CIE IGCSE English Language

Practice Papers

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Practice Paper 2D

Question 1

Marks: 40

Section A: Directed Writing

Imagine the government is considering scrapping GCSEs.

Write a letter to your local MP, giving your views on whether or not GCSEs should be replaced with a new system.

In your letter you should:

  • evaluate the views given in the text about the relevance of GCSEs.
  • give your own views, based on what you have read, about whether scrapping GCSEs would be beneficial to young people.

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

Begin your letter: “Dear Ms Lucy Arkwright MP…”

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

Example Top-Grade Answer

Dear Mrs Lucy Arkwright MP,

I understand that the Government is currently examining proposals to abolish the current GCSE system, to be replaced with “some kind of assessment”, as Mr Robert Halfon puts it.  As someone who is currently studying for my GCSEs, I found this proposal interesting, but flawed. 

Firstly, what would this “assessment” to measure progress be?  Mr Halfon does not appear to specify how this would work. Given that schools are measured against each other based on results, it seems to me that this new “assessment” would very quickly take on the role left vacant by GCSEs and become used as a yardstick to judge schools.  If it does not result in a meaningful qualification, it would mean students like me being put under the same pressure we are now, but with nothing to show for it.  Alternatively, the new system would end up effectively being GCSEs but with another name.

However, students like me are under enormous pressure, and I believe Mr Halfon is right to argue that there is too much emphasis on academic success.  He argues that our current curriculum does not prepare us for modern working life, and this may be true.  There is scope for introducing more vocational subjects into the curriculum and giving them the same status as more traditional subjects.  However, this does not need to lead to scrapping GCSEs.

The DfE states that 47% of students taking GCSEs go on to take A-levels. What would happen to the remaining 53% if GCSEs were abolished?  Currently, five good GCSEs gives students access to college placements (including vocational placements), apprenticeships and employment.  There would need to be something in place for those people who wish to leave education at sixteen – which returns me to the point that the new assessment procedures would simply replace GCSEs and in reality nothing would change.

Mr Halfon’s proposals seem designed to encourage (or force) young people to stay in education until the age of eighteen, and he suggests a wider mix of subjects, covering the arts, sciences and vocational topics.  He argues that there is a false divide between academic and vocational routes through education.  This may be true but forcing everyone to study everything is not the answer. Some people want to leave education at sixteen and take up a trade.  Some people want to take a vocational route, like Health and Social Care.  Some people love academia and want to remain in education, study traditional subjects and carry on to University.  All three groups need to be catered for and are needed in society.  The current system allows for this.

Ultimately, I believe GCSEs should remain, but with some level of reform to reflect modern society. I would be grateful if you could pass my views to the Education Select Committee and reflect them in any future debate.

Yours sincerely,

A Student

 

Marking Criteria for Writing

22-25 marks:

  • Highly effective style capable of conveying subtle meaning.
  • Carefully structured for benefit of the reader.
  • Wide range of sophisticated vocabulary, precisely used.
  • Highly effective register for audience and purpose.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar almost always accurate.

18-21 marks: 

  • Effective style.
  • Secure overall structure, organised to help the reader.
  • Wide range of vocabulary, used with some precision.
  • Effective register for audience and purpose.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar mostly accurate, with occasional minor errors.

14-17 marks:

  • Sometimes effective style.
  • Ideas generally well sequenced.
  • Range of vocabulary is adequate and sometimes effective.
  • Sometimes effective register for audience and purpose.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar generally accurate though with some errors.

 

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 a person walking in snow.

OR

(Descriptive writing)

Describe a remote house.

OR

(Narrative writing)

Write a story that involves a long car journey.

OR

(Narrative writing)

Write a story that that starts “It was such a strange feeling…”

Close

Question 1

Example Top-Grade Answer

Dear Mrs Lucy Arkwright MP,

I understand that the Government is currently examining proposals to abolish the current GCSE system, to be replaced with “some kind of assessment”, as Mr Robert Halfon puts it.  As someone who is currently studying for my GCSEs, I found this proposal interesting, but flawed. 

Firstly, what would this “assessment” to measure progress be?  Mr Halfon does not appear to specify how this would work. Given that schools are measured against each other based on results, it seems to me that this new “assessment” would very quickly take on the role left vacant by GCSEs and become used as a yardstick to judge schools.  If it does not result in a meaningful qualification, it would mean students like me being put under the same pressure we are now, but with nothing to show for it.  Alternatively, the new system would end up effectively being GCSEs but with another name.

However, students like me are under enormous pressure, and I believe Mr Halfon is right to argue that there is too much emphasis on academic success.  He argues that our current curriculum does not prepare us for modern working life, and this may be true.  There is scope for introducing more vocational subjects into the curriculum and giving them the same status as more traditional subjects.  However, this does not need to lead to scrapping GCSEs.

The DfE states that 47% of students taking GCSEs go on to take A-levels. What would happen to the remaining 53% if GCSEs were abolished?  Currently, five good GCSEs gives students access to college placements (including vocational placements), apprenticeships and employment.  There would need to be something in place for those people who wish to leave education at sixteen – which returns me to the point that the new assessment procedures would simply replace GCSEs and in reality nothing would change.

Mr Halfon’s proposals seem designed to encourage (or force) young people to stay in education until the age of eighteen, and he suggests a wider mix of subjects, covering the arts, sciences and vocational topics.  He argues that there is a false divide between academic and vocational routes through education.  This may be true but forcing everyone to study everything is not the answer. Some people want to leave education at sixteen and take up a trade.  Some people want to take a vocational route, like Health and Social Care.  Some people love academia and want to remain in education, study traditional subjects and carry on to University.  All three groups need to be catered for and are needed in society.  The current system allows for this.

Ultimately, I believe GCSEs should remain, but with some level of reform to reflect modern society. I would be grateful if you could pass my views to the Education Select Committee and reflect them in any future debate.

Yours sincerely,

A Student

 

Marking Criteria for Writing

22-25 marks:

  • Highly effective style capable of conveying subtle meaning.
  • Carefully structured for benefit of the reader.
  • Wide range of sophisticated vocabulary, precisely used.
  • Highly effective register for audience and purpose.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar almost always accurate.

18-21 marks: 

  • Effective style.
  • Secure overall structure, organised to help the reader.
  • Wide range of vocabulary, used with some precision.
  • Effective register for audience and purpose.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar mostly accurate, with occasional minor errors.

14-17 marks:

  • Sometimes effective style.
  • Ideas generally well sequenced.
  • Range of vocabulary is adequate and sometimes effective.
  • Sometimes effective register for audience and purpose.
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar generally accurate though with some errors.

 

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

Everything was silent. The only noise that could be heard was the gentle crunching of the snow underneath the snowshoes. The fresh snow quickly absorbed the noise as if in a vacuum, so that the crunching was quickly made into an empty sound; that strange muffled sound when eating with headphones on.

Occasionally a small pile of snow would become too heavy for the frail branch it balanced on, and the pile would fall into the cushion of snow on the ground underneath, where it would be swallowed up along with the sound. There’s a peacefulness about the nothingness of that sound – it’s like being underwater where you can only hear your own breath and thoughts.

Even though there’s hardly any sun, the snow is blindingly bright. It’s impossible to tell where the snow stops and the foggy air starts in the distance. There’s something satisfying about making a path where no one else has yet walked. It’s a liberating reminder that we can go in any which way we want and that we have ultimate control over our direction; it’s easy to forget that when the path is more visible.  

There’s also a beauty in how temporary all this perfect snow is; the untouched blanket that is about to be disturbed and kicked-up in front, as well as the whole forest which will be brown and muddy and full of birdsong again in just a few months. It’s a poignant reminder than things don’t last and should be appreciated in the moment, while it’s still here.

 

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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