How To Perfect Persuasive Writing in GCSE English

The ability to develop and convey a powerful, persuasive message is an essential life skill, so it’s no wonder that it’s tested at GCSE level. 

The form of the persuasive piece you’re asked to write in your exam could be a speech, a letter, or an article, but in all instances you’ll need to convince someone that your perspective on a complex issue is the correct one. 

Just like any writing task under exam conditions, practice, planning, and preparation are crucial if you are going to avoid cliched, rushed, or panicked answers. 

Follow the steps we outline below, then when you’re feeling confident, try a practice paper. 

For Save My Exams’ full guide to acing persuasive writing, head here.

If you want to explore all of our AQA GCSE English Language Revision Notes, head here.

Get the structure of your piece of writing right

  • Start with a bang. Immediately show what side of the argument you’re on in your opening sentences – there are no marks to be won from sitting on the fence!
  • Now zoom out and set the scene. Give some wider context about the topic you’re writing on. Explain why it’s an issue in the first place, using facts and statistics to give additional detail.
  • Offer up a personal anecdote. Mention how this issue relates to a personal memory or an experience; perhaps a holiday or a hobby you have. That way, your passion for the argument is sincere. It will really help to give your answer some character and individuality.
  • Finish your piece with a short yet strong concluding sentence, summing up your perspective on the matter at hand.

Use the Three Types of Persuasion

Make your argument three times as powerful by using all three types of persuasion in your piece of writing. Here’s a brief run-down of each type: 

Emotional (Pathos) – Arguments designed to trigger an emotional response  

Authoritative (Ethos) – Arguments which derive power from an ‘expert’ source

Logical (Logos)  – Arguments which are based on facts and reason 

Depending on your audience, you’ll want to tailor how much of each type of persuasion you include in your piece. The best pieces of writing always include all three though, bringing in expert commentary and explaining an argument clearly and logically, whilst tugging on the heart strings to trigger the reader’s empathy.

Use these key Persuasive Writing Language Techniques

Challenge yourself to include all of the A FOREST techniques. It’s a great way to show the examiner that you know what you’re doing, and that you’ve put in the revision hours. 

Alliteration (using words which begin with the same consonant) 

Facts (true statements to support your point)

Opinions (specific people’s perspectives on the issue) 

Repetition (using the same word or phrase multiple times for effect)

Emotive Language (words designed to trigger an emotional response)

Statistics (using numerical data such as percentages to convey information)

Three (the ‘Rule of Three’ states that anything in a list of three is more powerful than a list of two or four – such as adjectives)

When checking over your piece of writing at the end, write down A FOREST and tick off the letters as you spot them in your piece, to be sure you’ve included everything.

Address the counter-arguments

To strengthen your argument, it’s important to acknowledge the opposing positions and then disprove them. 

For example: Some people may say that it’s pointless to recycle waste at home, because what difference can one person make? However this is clearly a shortsighted opinion; if every person took responsibility for their recycling then we could make a huge impact! 

Don’t just ignore your imaginary opposition. You’ll earn more marks if you can prove that you’ve considered all sides of the argument, yet still argue forcefully for one side, and expose the other side of the argument as weaker than your own. 

Use a range of complex vocabulary and grammatical structures

This point should really go without saying across all of your GCSE writing tasks.

Mark schemes for every paper reward the use of creative language and complex grammar (when used correctly!). You can work on improving your own range by reading widely, using a thesaurus for homework assignments, and playing (educational) language games

If you follow these rules, you’ll be well on your way to winning over your reader. Just remember – you don’t have to actually agree with every single point that you put across: what matters is that you make it look like they are all your deeply-held convictions!

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Amy studied at the University of Bristol and is our revision blog guru. She only graduated recently so understands the pressures of being a student better than most, and is here to share her wisdom so that you revise effectively, smash your exams, succeed at school and write cracking university and job applications.