessons and tutorials to assist GCSE, students acquire confidence and essential English skills. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we support several GCSE English test boards.