The English language is the most significant language in the world in modern history. Countless books, movies, plays and television shows have been created and produced in English.

While only England and three other countries speak English as an original de facto language, many countries across the world have adopted English as their official language, and many of their citizens speak it as a second language.

It is the language with the most impact across all channels in education, science, culture, art, and international relations. And therefore, it is no wonder we study it seriously at school. Right from primary school English to A-level English.

In Nigeria, English is one of the compulsory subjects, you must pass English O'level to qualify for a chance to further your education. By passing any national or international exams such as JAMB, WAEC, NECO, GCSE and SAT, you become eligible for admission into a tertiary level institution.

Though, take note that admissions are granted to a student at the discretion of the school. It means you may or may not get admission into the school you applied for because they have several other parameters they check before allowing students to become one of theirs.

There are several ways to gain admission into a university or other tertiary institution in Nigeria, you can begin with the obvious, which is combining O'level result with JAMB to apply.

Another way is to enroll in an A level English course and sit for the exams, use the result to apply, you get admitted directly into 200Level if you get accepted.

But what if you want to apply abroad, you may need to sit for an entirely different kind of English exam, one backed by international standards, the GCSE English is your answer. It is an exam for 14-16 year olds or secondary school students, but adults can take it too.

It is used to certify students for finishing the equivalent of a secondary school in the UK and other parts of the world. And also, it can be used to apply to a school abroad from Nigeria. A minimum of five C6's in your WAEC/NECO result and a pass in GCSE English is required to gain admission into the foreign universities.

To make sure you are successful in all of your exams it is advisable you begin your English exam preparations long before the exam starts.

Get your timetable ready, start revisions, find yourself an English tutor, and know the content of the subject you are dealing with.

We will be looking at the contents of the GCSE English exams, which hopefully will help you with your English exam preparations.

Fiction Texts In English Exams, What To Expect

Works of fiction are make-belief stories.
Works of fiction are make-belief stories. Source: Pixabay.com

Fiction texts make up a big percentage of all written English literature, they are intriguing, and they capture the imagination in ways that are only possible in a tale that isn’t true.

The English language subject of the GCSE exams has seven sections you will be asked to examine, below is a breakdown and explanation of each one of them.

  1. Fiction Text Types

There three main types of fiction, prose, poetry, and play or drama. Most of the works we know of fall under the prose category, they are usually long in the form of novels. Poetry of course, is written in verse and drama is often set on stage for performers and their audience. Wole Soyinka's works are mostly plays, just like Shakespeare's.

Within each category of fiction there exist sub-genres. So, you could be reading historical (prose) fiction like the Allan Quatermain series, or a science fiction novel like George Orwell’s 1984.

  1. Setting

When studying literary works, it is of great importance to note the setting of the story. The Setting is defined as a place in time, whether present, past or future, morning or night, and as a place, i.e. a geographical location, or an event.

The Setting is like the fabric of space of literature. It is a container for the details of the story.

  1. Theme

A king killed by his subjects, what caused it? Greed? Power? A fiction text may be a love story, a war story, or something else. What is the main idea, what is the main topic of the story? That is the theme.

A novel, a poem, a play or anything has to have something it is discussing, a story it is built upon. That is the theme. Look for recurring patterns in a fiction text to identify the theme of the story.

  1. Narrative Voice And Characterization

Characterization refers to the creation of characters and bringing them to life by an author. Their attitude, behavior, lifestyle and so on, all preconceived and laid out in the text for your enjoyment.

You must learn to tell which voice is used in the storytelling, the most common ones are; the first person, second person, third person and third person omniscient. Fictional works written in the first person narrative voice are written like you are listening to someone tell you a first person account of what happened.

Just as The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes was narrated by Dr. Watson.

The second person narrative voice is a story as told to you by someone who has heard from someone else. The third person narrative voice is written as if by an observer, like in a dream as you see things unfold, or like watching a TV show, you are not a part of it but you see what’s happening.

Then finally we have the third person omniscient narrative voice, it is much like the third person narrative voice but this time, the author knows the feelings, motives and moods of the characters. A great example is of this type of narrative voice is Chimamanda Adichie's Half Of A Yellow Sun.

  1. Language And Structure

The language in a literary piece is the use of words and phrases to form literary devices. Whereas the structure is the order in which they are used. Repetition, sentence types, sentence lengths, stanza lengths, etc., are all part of language and structure in which fictional texts are written.

  1. Annotating Texts

These are notes and comments you add to fiction texts while you are examining them. They are important to remembering things and good for jotting down thoughts as they form in your mind. A point to note is that they should be legible, short and precise.

  1. Comprehension Texts

You may be asked about themes, settings, plots or the narrative voices in a fiction text in an exam. You will be expected to respond to any part of the text you are asked about. For example, you may be asked to summarize a comprehension passage in your English exam, or to comment on it.

Look up past questions and answers to see how these sections are usually set in exams.

Non-Fiction Texts In English Exams, What To Expect

Nonfiction texts are the complete opposite of fiction texts, they tell the truth. They can still tell stories, or share facts or information about something. This blog is an example of a nonfiction text.

Below are some examples of types of nonfiction.

Biography

Biographies tell a person’s life story, it is quite interesting to read about the life journeys of our personal heroes and heroines, in fact, fictional characters are often based off of a real-life person. Memoirs and autobiographies are examples of a biography.

Blog

As we said, the Superprof blog is an example of a nonfiction text. It is informative and not a work of make-believe. Blogs are consistently published pieces of information, they express the personal opinions of the author and therefore can be in a formal or informal tone. They can be about any topic, cars, fashion, tech, cooking, culture, etc.

Letter

Letters are categorized into formal, informal and semi-formal, there is hardly any English exam that doesn’t involve letter writing. Letters are primarily nonfiction texts, they have a style and format you must use for each type you are writing.

Those are some of the examples of nonfiction texts. When analyzing nonfiction in English exams always have these three things in mind, the Text Type, Audience, and Purpose. The tone, structure, layout, style, language, and the reason for writing always revolves around the purpose and text type and the audience it was written for.

Prepare for English nonfiction exams.
Letters are a great example of nonfiction texts. Source: Unsplash.com

Comparing Texts In GCSE English

Comparing texts is not a common theme in our Nigerian curriculum, therefore not many are familiar with the concept of comparing texts. Perhaps in our advanced level English, they may appear.

But, since it is an element of the GCSE English then there is good reason to study it independently or with an English tutor.

Comparing texts is exactly what it says, you will be asked to compare between two different texts, analyze the purpose and form of both texts, writer’s method, and whether they are fiction or nonfiction.

Read about everything you need to know about the general structure. 

Learning To Write Fiction And Non-fiction

Not everyone is born a writer, but with the right guidance, and following the instructions and standards and the format of each type of text, anyone can write a reasonably good work of fiction or nonfiction. Be it letters, articles, short stories and such.

When writing an article, fiction or nonfiction, you ought to decide the language and tone you are going to use and to think about the nature of the audience you are writing to. Are they old, children, businessmen and women, or regular folks.

And of course, you must decide on the purpose of the write-up. This should probably come first.

Students learn to write poetry,  prose, and plays by closely examining the masters of these text types, and mostly from studying the context of the texts.

Oral English Exams

In the oral English bit of the English GCSE, your ability to listen and speak is tested. You may listen to recordings and answer questions after that or maybe asked individually to speak in English.

No matter, the spoken part of the English language is one of the four fundamental aspects that make up the whole language. They are as follows; writing, reading, speaking, and listening.

All of this content of the GCSE English we have briefly discussed will shed some light, and help bring you a step closer to prepare for your English exams.

What does it feel like to answer questions from the JAMB lexis section, and how can you prepare for it?

Need a Written expression - English teacher?

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Hafiz

Hafiz is a freelance writer who has an appetite for creativity and smart tech. He also dabbles in poetry.