How to get top grades in GCSE Spanish

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How to get top grades in GCSE Spanish

In this article you will discover 21 different ways on how to get the top grades in GCSE Spanish.

Let’s dive straight in.

Use Tener structures – top tip number 1

A “tener” structure is a phrase or a sentence which uses the verb tener (to have).

Here are a few examples:

Tengo dieciseis años (I am sixteen years old)

Ian tiene suerte porque va a España para las vacaciones. (Ian is lucky because he goes to Spain for his holidays)

Tengo miedo de viajar en avión ( I am afraid of travelling by plane)

If you are not sure on how to conjugate “tener”, click on the video below.

For a longer list of “tener” expressions click here

Justify your opinion – top tip number 2

A good way to score highly in the written and spoken part of the GCSE Spanish exam is to state your opinion and, even better, justify your opinion.

Expressing your opinion

Here are some easy examples of expressing your opinion:

Pienso que – I think that

Creo que – I believe that

Opino que – I think that, in my opinion (old-fashioned English I opine that)

Me parece que – It seems to me that

If you can memorise these key little phrases, both your spoken and written Spanish will improve.

What’s more, if you can justify your opinion, the quality of your Spanish improves just a little more.

Justifying your opinion

Here is an example building on the above, where opinions have been justified.

Pienso que Chelsea es un buen equipo ya que tiene futbolistas de alta calidad.

(I think that Chelsea is a good team because it has some high-quality footballers)

….ya que means because or since and it makes the sentence longer and therefore gains higher marks.

Making your sentence longer also means that you are eating into the word count for the written part of the paper.

The above sentence has 14 words, just short of 10% of the word requirement for the written higher paper (150 words)

Here is another example:

Me parece que España es un país de interés turístico dado que tiene playas bonitas, comida riquísima y monumentos históricos. (20 words)

(It seems to me that Spanish is an interesting country for tourists given that it has beautiful beaches, excellent food and historic monuments)

…..dado que means given that.

By using “given that” the sentence has been extended and this has given the opportunity to create a more interesting sentence.

This sentence scores highly.

Use “Sin” + Infinitive – top tip number 3

Sin means “without”.

If you use this expression with an infinitive, it is a neat stylistic trick, that the Spanish GCSE examiners love!.

It is simple and easy to use – so why not use it and pick up some easy marks!

Try these as good examples:-

Sin perder un momento, hice mis deberes.

Without wasting any time, I did my homework.

Es mejor vivir sin fumar

It is better to live without smoking.

Sin aprender los verbos irregulares en español, te resultará difîcil sacar buenas notas.

Without learning the Spanish irregular verbs, it will be difficult for you to get good marks.

Use “Antes de” + infinitive – top tip number 4

“Antes de” means before. When coupled with an infinitive, a longer, more complex construction is formed, and, accordingly, is rewarded well by GCSE examiners.

Below are a number of examples of its use.

It is recommended that you remember a phrase like this, so that you can put it easily into your writing and speaking.

Antes de ir al colegio, desayuné a las siete y media.

(Before going to school, I had breakfast at half past seven).

Notice the difference between the English and the Spanish. In Spanish, the infinitive is used, but in English, the present participle or gerund is used (-ing words).

 Antes de volver a casa después del colegio, fui al polideportivo con mis amigos.

(Before going home after school I went to the sports centre with my friends)

Benefits of “chunking” phrases together

Also, note the way that you can build up sentences by “chunking” phrases together.

The above sentence of 14 words (some 10% of the word count required for the higher papers) is made up of four “chunks:

1 – Antes de volver a casa

2 – después del colegio

3 – fui al polideportivo

4 – con mis amigos

By using “chunks” of language, it is easier to form longer sentences which are accurate and score highly in the exam.

This sentence could be extended even further by adding a “chunk” of time (a las cuatro y media) and developing a a reason “chunk for going to the sports centre (ya que nos llevamos bien y lo pasamos bomba juntos).

If we put all of these “chunks” together, a long flowing accurate and highly scoring sentence is produced.

 Antes de volver a casa a las cuatro y media después del colegio, fui al polideportivo con mis amigos ya que nos llevamos bien y lo pasamos bomba juntos. (29 words – nearly 20% of the required words for the written higher paper.

 Use “Al” + infinitive – top tip number 5

Another really helpful way of extending the length of your sentences is to use the expression “al”+ the infinitive.

“Al + the infinitive means “on doing something.”

Al llegar al colegio, hablé con mis amigos.

(On arriving at school, I spoke to my friends)

This construction scores well in the GCSE Spanish examiners’ eyes because of the way the Spanish contrasts with the English.

Al volver a casa, siempre meriendo antes de hacer mis deberes.

(On arriving home from school, I always have a snack before doing my homework).

Use “Después de” + infinitive – top tip number 6

“Después de” means after.

“Después de” followed by the infinitive means “after doing….”

It is another useful construction which scores well in the written part of the exam.

Después de hacer mis deberes, vi la televisión y me acosté.

After doing my homework, I watched TV and went to bed.

Después de charlar con mis amigos durante el recreo, fui a mi clase de espańol.

After chatting with my friends during break, I went to my Spanish class.

Use Exclamations – top tip number 7

The use of real, authentic exclamations in your written and spoken Spanish can give a real “lift” to your work.

In essence, it makes your work work sound really Spanish.

This tip really does work!  ¡Caramba!

Below is a small list of examples.

Mi amigo quiere ir al cine. ¡Qué buena idea!

(My friend wants to go to the cinema. What a good idea!)

(Mi padre me dio un móvil – ¡qué guay!)

My dad gave me a mobile – how cool!

Quisiera ir a la fiesta de mi amiga pero no puedo. ¡Qué rollo!

I want to go to my friend’s party but I can’t. What a pain!

A bonus tip – when using this tip, don’t forget the neat little upside down exclamation mark. ¡ Qué buena idea!

Use “a pesar de” + infinitive – top tip number 8

A pesar de means “in spite of”. Coupled with the infinitive, as in the other tips of this sort, it lends a real authentic “feel” to the Spanish.

And, need it be said, the examiners do like this.

So, “a pesar de hacer mis deberes” means “in spite of doing my homework”.

Note that the Spanish is using an infinitive in this construction, whilst the English uses the present participle or gerund.

Some examples:

A pesar de trabajar bien en matemáticas, todavía saco malas notas.

(In spite of working hard in maths, I still get bad marks.)

A pesar de evitar la comida grasa, me resulta difícil.

(In spite of avoiding fatty foods, I find it difficult.)

Use “acabar de” + infinitive – top tip number 9

“Acabar de” means to have just.

This expression, when followed by an infinitive, means “to have done” followed the meaning of the verb.

To illustrate this, here are some examples:

Acabo de sacar buenas notas en mis exámenes.

(I have just got good marks in my exams.)

Acaban de ganar cinco partidos sin perder.

(They have just won 5 matches without losing).

Notice that I also used tip number 2 …. sin perder .

This leads onto another bonus tip – try and weave together a number of these tips into one sentence to achieve an awesome result, – this will certainly catch the GCSE Spanish examiners’ eyes.

This is exactly what I have done with acabar de and sin perder.

Here is a more complicated example form the Identity and Culture theme:

Acabo de darme cuenta de que hay menos diferencias entre los padres y los chicos hoy en dîa.

(I have just realised that there are less differences between parents and children these days).

Use “estar a punto de” + infinitive – top tip number 10

“Estar a punto de” + infinitive means “to be about to” or “to be on the point of” doing something.

Two examples from the Identity and Culture theme are below:

Estoy a punto de ir al cine con mis amigos. ¡Qué bien!

(I am about to go to the cinema with my friends. Great!)

Estaban a punto de salir, cuando llegaron sus abuelos.

They were about to leave when their grandparents arrived.

Use comparatives – top tip number 11

A comparative is when you compare one thing with another.

For example in English we say:

“I am taller than my brother.”

The way you can normally spot a comparative in English is when an adjective has -er as a suffix (on the end of the word)

Examples of the comparative in English:




In Spanish you put the word más in front of the adjective to form the comparative, as follows:

(taller) – más alto

(shorter) – más bajo 

(quicker) – más rápido

With this tip in mind, you can construct a sentence which will score highly in the written or spoken exam.

Soy más alto que mi hermano, pero más bajo que mi hemana mayor.

(I am taller than my brother, but shorter than my elder sister)

El tren es más rápido que el coche, pero el avión es más rápido que el tren.

(The train is quicker than the car, but the plane is quicker than the train).

Note that in both of these sentences “than” is translated by “que”.

Use superlatives – top tip number 12

A superlative is when you say that something is the best.

For example in English we say:

“He is the quickest in the class.”

“He is the most intelligent in the class”

The way you can normally spot a superlative in English is when an adjective has -est as a suffix (on the end of the word), or has the word “most” before it (as in example two above)

Examples of the comparative in English:




most intelligent

In Spanish you put the word el más or la más or los más or las más (as appropriate) in front of the adjective to form the comparative, as follows:

El chico es el más alto (the boy is the tallest)

La chica es la más baja (the girl is the shortest)

Los trenes son los más rápidos (the trains are the quickest)

With this particular tip in mind, you can construct a sentence which will score highly in the written or spoken exam.

Es el chico el más inteligente de la clase.

(He is the most intelligent boy in the class)

Hussain Bolt es el hombre más rápido del mundo.

(Hussain Bolt is the quickest man in the world).

Madrid es la ciudad la más grande de España.

(Madrid is the largest city in Spain.

Para mí, España es el país el más hermoso de Europa

(I think that Spain is the prettiest country in Europe.

Use negatives – top tip number 13

A good way of boosting your grade in the written or the spoken papers is to use a negative phrase, but something more adventurous than using the simple “no”.

Here are couple of good examples:

Mi hermana no hace nunca sus deberes y por eso no saca buenas notas en los exámenes.

(My sister never does her homework and therefore she does not get good marks in the exams).

No me gustan las matemáticas ni las ciencias ya que prefiero los idiomas.

(I do not like maths or sciences because I prefer languages)

No no conozco a nadie dado que acabo de llegar en el colegio.

(I don’t know anybody because I have just arrived at school.)

Use a subjunctive – top tip number 14

This little tip is worth its weight in gold.

Examiners love the subjunctive.

Whilst you do not really have to know how it is formed (this is “A” Spanish level work), if you can remember two or three phrases, it will really pay off in the exam.

Cuando tenga dieciocho años voy a hacer un ańo sabático.

When I am eighteen, I will take a year off.

(…and, yes, if you were wondering, tengA is not a typo! The last letter is an a and not an o.

Si tuviera bastante dinero iría a Argentina para conocer a la gente allí.

(If I had enough money I would go to Argentina to get to know the people there.

¡Ojalá ganemos la lotería!

(If only we could win the lottery!)

Ojalá haga buen tiempo mañana ya que estoy harto de la lluvia.

(I hope the weather is good tomorrow because I am fed up with the rain.)

Use “Desde hace” – top tip number 15

This is a classic high scoring phrase which can be easily woven into your speaking and writing.

It scores well because there is a contrast between the way English and Spanish deal with the same concept.

Vivo en Londres desde hace muchos años.

(I have been living in London for many years).

Note in Spanish the idea is conveyed by using the present tense. This contrasts with the use of the past tense in English.

Estudio español desde hace cinco años.

(I have been studying Spanish for five years).

Use “hace” + time – top tip number 16

Hace is the third person singular of the irregular verb “hacer” (to do/ make).

It therefore can mean he / she / you (usted) make or do.

However, it can also mean “ago” when used with a time phrase.

Hace un año, durante el mes de agosto, fui a España en avión con mis padres.

A year ago I went to Spain by plane with my parents.

Notice the way I “chunked” this sentence – the result being a 16 word phrase, which is correct and under control. Also, coming in at 16 words it is more than 10% of the word count requirement for the higher paper.

Bonus tip – learn “chunks” of Spanish so that you can build up fluency when speaking and it laos make writing a lot easier.

Hace cinco años empecé mis estudios de español.

Five years ago, I started my Spanish studies.

Use connectives – top tip number 17

Connectives are the key to making your GCSE Spanish speaking and writing flow.

And, what’s more, the examiners love them.


Because the use of connectives means that your work will flow naturally and be organised so that it is easy to read for the examiner.

And, we all know that it is important to keep the examiners happy!

Also, sensible use of connectives means that you can eat into the word count in your Spanish writing really quickly.

Let’s demonstrate that particular point.

Here are a few favourites:

Por un lado …. por otro lado (on the one hand …and on the other hand)

Lo malo es que … lo bueno es que …. (the good thing is that … the bad thing is that)

De vez en cuando (from time to time)

El año que viene (next year).

En la actualidad – currently

Un montón de – a lot of (uses up more words than plain old mucho!)

Useful Spanish writing expressions especially for GCSE Spanish

All of these phrases quickly eat into the word count.

Look at these phrases and see how, through chunking, it is quite easy to build up some long and accurate phrases.

Let’s go!

Por un lado, me gusta jugar al golf con mis amigos de vez en cuando pero lo malo es que pierdo mucho tiempo en el campo de golf y suelo tener un montón de deberes. (35 palabras)

(On the one hand, I like to play golf with my friends from time to time, but the bad thing is that I waste a lot on time on the golf course and I usually have a load of homework)

Mientras que en la actualidad suelo pasar dos o tres horas en Facebook, el año que viene voy a reducir el número de horas ya que tengo mis exámenes y quiero sacar buenas notas. (35 palabras).

(Whilst I currently normally spend two or three hours on Facebook, next year I am going to reduce the number of hours because I have exams and I want to get good marks).

Use “para” + infinitive – top tip number 18

Para can mean “for”.

For example “for me” is para mí.

However, in this top tip para means “to” or even better “in order to”.

So, when para is followed by an infinitive, it creates a constructive which is authentically Spanish and which, of course, the examiners love!

There is, therefore, every reason to use the odd para + infinitive or two in your Spanish writing and speaking.

Para jugar bien al fútbol hay que practicar de vez en cuando, comer sano y beber mucho agua.

(In order) to play football well, you have to practise from time to time, eat healthily and drink lots of water.

Para escribir bien en español tienes que aprender usar frases útiles para asegurar la calidad de lo que escribes.

In order to write Spanish well, you have to use helpful phrases to ensure the quality of what you are writing.

Para celebrar el cumpeaños de mi hermano fuimos al restaurante en el centro de la ciudad.

To celebrate my brother’s birthday, we went to the Italian restaurant in the centre of town.

Use pronouns – top tip number 19

A pronoun replaces a noun.

There can be two different sorts of pronouns – direct and indirect.

Here is a list of the direct object pronouns

me – me

te – you (singular, informal)

lo – him or it or you (formal)

la – her or it or you (formal)

nos – us

os – you (plural, informal)

los – them or you (formal, plural)

las – them or you (formal, plural)

Here is a list of the indirect object pronouns

me – (to/for) me

te – (to/for) you (singular, informal)

le – (to/for) him or her or it or you (formal)

nos –  (to/for) us

os – (to/for) you (plural, informal)

les – (to/for) them or you (formal, plural)

Here are a trio examples of how pronouns can be used:

Voy a llevarlos – I am going to wear them (direct pronoun)

¿El autobús? Nunca lo tomo – voy a pie – The bus? I never take it – I go on foot. (direct pronoun)

Voy a darle mis deberes – I am going to give (to) him my homework (indirect pronoun)

Use opinions – top tip number 20

Use idiomatic expressions – top tip 21

First up – what is an idiom?

A quick search on the internet gave this as a definition:

An idiom (also called idiomatic expression) is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning conventionally understood by native speakers.

This meaning is different from the literal meaning of the idiom’s individual elements.

In other words, idioms don’t mean exactly what the words say.

This is why using idiomatic expressions scores highly in the GCSE Spanish exam.

Here are some examples of idioms in English:

At the drop of a hat

Meaning: without any hesitation; instantly.

Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning : Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person

Here are a trio of tasty Spanish idioms:

Estar mojado hasta los huesos – to be soaked to the skin (literally “to the bones”)

Llueve a cántaros – it is raining cats and dogs (literally “it is jugging it down”!)

Tomar el pelo – to pull someone’s leg (literally “to pull someone’s hair”)

To wrap up this article, here is a great list of Spanish idioms from Fluentu.


15 Common Spanish Idioms for Sounding Like a Native


So there you have it!

…..21 top tips on how to score high grades in the GCSE Spanish exam.

Used liberally in your writing, you are guaranteed success.