IGCSE First Language English – How to Write a Descriptive Story


IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) offers up to 70 subjects to its students, including more than 30 languages. Students can take them in any combination. The groups under which the subjects are ordered are

  • Group 1 – Languages
  • Group 2 – Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Group 3 – Sciences
  • Group 4 – Mathematics and Business
  • Group 5 – Creative and Professional and Vocational

There are two options for the language English – English as the first language (EFL) and English as the second language (ESL)

Cambridge IGCSE First Language English (EFL) is curated for students whose first language is English. The course enables the students to

  • Enhance their speaking and writing skills
  • Expand their vocabulary, and use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Develop a personal style
  • Develop an awareness of the audience being addressed

Cambridge IGCSE Second Language English (ESL) is curated for students whose native language is not English but who have a working knowledge. The course enables the students to

  • Understand and use English in a range of situations
  • Enhance the awareness of the four language-learning skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking
  • Focus on the use of the language in everyday communication
  • Learn to complement the other areas of the curriculum by developing the transferable skills

Thus, the students improve their communication abilities in this language, increasing their opportunities for further studies or for a planned career.

To choose the right option, consider two major parameters

  • How comfortable and fluent are you in the English language
  • What are your future goals – either academic or career are


Assessments of EFL and ESL – Writing

Paper 1 and Paper 2 of the EFL require the students to respond to texts provided in the examination.

Paper 1 – Extended response to reading – requires the students to respond in 250-350 words to one of the following text types – speech, letter, report, journal, interview, and article
Paper 2 – Directed Writing – two questions

  • Evaluate the information in the text to write a 250-350 worded discursive/argumentative/persuasive speech, letter, or article
  • Descriptive or Narrative 350-450 worded composition

Paper 1 and Paper 2 of the ESL require the students to attempt the followingly.
Students need to

  • Make brief notes related to a text printed on the paper
  • Write an 80-word summary related to a text printed on the paper
  • Write 100-150 words of continuous prose in response to a picture and short prompts printed on the paper
  • Write a 100-150 review, report, or article in response to a picture and shore prompts printed in the paper

Let us learn more about the descriptive writing question which is part of Paper 2 of English as the first language (EFL). This question tests the following assessment objectives:

  • Articulate experience and express what is thought, felt, and imagined
  • Arrange and structure ideas and opinions for calculated effect
  • Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures related to the context
  • Make accurate use of spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Vary the usage as per the context


What is Descriptive Writing and How to Plan it?

Descriptive writing describes a person, place, or thing in a way that enables the reader to actually visualize and feel it.

  • The student is presented with a question paper booklet with two questions for descriptive writing
  • He has to choose one and plan his writing accordingly.
  • Beginning with the sensory detailing is considered to be easy


Sensory Details 

Sight, Smell, Touch, Hear, Taste


Begin with Sight

Talking vividly about what he sees and what emotions that action evokes in him.


At nine o’clock in the morning, Global Computer Graphics was already bustling with activity. There were eight modular cubicles, occupied by computer whizzes, all young and busily building websites. The employees in their crisp uniforms were walking up and down. This hustle and bustle were slowly building into my monotonous morning.


Hear Clearly

Now the student can add on the sounds he hears and write how it impacts him.


Ashley Patterson was taking a hurried shower, late for work, when she heard a sound. A door opening? Closing? She turned off the shower, listening, her heart pounding. A shiver ran through her wet body. Was it a burglar?

The element highlighted here – is fear.


Let Us Move to the Smell Sensory

Smell always has the power to link us to the past and familiar smells can trigger our memories and emotions. This is referred to as olfactory imagery. The student can elaborate on the smell sensory to recreate a past memory.


The sweet fragrance of the honeysuckle always reminded Jenny of her mother’s perfume.
He woke up to the smell of burnt toast and all he wanted now was a hot cup of coffee.

The element highlighted in both the above examples is memory – but first, a pleasant one and in the second, an unpleasant one.


Look at This Example

The kid took a bite at the red juicy apple and smiled as sweet as the sweet, soft fruit filled her mouth and the juice ran down her chin.
The reader already would be feeling hungry and want to bite into an apple now.


Finally, the Tactile Imagery

The masseuse rubbed the lightly fragranced warm lavender oil across her stress-riddled shoulders. The gentle rubs felt so comfortable and made her sleep.

The reader can feel the effect of a good massage.

Writers must do their best to lure the readers into the story. And that is the reason, we love a good novel or script. We can step out of our everyday lives and walk into the descriptive fantasies of the stories with new adventures. And as such, writers should be doing more than describing a green grassy hillock or mentioning the sound of the crashing waves on the rocks in rough weather. There are many ways to develop a sense of imagery. Apart from the sensory imagery discussed above, more ways are:

  • Precise language – Tulip instead of a flower, mansion instead of home
  • Comparisons – As lazy as a snail: She walks in beauty, like the night
  • Strong verbs – She slammed the door on his face
  • Hyperbole – I am dying of thirst; I love you to the moon and back

After the student has done planning out the response using the sensory imagery, he needs to choose an apt title. If the title is already mentioned, he needs to use it. He has to make sure that the title he chooses is relevant to the themes of the descriptive.

It is not necessary that all 5 sensory imagery needs to be used. In fact, sometimes there may be no need for the imagery at all. So, the student needs to plan the story carefully.


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How do you write a descriptive essay in IGCSE English?

Comparable to discussing a photo or a video clip is descriptive writing. When someone reads your description, they should be able to virtually exactly recreate the vision you described in their minds. Like telepathy, in a way. It’s crucial to be specific, so keep that in mind.

What is the structure of descriptive writing?

A descriptive essay typically comprises three body paragraphs, a conclusion, and a strong thesis statement at the end of the introduction. Yet, a description need not follow a set pattern.

What is the format of the descriptive paragraph?

A statement that introduces the subject and briefly discusses its importance. supporting phrases that use the specifics you listed during brainstorming to explain the topic in clear, vivid terms. a short summary that links back to the relevance of the subject.

What is the difference between narrative and descriptive writing in IGCSE?

A descriptive essay is supposed to provide a detailed description of a certain place, item, or concept, whereas a narrative essay is intended to present a whole story.

What are the 3 types of descriptive writing?

The three types of descriptive writing are:

  • Writing about an object
  • Writing about a person
  • Writing about a place

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