How to get top marks in Cambridge IGCSE English – Paper 3 (0500)

Owl Tutors

March 13th, 2019

Last updated: May 20th, 2022

How to get top marks in Cambridge IGCSE English – Paper 3 (0500)

Preparing to sit IGCSE English this summer? In this blog, Isabel sets out how to gain top marks in Paper 3 - Directed Writing and Composition for pupils sitting English - First Language (0500) in Summer 2019.

About Paper 3

Paper 3 Directed Writing and Composition is a two hour exam. You will be given a reading insert containing one or more texts. You will answer two questions. 40 marks are available for the quality of your writing. 10 marks are available for the accuracy and sensitivity of your reading.

How to get top marks on question 1

1. Read the insert carefully and make inferences

Even though this is a writing paper, do not forget that 10 marks are available for how well you read and understand the insert. As well as picking out a wide range of explicit ideas from the text, the best candidates will make inferences about what is only implied or hinted at. When you make an inference, you add your own thoughtful and logical ideas to what has been written in the text to develop and extend it. Don’t just repeat what you’ve read. Don’t make up new and irrelevant ideas. Infer!

2. Adopt a point of view

Typically, question 1 tasks you with creating an argumentative or persuasive piece of writing. Often the insert will present you with two points of view, such as pros and cons. You will need to weigh up the evidence and decide on a point of view. Using two coloured highlighters to identify relevant information for each factor will help you. Don’t write as yourself, unless you are particularly told to do so. Imagine you are in a role and addressing a specific reader directly. Make sure you justify your ideas with evidence. The best answers will evaluate the issue with great attention to detail and thoughtfulness.

3. Use TAP

Before you start writing, make sure you have checked the text type (T). Are you writing a letter, an article or a speech? Make sure you use the correct conventions for each type of text. Next, check the audience (A) that you are writing for. Is it your peers at school, your local MP or your aunt? Finally, think carefully about the purpose (P) of your piece of writing. Are you writing to persuade, advise or argue? Don’t start writing until you have identified the TAP and planned accordingly. The top responses will adapt their writing to fit each of these criteria, adopting an appropriate style.

4. Structure your piece logically

The wording of the question supplies you with a logical structure, so make sure you follow it!  Typically, it’s broken into three bullet points. Write one paragraph addressing each bullet point. You will also need a punchy introduction, which clearly introduces your role, the situation and your purpose for writing. Transition smoothly from one point to the next using discourse markers such as ‘furthermore’ and ‘in addition’. Craft your piece right to the end with a definite conclusion.

5. Keep it formal

Never forget that this is an exam, offering you a platform for showing off your very best writing. Even if the task asks you to write a letter to a friend, keep it formal. Avoid colloquial language and contractions, such as ‘don’t’ and ‘wouldn’t’. Select impressive vocabulary. Leave time to check your work for spelling and grammar errors.

How to get top marks on question 2

1. Select your task carefully

Descriptive and narrative compositions are different! They follow different conventions and are structured differently, and the mark scheme reflects this. Narratives include description in them, but descriptions do not contain a plot. Make sure you know the difference! Think carefully about your strengths as a writer, and select your task accordingly.

2. Plan a clear structure

Every English teacher will tell you to plan, yet many students ignore this advice. Don’t! Before putting pen to paper, decide on the tense and person for your piece. If writing a narrative, plan your arc with a clear hook, conflict, climax and resolution. If writing a description, decide whether you will structure your piece chronologically or spatially and choose a focus for each paragraph. Make sure your piece progresses smoothly from start to finish.

3. Make it believable

The top candidates choose believable scenarios for their compositions. It may help you to draw on your real life experiences to achieve this. Avoid melodrama and cliche, such as a narrator dying at the end or someone waking up from a dream. Choose a story you can complete in the time. Include no more than three characters and use dialogue sparingly.

4. Show off your language skills

When describing, you will need to create a vivid sensory experience for your reader. You’re not just painting a picture. Your writing should also take account of the other senses: smells, sounds and feelings. Avoid vague language. Aim for specificity and originality in your vocabulary choices and imagery. Don’t forget that powerful verbs and precise nouns are just as important as lots of adjectives and adverbs.

5. Craft your sentences

Use a wide variety of sentence types, from minor to complex. Vary your sentence openers. Use colons and semi-colons for impact. If you include dialogue in your narrative, punctuate it correctly. Check your work for accuracy. Spelling and punctuation errors will badly impact your mark.

Good luck!

Related subjects

English IGCSE English

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8 responses to “How to get top marks in Cambridge IGCSE English – Paper 3 (0500)”

  1. Avatar for Mark Prowse Mark Prowse says:

    Hi Isabel, I have just started tutoring a Year 11 boy who is no longer attending school, but is still going to take his Cambridge iGCSE English Language exam (0500) in the summer. Do you have any blogs with advice for the other papers and also the coursework portfolio component? I should be very grateful as I’m not as au fait with Cambridge as I am with AQA or Edexcel.
    Thank you,

    • Avatar for Owl Tutors Owl Tutors says:

      Dear Mark

      Thanks for reading! Our tutors don’t usually monitor comments on these blogs, so this may not get a response.

      Best of luck to your student

      Owl Tutors

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