If you’re facing your English Language GCSE exams this May and June, your thoughts have probably turned to revision, mock exams, past papers and collecting quotes by now. As part of this, you’ve probably discovered that traditional “revision” is a bit trickier for English Language GCSE than it is for your literature exams. After all, you don’t know exactly what you’ll be facing with your unseen texts!

With this in mind, the best way to prepare is getting comfortable with all the language and structure points you can make – no matter what fiction or non-fiction examples you face.

I’ve already written a guide to terminology for language analysis (so check this out) – but today, it’s all about structure. Here’s your ultimate guide to talking about structure for English GCSE exams… the points you can make, and what you can say about the impact on the reader.

First things first though, what is structure for English Language GCSE?

What is structure for English Language GCSE?

Structure is actually super simple when it comes to analysing texts. Structure just refers to how a text is organised, and how all the parts fit together. Think of “structure” like the walls and floors of a house, while “language” is the furniture and interior design within it. Both are essential for a comfy home… but without structure (the walls), your language (the furniture) just won’t have the same impact!

Structure could involve texts as a whole (for instance, are there any ideas an author keeps returning to?) or the way paragraphs fit together. For instance, are passages of description broken up with lines of dialogue? If so, how does this maintain your interest?

The exam board AQA have a fantastic introduction to English Language structure, and how students can use it in their GCSE English essays. I’d recommend watching this, and then coming back to our structure super list below.

How to talk about structure for English GCSE

Let’s get straight to it…

There are certain structural features you’ll find in every single text. Knowing this helps take the pressure off your English Language GCSE revision. You’ll know, no matter what unseen texts you face, you’ll always be able to make some fantastic points about the writer’s use of structure.

Here’s just some aspects you could talk about, as well as what you can say about the impact on the reader.

Structure points for every GCSE English Language text

  • Chronological Structure – i.e. going through time in a “normal” way. This brings the reader along with the characters, almost as an active participant in the story.
  • Flashbacks or flashforwards – highlighting specific events or thoughts, important to the text in some way…

Narrative Voice

  • 1st Person: I – first person perspective, monologue – giving insights into character’s thoughts.
  • 2nd Person: You – Direct Address, engaging the reader.
  • 3rd Person: They/He/She – omniscient narrator (allowing insights into multiple characters thoughts, as well as overall setting.

Talking about the beginning, middle and end…

  • Beginning / Exposition – what are they focusing on at the beginning of the passage, and why?
  • Middle / Climax – what’s the key event of the passage?
  • End / Resolution – circular structure? Repeated ideas? How does the author choose to end the text?

Sentence Length – short/abrupt/impact sentences (grabbing attention) > contrasting with long, complex, listing sentences (focusing in on details).

Shifts in focus / links between paragraphs (ideas repeating) – OR > Juxtaposing/Contrasting ideas and actions?

Introduction of key characters – where/when/why do we meet them at certain points?

What type of text is it? i.e. is it a factual article or an autobiography? Does the structure follow the pattern you’d expect?

Things in some texts…

As well as things you’ll find in every single text – there are some structural features you’ll only find in some texts. If you spot any of these, they’re great to talk about in your English Language GCSE essays…

You’ll probably notice lots of these apply to poetry and English Literature too (we’ll talk about this in another blog post!).

  • Zooming in / Panning out – what elements is the author focusing on?
  • Shifts between internal / external – i.e. thoughts and actions, or interior and exterior. Why do you think these shifts are happening?
  • Dialogue (or quotations) – is this breaking up long descriptive passages?
  • Repetition (Tripling or Listing) – what’s the author focusing our attention on, and why?
  • Foreshadowing – are there hints at an important event to come?
  • Are they withholding any information – does this increase tension/mystery?

What else could you add to this list? Think about the effect of structure when combined with language techniques – what’s the overall mood/tones/ideas the author is focusing on… and why?

I’ll focus on structure for poetry in a later post, but if there’s anything you think should be added to this guide (or you have any questions) – let me know! Good luck, and happy structure analysis.

Need more help?

Take a look at these extra language and structure posts:


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