9 ways to get a 9 in GCSE Italian

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ElenaOwl Tutor

Italian & Spanish

November 15th, 2023Last updated: January 22nd, 2024

In this article, experienced Italian teacher Elena presents her top tips to achieving a 9 in GCSE Italian.

When students come to me for private tuition they are – most of the time- convinced they are not good linguists, they are absolutely dreadful at learning Italian and that they will never pass their GCSE with a 6, let alone a 9. 

While every situation is different and one has to be realistic on what can be achieved given one owns circumstances, a lot of the time confidence is the key yet missing ingredient to achieve one’s goals.

Now, how do you improve your confidence that you can achieve a great result in Italian:

1. Grammar is important

First of all, grammar is not your enemy. It is not against you but it is actually a great helper. So often pupils shiver just at the sound of the word GRAMMAR. “Oh we don’t do grammar in English! I don’t get it”. My job is to show you that grammar is your life saver, understanding the functions of language structures and communicate more freely. Knowing WHY you need one specific auxiliary verb to form a past tense will clarify to you all future compound sentences! Saving you time and headaches.

2. Experiment with Grammar

Once you have built some grammar muscles you can let go and experiment. In your homework I do invite you to try out structures, search for new vocabulary in the dictionary, annotate it , try it out and see if it works. You have to try out first-hand the language and if you make mistakes …what is the worst that can happen? You will learn and remember! And you will develop independence in your learning and curiosity. The same for the speaking practice: don’t worry if you are making mistakes especially when you are practising. We always make mistakes when speaking, in any language even our mother tongue! It’s part of the learning process and no one expects you to be flawless.

3. Mark Schemes must be used

Familiarise yourself with the mark scheme and exam objectives. It is very helpful to know what is expected of you in the exam and what is marked specifically. Why do I say this? Because sometimes I had wonderful pieces of writing or speaking recordings of candidates who are Italian natives, but guess what? They did not meet the requirements!

If you are doing IGCSE Cambridge, for instance you have to use 18 verb forms in the writing task, and a variety of tenses; in the GCSE (AQA and EDEXCEL) you have to use at least two time-phrases and verbs to score the highest marks. In both, opinions and justifications are vital to score the highest marks, too. It’s important to know what is absolutely necessary to achieve your goals and what isn’t. It will give you more peace of mind and avoid stress.

Use these exam board links to access mark schemes:

IGCSE Cambridge Italian

AQA Italian

Edexcel Italian

4. The Speaking Exam

The speaking exam…it is the most terrifying part for many students. I always remind them it is just a chat ☺ …only… in another language.

How do you prepare?

Well, there are many ways; in class or during your sessions use that time to speak in the target language, be prepared to answer questions in Italian, and train your ear to recognise the familiar language (instructions, basic questions).

I always recommend students to write the answers from their speaking booklet questions, not because I think they should learn it by heart (I never ever suggest that), but rather to have a safety net: a pool of basic structures and vocabulary to tap into when you are lost.

When answering similar questions, never give the same answers, but rather you push yourself to find new adjectives, new ways of phrasing the same concept.

This exercise is helpful for both speaking and obviously writing too and will make you very flexible and ready to show you have fluency and ability to manipulate the language. 

5. Recycle and “steal” from the question papers

Doubts on spelling, verbs? Check what is in the questions! Use the paper to your advantage to make sure you are writing as accurately as possible. 

6. WRITING: Make a checklist for your writing tasks

Once you have done so, accurately tick all the boxes at the end of the test to ensure you have all the essential bases covered. For instance:

  • Use of at least 2 time phrases 
  • At least 2 examples of tenses different from present tense
  • At least 2 opinions and justifications
  • 2 complex structures (opinions with subjunctive, subordinate sentences, negatives)
  • Did I use intensifiers? 
  • Have I repeated the same vocabulary more than twice?

7. Broaden your Vocabulary

Throughout the years of study make a vocab book and add synonyms, antonyms to each word. 

Some examples of synonyms that can render your writing more interesting and varied:


Molto stanco 🡪 esausto

Molto arrabbiato 🡪 furioso

Molto buono 🡪 delizioso

Molto lontano 🡪 distante

Molto triste 🡪 affranto

Molto bello 🡪 stupendo/meraviglioso/ incantevole

Molto caro 🡪 costoso

Molto cattivo 🡪 malvagio

Molto simpatico 🡪 piacevole/estroverso

Molto noioso 🡪 fasidioso /irritante 

Molto antipatico 🡪 insopportabile

8. Does it make sense?

How do you make a piece of writing logical and cohesive? Using those magical words that are called CONNECTIVES. They will help you to make the text coherent and add points to your complex language section, because by using them you will create a lot of interest and engagement.

Try to have a variety as well: 


IN SECONDO LUOGO / POI – to continue expanding on a topic

INOLTRE – adding details 

INFATTI – explaining details

QUINDI /PERCIÒ /DATO CHE   – to introduce a consequentiality 

INFINE/IN CONCLUSIONE – to conclude an argument

TUTTAVIA / MA/PERÒ – to express contrast 

9. Have fun!

I always think that a certain enjoyment is necessary to achieve good (and great) results. Perhaps you cannot find a reason to find a deeper connection with the Italian language straight away, but if you think outside the box and look at your interests and hobbies, you might surprise yourself. It doesn’t have to be art, cinema or opera! For example, are you passionate about football? Why don’t you try and read some sport articles or blogs? Are you into fashion? Maybe stalk the most popular Italian influence on Instagram. You like Comics? There’s plenty of interesting graphic novels (they are actually a great source!).

Good luck with your exams!

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