AQA have made it clear that you may not have a choice between Descriptive and Narrative Writing for Question 5 on Paper 1 of their GCSE English Language examination.

So it’s really important that you feel ready to tackle Descriptive Writing just in case that’s all that’s available on the exam paper.

Students often seem stuck and aren’t sure where to start though.

That’s where the photograph provided on the exam paper comes in handy. Even the wording of the question is pointing you in this direction; ‘Write a description suggested by this picture.’ 

The photo at the top of this blog post features a snowy hillside taken near the Vale of Clwyd in North Wales; just because it features snow doesn’t mean you can start writing a descriptive piece set in the arctic featuring igloos, polar bears and penguins! What you can do, though, is allow the photo to help you generate ideas – perhaps based on your own memories or on your imagination.

It’s a good idea to have a brief and simple plan jotted down before you start; this will help you stick to one focus or topic per paragraph. As well as that, it’s there to prevent those moments where occasionally you might dry up and run out of ideas midway through your written piece.

Next, think about using details and features from the photo you’ve been given.

Try taking a look at the photo above and jotting down as many ideas and things that you can notice as quickly as you can. It’ll help you develop good observational and imaginative habits for the real examination.

Naturally, you’ll want to build in some descriptive content based on the senses as one way of creating an authentic location for your reader to believe in; think sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell!

Before moving on to looking at the downloads attached to this blog post, don’t forget to keep in mind that the examiner would ideally like to see you using “a range of punctuation” – do just that. Over the course of your piece of writing, try to make sure you’ve used a number of the following; full stops, capital letters, exclamation marks, question marks, commas, apostrophes, dashes and brackets.

OK, so now take a look at the two download items attached to the post below. The first one is a short sample I’ve written in response to the photo showing sunrise over a coastal town. The town in question was Folkestone and this was a particularly impressive sunrise. I hope my 3 paragraphs of description have started to do it some sort of justice. See what you think.

You’ll notice I’ve also jotted down some ideas that I could write about in the paragraphs that would need to follow.

Finally, to help develop your skills on this high-scoring question, why not have a go at the second download – the one with the snow scene featuring the person in the hi-vis jacket.