How to get a top grade in the new Spanish GCSE writing exam (AQA)

This summer is the first set of the new style Spanish GCSE exam. The new “higher” tier exam involves three questions. You are given two options for the first two questions.

The first question is to write approximately 90 words responding to 4 bullet points. This may be in the style of a letter to a friend or an email.

The second question is a longer, more open written task of approximately 150 words in which you only have 2 compulsory bullet points to respond to. This could be a blog article, an email or an article for a magazine.

The third question is a translation from English into Spanish of a minimum of 50 words.

Tips to get top marks

– A good clear response to all 4 bullet points
– Give your opinions and back these up with reasons
– Give lot of information and detail – use a wide range of vocabulary
– Use a variety of tenses
– The style and register must be appropriate to the task
– Few grammatical errors
– Use complex structures

Complex phrases to use

No sólo … sino también …
Not only … but also …

Por un lado … por otro lado …
On one hand… on the other hand …

Si + present + future
Si apruebo mis exámenes iré a la Universidad
If I pass my exams I willgo to university

Pasar + time + present
Pasé dos horas jugando al fútbol
I spent two hours playing football

En primer lugarFirstly
En segundo lugarSecondly

Variety of opinions phrases

Lo que más me gusta es que …
What I like most is that …

Lo que menos me gusta es que …
What I like least is that …

No aguanto / No soporto
I cannot put up with / tolerate

Estoy totalmente harto/a de
I am totally fed up of

Tengo muchas ganas de …
I am really looking forward to …

Mi amigo piensa que
My friend thinks that

Good connectives

If you can use good linking words and phrases you will be able to form longer and more complex sentences.

aunquealthough
sin embargo however
no obstantehowever
por lo tanto / por esotherefore
en vez de instead of
ya quesince
puesto quegiven that
mientras – while
porquebecause
dondewhere
cuandowhen
comolike / as
a pesar de quein spite of / depsite
perobut
yand

Subjunctive phrases

This is when you swap the verb endings after certain structures, often involving doubt or uncertainty. You change the verb after the “que”. Key subjunctive structures to try to use include:

Cuando sea mayorWhen I’m older

Es importante queIt’s important that

Es probable queIt’s likely that

Es probable que no vengan – It’s likely they won’t come

Es necesario que – It’s necessary that

Es necesario que aprobemos los exámenes
It’s necessary that we pass the exams

No creo que sea – I don’t think it may be

Que yo sepa – As far as I know

Que yo sepa es una asignatura muy difícil
As far as I know it’s a difficult subject

Si + imperfect subjunctive + conditional

Si tuviera la opción – If I had to choice

Si ganara la lotería – If I won the lottery

Also try to include:

Indirect and direct object pronouns:

Voy a estudiarloI am going to study it
Me dijo que – He/She told me

Lo + adjective:

Lo bueno es que – The good thing is that 
Lo mejor es que – The best thing is that
Lo malo es que – The bad thing is that
Lo peor es que – The worst thing is that

Negatives:

NuncaNever
Ni … ni … – Neither … nor …
NadieNobody
NadaNothing
Ningún/a/os/asNo, none

Comparatives:

El inglés es más fácil que las ciencias
English is easier than science

La educación física es menos práctica que las matemáticas
P.E. is less practical than Maths

Las matemáticas son tan difíciles como las ciencias
Maths is as difficult as Science

Superlatives:

Es el profesor más severo del colegio
He’s the strictest teacher in the school

Es la asignatura menos interesante de todas
It’s the least interesting subject of all

Ya / todavía (Already / still/yet)

Ya he dicho que – I have already said that

Todavía no he decidido lo que quiero hacer
I still haven’t decided what I want to do

Two tenses in one sentence:

Cuando salí de casa hacía solWhen I left home it was sunny

Learn as much vocabulary as you can as early as you can

– Keep a vocab. book or flashcard app
– Organise into topics: family, personality, free time, the environment, technology and so on.
– Colour code masculine and feminine words so you use articles and adjectives correctly.
– Write key words or those you find difficult to remember on post-it notes where you will see them every day.

Practice with Past Papers

It is one things to know the content of an exam but a good exam technique is also crucial. Using past papers as part of your revision is a brilliant way to get used to the layout of each paper, and the types of questions that you will be asked.
Past papers also help you to identify weaker areas in your Spanish, as you can check your answers against the marking schemes. As it gets nearer the exam you could even do the papers under exam conditions to help you time your writing. The more you practice answering questions under timed conditions, the quicker you’ll get at answering under pressure.