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Descriptive Writing Exam – How To Prepare Yourself

Descriptive writing is often tested in English Language exams; a descriptive piece (sometimes called a descriptive essay) is a piece of writing that aims to transport readers to a specific time and place, bringing a scene or character to life so that it seems almost real.

Below you’ll find a list of things to remember in order to write great descriptive pieces at any level, especially if you’re aiming for top marks.

This page is tailored towards GCSE and A-Level students on the following exam boards: CIE / Cambridge, AQA, OCR, WJEC / Eduqas, CCEA, Edexcel. It is suitable for anyone studying descriptive writing at a higher level.

Thanks for reading! If you find this document useful, take a look at our full Basic Descriptive Writing course and Advanced Descriptive Writing course.

For more Tips and Tricks about writing, click here.


– NOT a story.

– One place, one time, one set of people, describing the world around you.

– 5 senses — see, hear, touch, smell, taste (imagery).

– Purpose: make the audience feel as though they are in your setting.

– Structure — really clear, with distinct paragraphs.

– Consult the mark scheme for specific info on what to include.

Remember to use the following:

  • Interesting punctuation — . , ? ! () … : ; ‘ “” —
  • Different sentence lengths — including a one-word sentence
  • Different sentence starters
  • Language features — one of each feature, as many features as you can think of

(e.g. repetition, alliteration, simile, metaphor, personification, imagery, anaphora, oxymoron, onomatopoeia, personification)

  • Make sure every descriptive word that you choose is interesting or unusual
  • Make your descriptions detailed, specific, and personal
  • Use a lot of adverbs and adjectives
  • Plan, structure and organize your piece in a clear, interesting way
  • Make sure to read a lot to absorb ideas for your own writing!
  • Develop a personal style that suits your own reading tastes

What examiners look for in your writing — from an example Mark Scheme:

W1 – articulate experience and express what is thought, felt and imagined

W2 – sequence facts, ideas and opinions

W3 – use a range of appropriate vocabulary

W4 – use register appropriate to audience and context

W5 – make accurate use of spelling, punctuation and grammar


Many well-defined and developed ideas and images create a convincing, original, overall picture with varieties of focus.

Content is complex, sophisticated and realistic.

Overall structure is secure and the constituent parts well balanced and carefully managed.

Writing is consistent, stylistically fluent, linguistically strong and almost always accurate; has sense of audience.

Consistently wide range of appropriate vocabulary.

Subtle and effective sense of audience; appropriate use of varied sentence structures.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar almost always accurate.

Thanks for reading! If you find this document useful, take a look at our full Basic Descriptive Writing course and Advanced Descriptive Writing course.

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