At KS4, students follow the Cambridge iGCSE two year course in English as a First Language. Unlike other exam syllabuses, this one has no requirement for controlled assessment or the study of literary texts. The syllabus focuses primarily on non fiction texts, which are more accessible for our students. They can find the language used in poetry and drama difficult to analyse, as it is often full of allusions and requires a deeper level of personal interpretation that they struggle to find relevant.
There are two exams. Paper 1 is a Reading paper which tests understanding of texts, the ability to analyse language and the way it is used for effect and the ability to extract information and show understanding of it by writing about it in a different format.
Paper 2 is the Directed Writing and Composition paper. Question one requires candidates to respond to a text (or texts) that usually express opinions by writing either a speech, a letter or an article that evaluates and develops the source material. Question two is the composition response and requires students to do a short (450 word max) piece of narrative or descriptive writing.
Both papers are worth 80 marks each. The iGCSE is graded from G to A*. Each exam is two hours long.
Throughout the course we try to ensure that the key skills needed for the exams are accessed through materials and topics that play to students’ interests in order to keep them as motivated as possible. This includes the use of media texts. We recognise that the interpretative nature of the subject can be a challenge for our students and find that plenty of practise and a structured approach to responses is of great benefit when it comes to exams; if they are familiar with how to structure a response the analysis of the language becomes less of a difficulty.
When preparing for the writing paper, we try to ensure that the students know which style they prefer (narrative, or descriptive) so that they are confident with extended writing and not fazed by having to write a significant amount. We use word processing in the classroom and when this becomes a ‘normal way of working’ it is applied for as an access arrangement for the exams. We work closely with Occupational Therapy to ensure that any physical issues with handwriting are supported to enable those who choose to handwrite their exam responses to do so successfully.
We also offer Cambridge iGCSE Literature. This requires students to study two plays, a novel and a selection of poetry. Texts are chosen from a prescribed list set by the exam board. There are two exams; Paper 1 is Drama, Paper 2 is Poetry and Prose. Both papers are marked out of 50 marks. It is graded from G to A*. Each exam is I hour 30 minutes.