Tips to get a Top Grade in Your IGCSE English

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Top grades in IGCSE English can be within reach if you are prepared to do the work.  So, follow these tips from our expert IGCSE teachers & examiners, and with enough effort, you will see your grades improve.

We all know IGCSE English is important, but along with IGCSE Maths, it is an essential qualification. Without it, you will find it hard to progress to further high-school studies.  The results are also important when applying later for college or university.

In fact, most universities insist on you getting above a C (or equivalent) in English IGCSE in order to be accepted. Additionally, even hiring managers in the future may look at your IGCSE English grade as an indication of your English ability.

In addition even if English is your native language, nobody guarantees that getting top grades in IGCSE English is easy.

On the contrary, a wide range of question types, complex assessment criteria, and a plethora of literature to familiarise yourself with can make it a daunting task.

In this post, we have worked with our IGCSE teachers and examiners to compile top tips to help you ace your IGCSE English. Plus we include suggestions on what to do if you need more help.


So what is the Format of IGCSE English Exams?

In essence, the syllabus of your IGCSE English, course content, and exam format depend on the examination board.

Each board issues suggested textbooks, specifications, and resources that detail the assessment and its requirements. These materials are also of great use during the revision period.

You don’t have to get all the recommended resources to pass IGCSE English. On the other hand, the syllabus, specifications, and mark scheme should become your rule book, since they pretty much specify what you need to do to get top grades.

There are 3 exam boards that set IGCSE English. They have varying requirements for the number of papers, assessment duration, the number of awarded marks, etc.

Cambridge IGCSE English: First Language has two 80-mark-worthy papers, the length of each is two hours. The first paper assesses reading skills and is based on three pieces of text. The second paper provides a writing question and a composition task. Optional, your school may replace the second paper with coursework.

Pearson Edexcel offers two options for IGCSE English:

  • Specification A features two papers: ‘Non-fiction text and transactional writing’ lasting 2 hours 15 minutes and giving 90 marks as well as ‘Poetry and Prose Texts and Imaginative Writing’ with the duration of 1 hour 30 minutes and 60 marks to award.
  • Specification B envisions a single 3-hour-long paper totaling 100 marks. The paper is based on unseen pieces of text and is divided into three sections that include answering questions, transactional writing tasks, and a writing assignment. The assessment may also (optionally) include a speaking and listening component.

AQA IGCSE English course concludes with two papers. Each paper spans 1 hour 45 mins and is worth 80 marks. There is also a non-examination spoken language assessment throughout the entire course.

Jon S


Jon is a qualified teacher and IB examiner. He holds an M.A. in English from New York University. Jon was Head IB teacher & Head of Year at St Andrew’s schools in Buenos Aires. He currently teaches English at the esteemed Avenue World School in New York. Jon is an experienced Extended Essay and Individual Oral Commentary supervisor.



Victoria is a fully qualified teacher certified by Durham University in the UK. Since graduating, she has worked at the International School of Geneva and at L’Ecole Anhugar in Nyon where she teaches gifted students. She teaches English across the IB, A-Level and GCSE curriculums and TOK as well as English as a Foreign Language for the Swiss Matu.



Katy has taught at a number of prestigious schools in the U.K. and Switzerland. Katy teaches English IGCSE & IB Diploma alongside TOK, Global Politics, Geography, History, Religious Studies.  She is also an Extended Essay moderator for Global Politics & Geography.


Vera is an IB English Examiner and IELTS teacher and has been teaching the IB at top IB World Schools for the last 15 years. Her expertise covers IB English Language & Literature, AP Literature & Composition, and Extended Essay support as well as IGCSE English Literature & Language.


Tao has been an IB English Teacher for over 20 years and an IB English Examiner for 14 years. She is also an IB Individual Oral expert. She has worked in international schools in the UK, Portugal & Greece before arriving in Switzerland. She has experience of the IB, English & US programmes.
Sebastian English Tutor


Sebastian is a fully qualified IB English Literature and Language, Theory of Knowledge (TOK) & IB Extended Essay teacher. He also teaches IB French Literature & Language and IB Spanish B. Following more than a decade of teaching in international schools he is able to support IB students with their exam preparation. Specialist English Oral (IO) tutor.
Christopher is a TutorsPlus tutor


Chris has been a Maths & Physics tutor for over 10 years. Also, he has a track record of helping his students gain entrance into top English boarding schools. Students have succeeded in getting places at Eton, St Paul’s, Dulwich College through excellent common entrance exam results.
Anna is a TutorsPlus tutor


With 10 years of experience teaching English, Anna is an Examiner for the IB and GCSE AQA exam board.  In addition to her first-class degree in English from Durham University, she is also a certified Teacher. More recently she has also taught at Collège Champittet.


What Are the Top Grades?

No matter which exam board you end up with, all of them have a similar grading scale. Your goal is to get a 9 in your IGCSE English since it is the highest grade. Overall, the grades vary from 9 to 1 in descending order.

If your exam board is Cambridge, you can choose which grading system you prefer – 9-1 (International GCSE English – First Language 0500) or A*-G (International GCSE English – First Language 0990). The grading system is the only thing that makes the syllabuses different. Their content, formats, and requirements otherwise are fully identical.


Tips to Get the Top Grade in IGCSE English

Now that you know how IGCSE English exam takes place, let us share some useful tips on how to get ready for it.

1. Know Your Stuff

Virtually every IGCSE English syllabus and/or specification comes with a list of recommended non-fiction literature. It goes without saying that you should read if not all of these pieces, then at least the majority of them. Try to do this early in the course and not leave it to the last minute.

Pack them in your holiday bag, make sure they are with you on your commute to school, and gradually you can tick off each book.

This also means that your preparation for the exam should start long before D-Day. As soon as you find out about the suggested texts, you must make room in your schedule for reading.

Just a couple of hours behind a book every day will give you a profound knowledge of the required pieces.

2. Analyze While Reading

‘A couple of hours behind a book’ implies more than reading.

In fact, while doing so, you should also work on your analytical skills. This doesn’t mean multi-tasking and checking your socials while trying to read the set texts. Turn off your phone, or put it in your bag, so that while you are reading you are really engaged and actively thinking about it.

learn english book stack

This means annotating texts, comparing them to similar works, along with pinpointing peculiarities of their style, tone, and other critical details.

Also, it won’t hurt if you try to summarize briefly to yourself after you have read each chapter. In fact, you might be surprised to find that sometimes you have let your mind wander and can’t recall the last few critical pages!

3. Look Past Content

Along with what is written, try to analyze how it is written.

Some papers require a detailed analysis of the language, and you must keep this in mind when revising. Have an eye out for interesting linguistic techniques, and highlight them in every text you work on.

However, if it is not your forte, you can use the annotations and feedback of other readers, your friends, or from textbooks as you develop your own analytical skills.

4. Practice Your Craft

Along with reading and analyzing skills, you need to hone your writer’s craft.

Can there be a better way to do this than practice? After reading each piece of recommended literature, give yourself a task to write a review, summary, exam question, or short essay.

These assignments will help you develop your analysis skills so that they are razor-sharp by the time you sit your exam.

5. Develop Your Style

Oftentimes, the difference between the top score in IGCSE English and everything else is your individual style.

More precisely, how strongly it shines through your paper. Is it possible to tell that you were the author of this text without looking at the name?

If not, then this is an area you can think about working on. The means to display your own style include tone, and richness of language, unique structure, and many others.

6. Focus on Grammar

Needless to say, grammar is very important for your English assessment even though it is not its primal goal.

No matter how good your oratory skills are, you are not immune to spelling and grammar issues. Even confusing ‘it’s’ with ‘its’ or ‘their’ with ‘they’re’ can deduct from your marks.

If you are making the same mistakes again and again, this is the time to eliminate them for good.  Which is the grammatical mistake you are making most frequently? Now is the time to resolve it, so it doesn’t cost you marks in the final exam.

If you’re not sure how to spell something or you have doubts about the structure of a sentence, you need to be ready to express your ideas differently. At the end of the day, linguistic flexibility is one of the skills you ought to master.

7. Use Past Exam Papers

Past papers should give you a better understanding of the IGCSE English exam, and how to get familiar with the different question types.

From them, you will be able to learn the examples of questions, literature excerpts, specific requirements for your answers, etc.

Most importantly, they can give you much-needed practice. Practicing with past papers is almost the same as setting and sitting your own exam, especially if you keep the track of time. So, be strict with yourself and see what you can do in the allotted time for each question.

Past papers can also help you identify your weaknesses and the areas you need to pay more attention to, and this can form the structure of your revision planning.

8. Call For Help When You Need It

English is one of the subjects that require two-way communication. In other words, there must be feedback to pinpoint whether your train of thought went in the right direction and how clearly you can express yourself.

It is great if your family and friends can lend an ear and eye to your English self-appraisals. And it is even better if your English teacher can aid you during the revision.

But if you still need help we have experienced IGCSE English teachers ready to help you today. With an English tutor, you can prepare for IGCSE as thoroughly as possible.

A tutor can give an unprejudiced expert opinion on your weak and strong points, and even suggest ways to improve your skills. Most importantly, he or she is able to provide practice to equip you for the upcoming experience of taking the exams themselves.

Here, at TutorsPlus, we are happy to become your reliable partner over the course of your educational journey.

With years of experience under our belt and a deep understanding of your needs, our tutors are committed to helping you make the most of your talents. Let yourself get the grade you deserve. Call us now at 022 731 8148 or get in touch via to learn how we can be of service to you.

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