How do I get an A* for IGCSE First Language English?

How do I get an A* for IGCSE First Language English?


If you are going to be sitting for your Cambridge IGCSE exams, then IGCSE English as a First Language is a subject that most of you will definitely come across.  Obtaining an A or above is a cause of celebration and an achievement that will pave the way for your future. There are a few things such as knowing your syllabus and resources, having an efficient study plan, revision strategies ranging from doing past papers to looking up marking schemes and the assessment criteria in them, and developing your writing skills that will definitely come in handy when sitting for your final exam. In this article, we will guide you through a few pointers so that getting that “A” is as easy as ABC!


1. Do you know the format of the examination?

You need to stop everything else and figure out if you know the answer to this question. It has to be a resounding “yes” in order to move on to the other points. The foundation to doing your paper well is knowing the exam format. The first step toward success is to familiarize yourself with the exam format. 


Paper 1 – Reading Passages

This is a compulsory paper which is 2 hours long. The “Reading” portion will get you 65 marks while the “Writing” portion will get you 15 marks. There will be three compulsory questions that you will have to answer based on three different texts (given in the insert) 


Paper 2 – Directed Writing and Composition

This is not a compulsory paper. You will have a choice of selecting either this or Paper 3.

This is also 2 hours long with 65 marks given for the “Writing” portion and 15 marks given for the “Reading” portion.  There are two questions that need to be answered, with the first question being compulsory and the second question being a choice of 1 out of 4 questions.

Paper 3/ Component 3 – Coursework portfolio

This is an option that you can consider instead of Paper 2, and this will get you 80 marks this requires three assignments to be submitted, ranging from around 500 to 800 words. 


Component 4 – Listening & Speaking

Some schools might also have Component 4 as well, which is optional and graded from 1 (High) to 5 (Low)


2. Build your Reading Techniques

As seen in point 1, reading and comprehending the text plays quite an important role in the exam. In order to build strong reading techniques that will come in handy at the exam, make sure to read extensively. In short, read whatever you can get your hands on! From newspapers, articles, short stories, books, letters, etc., reading a variety of sources will hone your ability to differentiate between tones, styles of writing, and different purposes. It will also expose you to a vast array of new words that will help in improving your vocabulary. 


3. Elevate Your Writing Skills and Language techniques

Having good writing skills will be extremely important when tackling either Paper 2 or Paper 3. In order to enhance your writing skills, practice writing articles, essays, reports, and letters on diverse topics.

4. Tackle Past Papers, Analyse Mark Schemes, and identify the assessment criteria

It’s not a secret that practice makes perfect. Just like any other paper, getting good grades for IGCSE English as a First Language is also heavily reliant on practicing past papers. Past papers will help you familiarise yourself with the paper format, the type of questions asked, and how difficult the paper can get. Timing the paper when practicing will help train you to adapt to finishing the paper on time as well.


One of the best things about studying the IGCSE stream is that there are plenty of resources to rely on, and one such treasure trove would be the marking schemes and the assessment criteria. Once you have completed a paper, refer to the marking scheme and assess how the marks are given. See what areas you could improve on to gain more marks the next time around. 

5. A Study Plan and Revision Strategies

Plan your time accordingly. If you feel like you are weak in one area but not weak in another, focus more on improving the area you are weak in. Practice writing a few essays/articles/reports every week. When revising, make sure that you include what is given in the marking schemes in your answer so that you can aim to score well.


Always attend mock exams held at school. This will help you determine where you stand, and getting your answers marked by the teacher will be an added advantage.

6. Ask For Help

Without valuable feedback from a trained professional like a teacher or tutor, it will be difficult to assess which parts of your answers need to be improved and refined. Listen to and make note of the feedback given to upgrade your essays. Reach out to us at Tutopiya if you need extra help with English. 

Final thoughts

As you can see, getting an A grade or higher for IGCSE English as a First Language can be a bit tough, but it is not impossible. If you understand the paper format,  work on your reading techniques and writing skills, and practice as many past papers as you can, that “A” might be closer than you think. Effort is never wasted and will be repaid one day, especially when it comes to learning a language!

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