Back to GCSE English Language Revision Home

Reading: What the Examiner is Looking For


Reading: What the Examiner is Looking For Revision

Assessment Objectives

AO stands for Assessment Objective.

These are 6 categories that are used to assess answers by the examiners.

It is important to make sure you include all the requirements in your answer to get top marks.

There are 4 Assessment Objectives you will be examined on in your reading exam. 

So What Is An AO?

We know what it stands for, but what does AO mean?

According to the AQA official website…

Assessment objectives (AOs) are set by Ofqual and are the same across all GCSE English Language specifications and all exam boards.”

This basically means there is a standardised set of skills you need to demonstrate throughout the papers to gain full marks

They are spread out over the questions, with one AO per question. 

This means that you can really focus on each one in your answer, so learning them before the exam is key!

The weighting per paper is as follows: 

AO1 2.5% 7.5% 10%
AO2 10% 7.5% 17.5%
AO3 N/A 10% 10%
AO4 12.5% N/A 12.5%


What does AO1 mean in the mark scheme?


Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas

Select and synthesis evidence from different texts


This AO wants you to recognise and give ‘evidence‘, meaning you should bring in quotes from the text in relation to specific ideas or themes.

Think of this as a close reading exercise- what specific information can you pull from the text to show the examiner these skills?

Example Answer for AO1: Implicit information


“The implication that the sailor is suffering is strengthened through the verb usage in Source A, such as ‘gritting his teeth against the wind. Here, the writer uses harsh verbs such as ‘gritting‘ to express discomfort, portrayed further in an active response to the wind, implying it is a force with sentience which reinforces the sailor’s struggle against it.”


Here the student has used a specific language technique, verb use, to identify implicit information. This is shown through the words ‘implication‘ and ‘implying‘, which demonstrates the students’ ability to make educated deductions about what the writer is trying to convey.

Example Answer for AO1: Explicit information


“The sailor is clearly portrayed as suffering in Source A, through emotive language such as ‘agony‘, which reinforces to the reader the extremity of the conditions faced, and how much it is affecting him. Furthermore, the verbs used to describe the sailor’s reaction to the wind, for example ‘gritting‘ his teeth and ‘wailing‘ in despair about his predicament, highlight his ongoing pain as a result of the storm’. 


Here, the student talks in explicit terms, using words like ‘highlight‘ and ‘portray‘ to make it clear that the information being discussed within the text has a definite meaning.

With some exam boards, you will be asked to tick boxes or identify snippets of information from the text.

The examples above are beyond the detail you will need to include for questions based on AO1, but they give you an idea of what is being assessed. 



What does AO2 mean in the mark scheme?


Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views


In AO2, it is the effect of language and structure on the reader and the text as a whole that you will need to analyse.

It is not enough to say the text is simply persuasive. To fulfil AO2, you should explain the effects of the rhetorical questions or complex sentences for example, as a way to support your stated view.

Remember to give relevant quotes from the text alongside it!

Example Answer for AO2 (structure):


“The article uses subheadings such as: ‘What is a Micro- Climate?’ and ‘How do we measure soil pH?’ in order to signpost the reader. The use of questions as headings also involves the reader by representing inner thought, making it more engaging and interactive.

At the beginning of the article, the writer has used complex sentences to add detail. However, as the text progresses, short sentences such as “We must do something” are implemented for impact. This increases the pace of the article, and stresses the importance of acting fast.”


Here, the student identifies specific structural features, giving clear examples from the text and clearly explaining their impact.

Example Answer for AO2 (language):


“The writer uses personification to persuade the reader to join the protest and save the trees. The trees are depicted as ‘groaning’ and ‘crying’, which are typical human responses, allowing the reader to feel emotionally invested in the topic.


Here, the student identifies a specific language feature, personification, with concise quotes as evidence, and the impact clearly explained. 

MME Logo

Your 2024 Revision Partner


Open TikTok


What does AO3 mean in the mark scheme?


Compare writers’ ideas and perspectives, as well as how these are conveyed, across two or more texts


Here, the objective is to show the examiner that you can compare ideas from two texts, including both language and structural techniques.

Example Answer for AO3:


“The writers of both sources vary their sentence structure, using short sentences containing imperatives for impact. As the texts progress, both of the writers use complex sentences to add detail.

Both writers also use vivid imagery, particularly through the use of colour-based adjectives. For example, Source A describes the ocean as ‘shimmering iridescent blues layered over and over into the horizon’. The repetition of ‘over’ emphasises the scale and magnitude of the ocean. In contrast, the writer of Source B uses personification to describe the rich colours of the landscape as ‘kissing with golden face the meadows green’. Here, personification gives the landscape an active quality and engages the reader in the scene, making it easier to envisage.”


Here, the learner has signposted to the examiner with phrases like ‘in contrast‘ and ‘both‘.

The effect of the language techniques used by each author is analysed thoroughly by the student.

Don’t forget the analytical part of AO3 when constructing your comparison; providing evidence to support your ideas is key!



What does AO4 mean in the mark scheme?


Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references


AO4 focuses on your own critical opinion of the text that you have been given.

This question will come later in the paper, meaning you already have a good idea of the text in depth. This will help you to form your own opinions when you come across it.

The question testing AO4 will often ask you how far, or to what extent you agree with a given statement or opinion. 

Example Answer for AO4:


“The writer of the text makes a conscious effort to focus the piece on Aimee’s feelings, making the reader more likely to feel sympathy for her. Negative adjectives are used to describe the parents, such as ‘wicked‘ and ‘evil‘, strengthening the notion that Aimee is reasonable for escaping the house. This, alongside the evident mistreatment highlighted previously, invites me to agree with the statement made by the student.’


In this example, the student comes to their own critical opinion which is supported by evidence throughout the answer.

You should use short, key quotes that can be expanded upon and analysed in detail to justify your critical argument. 

MME Premium

MME Premium Membership



Learn an entire GCSE course for maths, English and science on the most comprehensive online learning platform. With revision explainer videos & notes, practice questions, topic tests and full mock exams for each topic on every course, it’s easy to Learn and Revise with the MME Learning Portal.

Sign Up Now