English Language: Exam Prep Reading Toolkit

Exam Insights: English Language reading advice

Our regular blog author, Jill Carter, has prepared some revision tips and advice for your students – pass it on!

You have two English Language exams so get clear about what each of these requires.  Look for patterns so you can prepare more effectively for both. For both exams, you will need to be able to read critically.  You will need to be able to analyse fiction and non-fiction texts.  Don’t forget, there are many similarities.

Reading Toolkit

Ask yourself the following general questions about any text:

‘Use of language’ requires similar analysis whatever kind of text you are exploring

This also applies to the literature texts you have studied for the Literature exam.  Look for the following devices / techniques, many of which should be familiar to you:

Some, such as pathetic fallacy, are more likely to crop up in fiction or literary non-fiction.

Others may play a more significant role in non-fiction:

‘Use of structural devices’ requires you to look at how the writer builds the whole text.



When you have to compare texts think about:

  • Similarities between the way ideas, themes, or perspectives are presented
  • Differences between the way ideas, themes or perspectives are presented
  • Similarities in terms of their use of language and structure
  • Differences in terms of their use of language and structure
  • Similarities in mood, tone, viewpoint or attitude
  • Differences in mood, tone, viewpoint or attitude


When you have to evaluate texts, think about:

  • How effectively an idea, theme or perspective has been presented
  • The impact the text has on you as a reader

Remember to quote to support your answers where you have been advised to do this in the question!


  • Gap analyse mock papers and practice tasks you have done, noting how to improve your answer, e.g.

  • Use the toolkit offered here whenever you read an extract or text. Try it out on a breakfast cereal box one morning!
  • Practise pieces of writing and show them to others who can comment on how effectively you are conveying ideas.
  • There are a lot of websites offering all kinds of solutions to ‘revision’. Make sure that you don’t spend valuable time web-hopping – identify a few good ones (your teacher has probably already given you a list) and then stick to working on their suggestions rather than searching for a ‘holy grail’ which doesn’t exist.  At the end of the day, you actually need to do some work!


Good luck!