IGCSE Mark Criteria

At iGCSE you are judged based on four different criteria or assessment objectives:

AO1 show detailed knowledge of the content of literary texts;
AO2 understand the meanings of literary texts and their context, and explore texts beyond surface meaning to show deeper awareness of ideas and attitudes;
AO3 recognise and appreciate ways in which writers use language, structure, and form to create and shape meanings and effects;
AO4 communicate a sensitive and informed personal response.

However, this is boiled down into a chart describing different bands that your essay can fall in to. This is done on a best fit basis and is very subjective, but seems to work.

I’ve suggested what each band relates to in terms of a letter grade based on the idea that 90% = A*, 80% = A and so on. However, be aware that grade boundaries shift all the time and you usually can get away with a much lower mark.

Band Mark range Descriptors
1 23-25 (A*) Answers in this band have all the qualities of Band 2 work, with further insight, sensitivity, individuality and flair. They show sustained engagement with both text and task.
2 20-22 (A) Sustains a perceptive, convincing and relevant personal response:

– shows a clear critical understanding of the text;
– responds sensitively and in detail to the way the writer achieves her/his effects;
– integrates much well-selected reference to the text.

3 17-19 (B) Makes a well-developed, detailed and relevant personal response:

– shows a clear understanding of the text and some of its deeper implications;
– makes a developed response to the way the writer achieves her/his effects;
– supports with careful and relevant reference to the text.

4 14-16 (C) Makes a reasonably developed relevant personal response:

– shows understanding of the text and some of its deeper implications;
– makes some response to the way the writer uses language;
– shows some thoroughness in the use of supporting evidence from the text.

5 11-13 (D) Begins to develop a relevant personal response:

– shows some understanding of meaning;
– makes a little reference to the language of the text;
– uses some supporting textual detail.

6 8-10 (E) Attempts to communicate a basic personal response to the task:

– makes some relevant comments;
– shows a basic understanding of surface meaning of the text;
– makes a little supporting reference to the text.

7 5-7 Some evidence of simple personal response:

– makes a few straightforward comments;
– shows a few signs of understanding the surface meaning of the text;
– makes a little reference to the text.

8 2-4 Limited attempt to respond:

– shows some limited understanding of simple/literal meaning.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

8 thoughts on “IGCSE Mark Criteria”

  1. Hi Mr Sir,

    Another question: should we state our opinions through out the essay or just in the conclusion?
    My teacher told me to write the essay impersonally and only write our opinions in the conclusion but after reading the marking criteria, personal response seems so important. What would you advise?

    1. Hi Summer,

      Yeah, personal response is a big thing. You should be analysing throughout to commenting on the significance, impact of or implications of different language/technique choices. However, you don’t need to say ‘I think…’, but instead just show your interpretation with phrases like ‘this suggest’, ‘this implies’, ‘this means’, ‘this shows’, etc.

      Remember your mark comes from the quality of your analysis and not just spotting techniques or retelling the narrative of the poem.


      Mr Sir

  2. Hi Mr Sir

    Is it necessary to learn some quotes from the texts (especially drama and prose) we’ve studied to make references in the real exam? Please advice 🙂

    1. Hi Summer,

      Is it necessary? Well, technically it isn’t necessary, but I would really advise doing it. If you revise each character in part by defining their personality/how they change, then grab a couple of small quotes that demonstrate each of your points. My revision notes always had about 20-30 key quotations across all characters and themes. Obviously you’re not going to remember all these in your exam, but hopefully three or four will stay with you and lend some weight to your analysis in the exam.

      Hope this is helpful,

      Mr Sir

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