The Arabic GCSE: A Guide to the Writing Component

May 6, 2024

By Fauzia Saeed

Discover tips and tactics for students preparing for the writing section of the Arabic GCSE exam

Preparing for your Arabic GCSE exams and feeling overwhelmed by the writing component? You're not alone. Arabic writing may appear daunting initially, but with adequate preparation and practice, you can confidently excel. This post will provide some useful tips to help students thrive in the Arabic writing GCSE.

Preparing Before the Exam

  1. Understand the exam format: Get acquainted with the different types of writing tasks like short, long, article, letter writing, and emails, and the differences between formal and informal writing. Analyse past exam papers to grasp the structure and requirements of the writing section.
  2. Build vocabulary and master the 5 themes and topics: Practise common Arabic words, phrases, and expressions related to all your topics, based on the vocabulary you have developed in class.
  3. Understand the QACNOTT criteria: I use this acronym as a mnemonic aid. So, what exactly is QACNOTT? QACNOTTs represent Qualifiers (intensifiers), Adjectives, Connectives, Negatives, Opinions and Justifications, Time phrases and Tenses. These elements work together to elevate the standard of your writing. Incorporate them into your spoken and written language practice, and consistently evaluate your work using the QACNOTT criteria.

Examples for QACNOTTs are:

  • Qualifiers (intensifiers): Use qualifiers with adjectives:
    • المدرسة بعيدة للغاية
    • الحديقة جميلة جدا
  • Adjectives: Using adjective can give reader more specific information about the object you are describing, remember noun in Arabic always comes before the adjective, adjective must agree with the noun they describe; if the noun is feminine, the adjective should also be feminine, if noun is dual the adjective should be in dual form:
    • البيت البعيد /المدرسة البعيدة
    • كتابان مفيدان - حصان سريع
  • Connectives: Explore the different connective you can use in your essay and use them correctly to build coherent sentences:
    • و، ثم، كما، بالإضافة الى
    • علاوة على ذلك، لذلك، بالرغم من
  • Negatives: Add a simple negative sentence and justification; this can be used to show your abilities to use correct negative sentences using:
    • لا، لم، لن، ليس، ما
    • for example:
    • بالرغم من سفرياتي العديدة لكني لا أحب السفر لمسافات طويلة
  • Opinions and justification: examiners want to see full explained sentences, always add justification to your opinions:
    • أحب، اظن، أكره، أفضل، أقدر، أعتقد/ بسبب، لان
  • Time phrases: A good use of time phrases can help to make your essay more specific about the moment in time (past present or future):
    • يوميا، أحيانا، في عطلة نهاية الأسبوع، مرتين في الشهر، يوم السبت، نادرا، الشهر الماضي، السنة القادمة
  • Tenses (Past, Present, Future): Depending on what level you are writing, remember you need to integrate a correct two tenses (foundation tier) or three tenses (higher tier):
    • الأزمنة الثلاث (ماضي، مضارع، مستقبل)

  1. Regular practice and revision: Ensure you set aside specific time for practicing Arabic writing regularly, utilizing resources like textbook exercises or previous exam papers. Consistently review and revise your writing to track your development and pinpoint areas needing improvement. Seek feedback from reliable sources like your teachers to enhance your skills. Use timers when tackling past exam papers to simulate real exam conditions effectively.

On Exam Day

  1. Careful reading to understanding the question: Before commencing your writing tasks, thoroughly read and make sure you understand the question. Identify crucial instructions, prompts, and requirements to ensure your response fully addresses the task.
  2. Effective time management: Allocate time judiciously to each writing task based on available marks and question complexity. Remember you must answer all the sub questions in your writing task, as marks are divided equally to all the questions. Maintain a steady pace to ensure completion within the allotted time without rushing.
  3. Strategically plan your responses by taking a moment to outline the key points and structure of your essay or letter before you begin writing. This ensures coherence and organisation in your writing. Remember to meet the designated word count for each task, as writing less than the word count can impact your marks. However, it's equally important not to spend more time and words than required. Avoid repeating information and using the same words excessively; I suggest using different synonyms. For example, instead of كبير جدا use ضخم او هائل
  4. Thorough proofreading: After completing each writing task, allocate time for proofreading. Identify spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and areas needing clarity or coherence improvement. Make necessary corrections and revisions to refine your writing and ensure its polished and error-free. Make good use of punctuation marks to break up your sentences. This will help to guide the reader (the examiner) through the ideas expressed in your sentences.
  5. Maintain calm and focus: Maintain a positive mindset and stay composed under pressure. Focus solely on the task at hand and avoid distractions from other candidates or external factors.