At KS4, boys 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 boys.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. There is a core paper, which is graded G to C and an extended paper which is graded D to A*. Paper two is a writing paper, which tests the ability to write in a specifically directed way as well as the ability to write either narratively, or descriptively. This paper is graded from G to A*.
Throughout the course we try to ensure that the key skills needed for the exams are accessed through materials and topics that play to boys’ 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 is a challenge for our boys 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 boys 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 an automatic 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.