If you are preparing for your English A Level exam then you should know that there are some common mistakes that many students make while writing the exam that you should try to avoid. These mistakes range from generic exam mishaps to some tricky and more nuanced mistakes that you might not have thought about previously.
In this article, we’ll explain how you can avoid some of these common English exam mistakes.
Beneficial A Level Exam Techniques
The Cambridge English A Level exams are typically broken up into multiple sections. Within each of these sections, there are common mistakes that students make and through which they lose valuable marks. Luckily, there are a variety of techniques that can be utilised to ensure you achieve the best result possible.
Make Sure You Understand the Questions
Before starting to answer any question, it’s extremely important to ensure that you know exactly what is being asked of you. If you do not quite grasp the question, you’ll spend time providing the wrong answer and consequently lose marks.
It’s, therefore, advisable to take your time reading through the questions. As these questions can be quite long, try to break them up into small, easy-to-understand sections. This will allow you to properly dissect what is being asked of you.
Make Sure to Take Time to Read
There will be multiple questions that will require you to read an article or excerpt. One of the most common mistakes made is skimming through these pieces in order to save time. This should be avoided, as the answers to the question are often hidden in these pieces.
For example, inference questions expect you to use the information provided in the text, to make informed assumptions. Sometimes, it will be stated in the question that you are expected to make an inference. However, there are certain questions where it’s less obvious.
Therefore, ensure that you read through the article or excerpt properly and understand the piece of writing before starting to answer the question(s).
Use Formal and Informal Language Correctly
The Cambridge English A Level exam will not only test your knowledge of the English language, it will also test whether you understand when to use an informal or formal tone. It’s, therefore, important to ensure you do not mix formal and informal language when writing. You should also be sure to understand when one or the other is required by a question.
Utilise A Range of Grammar and Vocabulary
While being grammatically correct is very important, the A Level exams will also look at whether or not you are making use of complex grammar and vocabulary. After all, it’s a high-level exam that is meant to test your capability and whether you have a true understanding of the English language.
Therefore, it’s advisable to make use of complex grammar and include a range of interesting words or synonyms.
Spelling is also a factor in English exams. The GCSE and A-level marking schemes generally include a few marks that can be allocated for good spelling and grammar. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that you practice spelling before an exam and be careful of such errors in the exam. The last thing you want is to lose marks due to a few spelling errors.
Use The Time You Have Wisely
One of the studying tips we typically give to students is to work through past papers when preparing for an exam. When doing this, it’s important to set a timer. This will give you a realistic idea of the speed at which you’ll have to work at to successfully complete the exam.
Once you understand this, you’ll be able to utilise your time wisely while writing the exam. Try not to spend all of your time on the questions that count for fewer marks. It’s also advisable to mark the easier questions and answer them first. By doing this you’ll ensure that you gather these marks and will have more time at the end to focus on the more challenging questions.
Keep Your Word Count and the Allocated Marks in Mind
Part of using your time wisely in an English exam is to know when to elaborate on your answer and when to keep it short and sweet. While some questions require you to write an essay, others only require a sentence or short paragraph. Be sure to identify the difference and avoid writing too little or too much when answering questions.
One way to determine whether an answer needs more elaboration, is to take the marks assigned to the question into account. Questions that have more marks allocated to them will typically indicate that your answer requires more details.
Try to Remain Calm
Stress during an examination can have negative effects. In extreme cases, it can affect your ability to recall certain information. Therefore, it’s important to prepare yourself for the time constraints and type of questions to be asked.
It can also be beneficial to prepare yourself for the exam by starting your morning off with a short meditation. If you are feeling stressed during the exam, don't hesitate to close your eyes and take a few deep and slow breaths. This will have an immediate calming effect.
We hope we have provided you with some valuable information regarding your upcoming Cambridge English A Level exam. However, if you are still unsure whether or not you are properly prepared, you can sign up for our tutoring services.
Our tutoring services will give you one week’s access to the entire year’s A Level English course content for each session you book. Your one-on-one tutoring session will also be led by an experienced tutor, who’ll be able to help you better understand certain concepts that you might be struggling with.