CIE IGCSE English Language

Practice Papers

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Practice Paper 2A

Question 1

Marks: 40

Section A: Directed Writing

Imagine you are a pupil in a school that has a school uniform.

Write a letter to the Head Teacher, giving your views on whether or not the school should keep the uniform, or if it should be abolished to allow students to wear what they like.

In your letter you should:

  • evaluate the views given in both texts about student uniform
  • give your own views, based on what you have read, about whether wearing a school uniform is a benefit to students.

Base your letter on what you have read in both texts, but be careful to use your own words. Address both of the bullet points.

Begin your letter: ‘Dear Mrs Butler, …’

Write about 250 to 350 words.

Up to 15 marks are available for the content of your answer, and up to 25 marks for the quality of your writing.

Close

Response Ideas

Text A

  • Enforcing/policing school uniform rules wastes a lot of teachers’ time
  • School uniforms are often impractical for every-day use (e.g. not versatile for different seasons, not breathable or hardwearing etc.)
  • ‘Wildly expensive’ – cost too much
  • Can be replaced with a badge/brooch/patch
  • There are other ways to feel part of a school community
  • School should allow students to express themselves/individual identity
  • Uniforms often don’t conceal social class – even if students wear identical uniforms it’s still possible/easy to spot wealthy and poorer students
  • Schools are places to learn about real life – clothes are irrelevant
  • Taking away school uniforms removed one more problem for teachers and students

Text B

  • School uniforms create a sense of community/belonging
  • Putting on a uniform puts students in the mood/zone for learning
  • Gives students a sense of pride/purpose
  • Levels out students: they all arrive looking equal
  • Allows students to be judged based on their character and contribution, not just what they look like
  • Making daily fashion choices distracts students from learning
  • Wearing the same clothes each day removes a decision – frees up thinking to focus on more important decisions

 

Example Top-Grade Answer

Dear Mrs Butler,

I am delighted to hear that you are considering abolishing the school uniform – I think it would be a bold, progressive move and would reflect how modern and forward-thinking the school is.

School uniform sounds like a good idea in theory, especially as it is supposed to make students look equal and ‘level out’ the wealthy students with the less advantaged. But in reality, we can all spot the wealthier students a mile off; their shirts are crisp white, their jumpers and blazers always look brand new (they probably are) and their shoes have hardly been worn. In contrast, more disadvantaged students often wear older clothes; patched-up jumpers and scuffed up shoes – particularly as uniforms are now so expensive to replace!

The reality is, some students come from wealthier backgrounds than others. I think we should stop pretending otherwise, and let everyone wear what they want. Students then get to express their own identity, and it’d be much cheaper for poorer students to wear the clothes they already have. I appreciate uniforms allow students to feel part of something bigger, but one way to achieve that is for students to wear school badges on their own clothes. Simple! That way they can still feel that sense of belonging, and pride and purpose but without having to wear drab, itchy clothes.  

Mark Zuckerberg is often quoted as a good example of someone who wears the same clothes every day to focus on important decisions. But I personally don’t think of Mark Zuckerberg as a positive role model; perhaps if he focused more on what he wore, he’d spend less time interfering in elections. Instead, I’d much rather look to Harry Styles or Lewis Hamilton as role models; they work hard, look smart but wear clothes that reflect their own personality and style. Similarly, my sister is a graphic designer; she works in a smart London office but always wears what she likes. Many modern jobs nowadays don’t require a uniform, so I think the best way students like me can prepare for jobs like those is to be able to experiment with clothes and personal style at school.

This is an important issue and an opportunity make the school a more inclusive place, so thank you for asking students to share their views.

Yours sincerely,

Adam Vincent

 

Marking Criteria for Writing

22-25 marks:

  • It is clear all the way through your writing who you are writing as, who you are writing to and why you are writing.
  • Your language is interesting and varied and suits your purpose, helping you to create precise, subtle and convincing arguments.
  • Your ideas are in a logical order and follow on from each other well, so that your reader can always follow your argument.
  • Your spelling, punctuation and grammar are accurate.

18-21 marks: 

  • It is mainly clear who you are writing as, who you are writing to and why you are writing.
  • You express your ideas clearly with some precise vocabulary, helping you create a clear argument.
  • The order of your ideas makes sense, so that your reader can follow your argument.
  • Your spelling, punctuation and grammar are mainly accurate.

14-17 marks:

  • It is clear who you are writing as and why you are writing, but not always who you are writing to.
  • Your meaning is always clear, but your vocabulary is quite plain.
  • The order of your ideas makes sense most of the time and your argument is mainly clear.
  • Mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar don’t make your meaning difficult to understand.

 

Marking Criteria for Reading

13-15 marks:

  • Successfully evaluates ideas and opinions, both explicit and implicit.
  • Assimilates ideas from the text to give a developed, sophisticated response.

10-12 marks:

  • Some successful evaluation of ideas and opinions, both explicit and implicit.
  • A thorough response, supported by a detailed selection of relevant ideas from the text.

7-9 marks: 

  • Begins to evaluate mainly explicit ideas and opinions.
  • An appropriate response that includes relevant ideas from the text.
  • A relevant response that is expressed clearly, fluently and mostly with concision.
  • The response is well organised.
  • The response is in your own words (where appropriate), using a range of well-chosen vocabulary.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar are mostly accurate.

2-3 marks:

  • A relevant response that is generally expressed clearly, with some evidence of concision.
  • There may be some lapses in organisation.
  • The response is mainly expressed in your own words (where appropriate) but there may be reliance on the words of the text.
  • Errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

 

Exam Tip

For top marks, make sure you:

  • Start with a powerful sentence that clearly and confidently states your view.
  • Say what do you REALLY think! Write your own personal opinion in your plan and let that be your north-star to stop yourself being too wishy-washy.
  • Write with passion – argue your case like you really care about the topic.
  • Include a personal anecdote 
  • Write with urgency – is this a crisis? Does change need to happen quickly? Then say so.
  • Mix up your persuasive writing techniques (ethos/pathos/logos)
  • Evaluate the counter arguments 
  • Round off your speech/letter/article with a powerful sentence reenforcing your view. Let the examiner know you didn’t run out of time.
  • Write an enjoyable response! Remember the examiner has to read 100s of answers – cheer them up. Attempt some humour where possible/appropriate.

Question 2

Marks: 40

Section B: Composition

Answer one question from Section B.

Write about 350 to 450 words on one of the following questions.

Up to 16 marks are available for the content and structure of your answer, and up to 24 marks for the style and accuracy of your writing.

EITHER

(Descriptive writing)

Describe an occasion when a group of people celebrate.

OR

(Descriptive writing)

Describe a messy room.

OR

(Narrative writing)

Write a story that includes the words “…he’d never seen anything quite like it…”

OR

(Narrative writing)

Write a story that involves an insect.

Close

Question 1

Response Ideas

Text A

  • Enforcing/policing school uniform rules wastes a lot of teachers’ time
  • School uniforms are often impractical for every-day use (e.g. not versatile for different seasons, not breathable or hardwearing etc.)
  • ‘Wildly expensive’ – cost too much
  • Can be replaced with a badge/brooch/patch
  • There are other ways to feel part of a school community
  • School should allow students to express themselves/individual identity
  • Uniforms often don’t conceal social class – even if students wear identical uniforms it’s still possible/easy to spot wealthy and poorer students
  • Schools are places to learn about real life – clothes are irrelevant
  • Taking away school uniforms removed one more problem for teachers and students

Text B

  • School uniforms create a sense of community/belonging
  • Putting on a uniform puts students in the mood/zone for learning
  • Gives students a sense of pride/purpose
  • Levels out students: they all arrive looking equal
  • Allows students to be judged based on their character and contribution, not just what they look like
  • Making daily fashion choices distracts students from learning
  • Wearing the same clothes each day removes a decision – frees up thinking to focus on more important decisions

 

Example Top-Grade Answer

Dear Mrs Butler,

I am delighted to hear that you are considering abolishing the school uniform – I think it would be a bold, progressive move and would reflect how modern and forward-thinking the school is.

School uniform sounds like a good idea in theory, especially as it is supposed to make students look equal and ‘level out’ the wealthy students with the less advantaged. But in reality, we can all spot the wealthier students a mile off; their shirts are crisp white, their jumpers and blazers always look brand new (they probably are) and their shoes have hardly been worn. In contrast, more disadvantaged students often wear older clothes; patched-up jumpers and scuffed up shoes – particularly as uniforms are now so expensive to replace!

The reality is, some students come from wealthier backgrounds than others. I think we should stop pretending otherwise, and let everyone wear what they want. Students then get to express their own identity, and it’d be much cheaper for poorer students to wear the clothes they already have. I appreciate uniforms allow students to feel part of something bigger, but one way to achieve that is for students to wear school badges on their own clothes. Simple! That way they can still feel that sense of belonging, and pride and purpose but without having to wear drab, itchy clothes.  

Mark Zuckerberg is often quoted as a good example of someone who wears the same clothes every day to focus on important decisions. But I personally don’t think of Mark Zuckerberg as a positive role model; perhaps if he focused more on what he wore, he’d spend less time interfering in elections. Instead, I’d much rather look to Harry Styles or Lewis Hamilton as role models; they work hard, look smart but wear clothes that reflect their own personality and style. Similarly, my sister is a graphic designer; she works in a smart London office but always wears what she likes. Many modern jobs nowadays don’t require a uniform, so I think the best way students like me can prepare for jobs like those is to be able to experiment with clothes and personal style at school.

This is an important issue and an opportunity make the school a more inclusive place, so thank you for asking students to share their views.

Yours sincerely,

Adam Vincent

 

Marking Criteria for Writing

22-25 marks:

  • It is clear all the way through your writing who you are writing as, who you are writing to and why you are writing.
  • Your language is interesting and varied and suits your purpose, helping you to create precise, subtle and convincing arguments.
  • Your ideas are in a logical order and follow on from each other well, so that your reader can always follow your argument.
  • Your spelling, punctuation and grammar are accurate.

18-21 marks: 

  • It is mainly clear who you are writing as, who you are writing to and why you are writing.
  • You express your ideas clearly with some precise vocabulary, helping you create a clear argument.
  • The order of your ideas makes sense, so that your reader can follow your argument.
  • Your spelling, punctuation and grammar are mainly accurate.

14-17 marks:

  • It is clear who you are writing as and why you are writing, but not always who you are writing to.
  • Your meaning is always clear, but your vocabulary is quite plain.
  • The order of your ideas makes sense most of the time and your argument is mainly clear.
  • Mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar don’t make your meaning difficult to understand.

 

Marking Criteria for Reading

13-15 marks:

  • Successfully evaluates ideas and opinions, both explicit and implicit.
  • Assimilates ideas from the text to give a developed, sophisticated response.

10-12 marks:

  • Some successful evaluation of ideas and opinions, both explicit and implicit.
  • A thorough response, supported by a detailed selection of relevant ideas from the text.

7-9 marks: 

  • Begins to evaluate mainly explicit ideas and opinions.
  • An appropriate response that includes relevant ideas from the text.
  • A relevant response that is expressed clearly, fluently and mostly with concision.
  • The response is well organised.
  • The response is in your own words (where appropriate), using a range of well-chosen vocabulary.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar are mostly accurate.

2-3 marks:

  • A relevant response that is generally expressed clearly, with some evidence of concision.
  • There may be some lapses in organisation.
  • The response is mainly expressed in your own words (where appropriate) but there may be reliance on the words of the text.
  • Errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

 

Exam Tip

For top marks, make sure you:

  • Start with a powerful sentence that clearly and confidently states your view.
  • Say what do you REALLY think! Write your own personal opinion in your plan and let that be your north-star to stop yourself being too wishy-washy.
  • Write with passion – argue your case like you really care about the topic.
  • Include a personal anecdote 
  • Write with urgency – is this a crisis? Does change need to happen quickly? Then say so.
  • Mix up your persuasive writing techniques (ethos/pathos/logos)
  • Evaluate the counter arguments 
  • Round off your speech/letter/article with a powerful sentence reenforcing your view. Let the examiner know you didn’t run out of time.
  • Write an enjoyable response! Remember the examiner has to read 100s of answers – cheer them up. Attempt some humour where possible/appropriate.

Question 2

Example Top-Grade Answer

After eight hours of misery, we finally arrived at the Hotel. It was our first holiday abroad, paid for by our local church. In my thirty-eight years of looking after my brother Gerry, it’s the first time we’ve ever accepted any help.

Gerry was in a foul mood, which is saying a lot; he’s often in a mood. “TELLY! TELLY!” he shrieked while pointing at the large flat-screen. “Yes Gerry, it’s a great telly, much bigger than ours”. The sun is splitting the palm-trees, and this is our first time in Spain. “How about we go outside for a bit and watch telly later?”. “TELLY, TELLY!” he yelled again, pointing more animatedly. Lord give me strength. “Okay, Gerry, let’s watch some telly first”. It’s been like this for thirty-eight years. So it was foolish to hope it would be any different just because we were away.

I started thinking about Raymond again. He was my boyfriend when I was sixteen. When mum died, he was ever so kind. He said he’d stick by us. But Gerry can be so difficult. It’s not his fault – with his condition he doesn’t know what he’s doing. In those days you didn’t get any help. You just made do. I’ve often wondered what life could have been like, if Raymond and I got married and had children. Or perhaps there could have been others.

“MAY. MAY!” Gerry shouted, “Put on Coronation Street”. “They don’t show that here, Gerry. But you can watch it when we get back”. “NO! I WANT TO WATCH IT NOW”. He continued to scream obscenities as I tried unsuccessfully to calm him down. Eventually, I went into the bedroom to unpack and lay down. I must’ve dozed off because I was woken up suddenly by screaming. I ran through and saw a wasp buzzing around and a large purple swollen lump on Gerry’s neck. “STING…STI” he said.

I always carried an epi-pen with me. “I’ll be right back with your medication Gerry, hold on”. I ran through the bedroom and grabbed my bag . But suddenly I froze. As I looked out of the glass doors on the balcony window, I saw a man who looked exactly like Raymond. I hesitated then took a step forward. “MAY. MAY!”, I heard Gerry yell from the other room.

I walked onto the balcony, closed the door, and let the tears fall down my face.

 

Marking Criteria for Content & Structure

14-16 marks:

  • Content is complex, engaging and effective.
  • Structure is secure, well balanced and carefully managed for deliberate effect.

DESCRIPTIVE:
Many well-defined and developed ideas and images create a convincing overall picture with varieties of focus.

NARRATIVE:
The plot is well-defined and strongly developed with features of fiction writing such as description, characterisation and effective climax, and convincing details.

11-13 marks:

  • Content is developed, engaging and effective.
  • Structure is well managed, with some choices made for deliberate effect.

DESCRIPTIVE:
Frequent, well-chosen images and details give a mostly convincing picture

NARRATIVE:
The plot is defined and developed with features of fiction writing such as description, characterisation, climax and details.

8-10 marks:

  • Content is relevant with some development.
  • Structure is competently managed.

DESCRIPTIVE:
A selection of relevant ideas, images and details, even where there is a tendency to write in a narrative style.

NARRATIVE:
The plot is relevant and cohesive, with some features such as characterisation and setting of scene.

 

Marking Criteria for Style & Accuracy

21-24 marks:

  • Precise, well-chosen vocabulary and varied sentence structures, chosen for effect.
  • Consistent well-chosen register suitable for the context.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar almost always accurate.

17-20 marks:

  • Mostly precise vocabulary and a range of sentence structures mostly used for effect.
  • Mostly consistent appropriate register suitable for the context.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar mostly accurate, with occasional minor errors.

13-16 marks: 

  • Some precise vocabulary and a range of sentence structures sometimes used for effect.
  • Some appropriate register for the context.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar generally accurate, but with some errors.
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