FAQs for Cambridge International AS and A Level English Language (9093)


Some questions on 9093 Question Papers specify word limits, while others do not. Do these other questions have limits?

In all cases, if there is a word limit for a question then it will be clearly stated on the Question Paper. If no word limit is specified, then candidates may write as much or as little as they consider appropriate for completing the task, within the time allowed.

For questions where there is a word limit, what happens if candidates write more or less than is specified?

While examiners are trained not to be overly strict on the exact boundaries of the word limits, candidates should nevertheless be strongly advised to stay within them. Candidates who write less than is specified will clearly reduce their opportunity to demonstrate their learning, and so are likely to self-penalise. Likewise, candidates who write more than the specified number of words may self-penalise in two ways: firstly, their writing may not be sufficiently concise as to meet the demands of the question (i.e. with regard to the specifications on focus and task completion in the relevant mark scheme); secondly, they may not leave enough time to adequately address other parts of the question paper.

Are all words, short or long, counted towards the word limit?

Yes, word limits are set bearing in mind variations in word length, and include both short and long words.

In the directed writing tasks on Papers 1 and 2, does a response have to be formatted according to the conventions of the text type stipulated in the question (e.g. columns for a newspaper article).

It is not necessary for candidates to lay out their written responses in the format of the text type stipulated in the question. Writing is rewarded for use of language and style rather than for visual formatting.

Can a candidate answer questions out of order (e.g. Question 2 before Question 1)?

Candidates can answer questions in whichever order they wish. They should take care to label their responses with the correct question number.

Is an IGCSE/O Level qualification in English as a Second Language adequate preparation for study on the AS/AL English Language syllabus (9093)?

9093 AS/AL English Language is designed for candidates with a first-language level of English, and study of a first-language IGCSE/O Level is strong preparation. Study of Second-language English at IGCSE/O Level is good preparation, though it should be noted that tasks for assessment on 9093 involve textual and linguistic analysis from a first-language perspective. Information about the different English syllabuses offered by Cambridge International is available here.

Where can I find more information on how particular annotations are used in the marking of scripts?

We do not publish fixed definitions of our annotations for a number of important reasons. As each individual Question Paper is different, the precise application of the marking criteria is agreed among examiners at each examiner standardisation meeting. The annotations are used to enable our teams of standardised examiners to consistently and succinctly document the process through which they have awarded marks and to communicate this to their supervisors. Consequently, the meaning of each annotation is both nuanced and highly contextualised, so does not permit simple definition.

Where can we find more resources for this syllabus?

Resources such as specimen papers, schemes of work, example candidate responses and learner guides are available on our School Support Hub. Here, you will also find links to published resources endorsed by Cambridge. Teachers can also access and share teaching resources, ideas and questions on our subject forum, found under the ‘Community’ tab on the School Support Hub.

For more information and materials on this syllabus, please visit our School Support Hub here.

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