Exam Centre – Paper I


Read below for a basic guide to Paper I

 – After that you can click on links for advice on the different sections (A, B and Essay)



You will have 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete Paper I of your English exam

(usually 9.30 – 12.20)

The paper is worth 200 marks (50% of the overall marks for English) and is divided into two areas:

  1. The paper is firstly designed to test your ability to understand and analyse different types of texts (comprehending.) These can range from newspaper articles to formal speeches; and from personal writing to extracts from novels or short stories. There are 50/200 marks going for the comprehending section. This normally consists of two 15 mark questions and a 20 mark question.
  2. The paper is also designed to test your ability to write for a particular purpose (composing). You are expected to be able to pick the right structure and register depending on the task that has been set for you. The composing element is ¾ of Paper I, consisting of a ‘B’ question (50/200) and an essay question (100/200).

The paper will be set around a certain theme and the texts on the paper will link around that particular theme. Previous years have seen themes like mystery, the future, decisions and identity.

The theme will be clearly displayed on the front of the paper.

The paper will contain three texts. These will be a selection of texts with different authors and written in different styles.

You are expected to answer a Question A (comprehension style questions) and a Question B (shorter composing task) based on the texts.

N.B. You are not permitted to complete a Question A and Question B on the same text. If you do, the one with the lowest mark will not be counted towards your end result. In other words, you will have thrown away a quarter of the available marks.

Recent years have seen an increasing amount of questions based on images that accompany the text. These images have led to questions on the images themselves, as well as questions on the combination of the written part of the text and the images themselves.

There is often a 20 mark question on the text which tests your knowledge of style.


Over the last few years Question B has become almost like a mini-essay in terms of what it demands. There is an expectation for some tasks that you write approx. 600 – 700 words.

The most important thing to remember is that examiners are told to reward a clear appreciation of the task (examiner guidelines). The aim is that any piece of writing you create sounds as authentic and believable as possible; it should sound like the real thing.


The essay is worth 100/200 marks i.e. 25% of the entire English exam. You will be given the option of writing one of seven titles ranging from personal essays, through discursive writing and short stories.

The essay titles are based on quotations from the texts but the titles themselves are in bold.



General Exam Technique


You have 2 hours and 50 minutes (170) to complete the exam.

Different students move at different speeds when answering different sections. However it is important to know how much time you can spend on each section.

Here is a rough time plan that you can adapt to suit yourself:

  • Selecting questions           –    5  minutes
  • Answering  a Question A   –  45 minutes
  • Answering Question B        –  35 minutes
  • Picking an essay title           –   5  minutes
  • Writing an essay                  –  80 minutes
  • TOTAL                                      170 minutes

* Remember that anywhere where you can save time will allow you more for a different section. Obviously however the reverse is also true – if you go over time on one section, then you will need to make it up in another.

**Any time left at the end should be spent  proof-reading  your work

The Paper

Notice the theme that is printed on the cover page. Quickly jot down anything that comes into your head based around this theme.


Click here to help prepare for the comprehension section (Question A)


Click here to help prepare for the composing section (Question B)


Click here to help prepare for the essay.



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