Friday, April 1, 2016

How to Increase Writing Speed for IGCSEs

Please help!

A student wrote to the Nardvark with some questions about the IGCSE exams. Nardvark promptly printed off the email, crumpled it into a ball, and chucked it at The Nerdvark's head. The paper got impaled on The Nerdvark's funny drooping horn and The Nerdvark couldn't reach to get it off, so Nardvark summarized the question like this:

Dear handsome, intelligent Nardvark,
I don't get it. How am I supposed to write all that stuff in such a short time? 
Your biggest fan and groupie,

Always one to help a student in need, The Nerdvark quickly sat down and composed the following response while Nardvark went to the kitchen to see if there was any apple and coconut wasabi pizza left over.

That's a really good question. It is very difficult to write a good response in a short period of time. 

Increase Writing Speed

I recommend two things you can do to increase your writing speed:

Follow the Steps of the Writing Process

First, you should follow the writing process. There are five steps: prewrite, plan, draft, revise, and edit. Click here to read more about the writing process on The Nardvark.

I'll go through your two papers with you and give you more details on how you should follow the writing process for each of them. You should follow the writing process when writing a test paper with a time limit, because it helps you to streamline your writing and get more written in a shorter period of time. Keep an eye on this blog for detailed explanation of the IGCSE English papers.

Practice Writing Test Papers

Second, you need to practice doing past papers with a time limit. Once a week, you should do a practice paper and time yourself.

The international IGCSE course number is 0500. Paper 1 is 1 hour 45 minutes for core and Paper 3 is 2 hours. If you are in extended, you will write Paper 2 instead of Paper 1, and you have 2 hours.

Paper 3 is your directed writing and composition paper. Your total word count on this paper (two passages) is 650 - 750 words. Most people write about 250 words per page, so you're going to write about three pages in total.

Don't Waste Time Counting Words

A lot of students really waste time counting words. You don't need to get hung up on the word count. The examiner is probably not going to count your words. If you write about three pages, you'll be fine. If your paper looks really long (four pages) or really short (two pages), the examiner will do a quick word count by averaging the words per line and counting how many lines you wrote. Some people have bigger or smaller handwriting, which affects how many pages they will write. The examiners are pretty good at judging how many words are written without having to count. 
Nardvark wastes a lot of time during exams counting his words after every
sentence and then adding them up.

Learn How to Estimate Your Word Count

You should count words on your practice papers so you know what to aim for when you're in the actual exam. Instead of stopping to count every single word, like some students do, follow this procedure:
  1. Write your response without thinking about word count.
  2. Count the words in the first line. Write the total at the end of the line.
  3. Count the words in the next four lines, writing the total at the end of each line.
  4. Skip any lines that are at the end of a paragraph. Only count full lines.
  5. Take the average number or words per line. So if line one has ten words, line two has eleven words, line three has ten words, line four has nine words, and line five has eleven words, you can say your average word 1`count per line is ten.
  6. Count how many lines you have written in total. If you wrote several paragraphs, consider the last line of each paragraph to be a half line.
  7. Multiply your average line word count by the number of lines you wrote. For example, I write an average of ten words per line. If I write twenty-five lines, that's 250 words.
  8. Voila!

Further Help

I hope this helps you increase your writing speed. Don't forget to check back with The Nardvark for explanations of the IGCSE papers. Meanwhile, Nardvark's posts with the label "IGCSE" can be read by clicking here