Lots of schools started doing 200-word challenges as a quick way to sharpen up GCSE students’ writing skills. I’ve noticed, in working as a tutor, however, that not all students know why they’re doing them. If that’s you, read on – this is what they can help you achieve.
- They help remind you to use features in your writing.
- They push you to start writing and get some ideas down, in proper sentences and paragraphs.
- They help you practise writing from a particular viewpoint, which you may not share, and/or about topics you might not care about.
- They help show you how quickly you can get some words on a page.
- Some also introduce you to new vocabulary, enabling you to use it in your writing.
All of these are important for success in the writing half of the two exams. The main reasons students get disappointing marks in these tasks are:
- not varying sentences, vocabulary or punctuation (so the 200-word challenges get you to do this)
- not using linguistic, rhetorical or structural features (see how your checklist helps you to remember to use some of these on purpose?)
- writing non-fiction texts that don’t ‘feel’ like the form set (i.e. a speech that doesn’t address the audience, a broadsheet article that is too formal, a leaflet with no headings – again see how the 200-word challenge steers you to use appropriate features?)
So, if you’ve been moaning about doing 200-word challenges, it may be time to embrace them as a useful tool to help you sharpen up your skills and close in on that better grade!