German » GCSE

How to tutor GCSE German

Posted 4 days ago by Alice Farrell

There are two secrets to doing well at GCSE German: being confident and enjoying yourself. You can't learn a language overnight, and the skills you need to speak and understand another language must be built up over time. As a tutor, it's your job to not only help students to master the GCSE syllabus, but also to show them how to enjoy German.

Preparing for your first lesson

Give yourself time to get to know each new student. Find out their strengths and weaknesses by asking them what they think they are good at and what they want to improve. Ask them if there's anything in particular that they want to work on with regards to both topic areas and skills, and then adapt your teaching style to suit how they learn best. Remember to find out which exam board they are using so that any exercises or sample questions you prepare are tailored towards the requirements of their syllabus. Look closely at the mark scheme and make sure you’re aware of what the examiners will be looking for.

Give yourself time to get to know each new student. Find out their strengths and weaknesses by asking them what they think they are good at and what they want to improve.

I like to ease students in slowly, so if they want to work on their Listening or Reading, I start with a few past paper questions taken from the exam board’s website so that I can gauge their ability in relation to where they need to be by the end of the course.

For Speaking and Writing, I ask my student to choose a topic in advance of the lesson, and I’ll then prepare a few questions on that topic based on past papers. I go through these questions with the student in the session, paying close attention to their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and noting anything that they need to improve so that I can incorporate it into future sessions.

Let the student's needs shape the sessions and don't be afraid to ask them for feedback at the end of each lesson. You can use this feedback to find out if there was anything that you went through which was particularly useful, and if they would like you to do anything differently in the future.


To succeed at Listening and Reading, a wide vocabulary is key. Sometimes my students ask me for a vocabulary test on one of the GCSE topics, for example 'School' or 'Family and Friends'. I usually begin these sessions by testing them on a range of words taken from either a GCSE textbook or an online vocabulary list (just searching the topic name on the internet usually reveals a wide range of resources). I then encourage them to apply this new vocabulary by translating a few short sentences which I have prepared myself before the session.

It can also be useful to give your student a short text to read or listen to with some pre-prepared questions to go with it. This will help them to think about the language and engage actively with vocabulary that you’ve taught them. Once you've exhausted the exam board's past papers, you can find resources from other exam boards (there's usually quite a lot of overlap between them), from websites such as BBC Bitesize and Languages Online, or again just by searching the name of the topic online.

Practising for the Writing exam is a great way to make your students think about and correct their own mistakes. Go through their marking time with them in the lesson space, encouraging them to spot their own errors. From here, you can start more general discussions about grammar points such as tenses, conjugation, and adjective endings. Grammar is important, but it can seem abstract and overwhelming when taken out of context. When you approach grammar via a practical task, it’s easy for students see how grammar is applied and concrete examples can help them to remember the rules.

Grammar is important, but it can seem abstract and overwhelming when taken out of context.

Emphasise to your students that fifteen minutes of practice or learning on a daily basis will help them to improve their grades, and will mean that they won't have to rush everything at the last minute in the run up to exams. Introduce them to apps such as Memrise, DuoLinguo, and Anki, where they can use the plethora of resources that are already available to help them to expand their vocabulary or even input their own lists.


Students often feel nervous about the Speaking and Writing exams. A great way of building your students' confidence is to help them to accumulate a list of impressive phrases which they can use during their Speaking and Writing exams. Idioms, negatives, relative clauses, unusual adjectives, and a wide range of tenses are all things that will help your students to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate their knowledge of the German language. This type of vocabulary is complicated and can be hard to formulate on the spot, but memorising a range of adaptable phrases will enhance your students’ work and help them to reach the top grades.

Remember that for all parts of the exam, practice really does make perfect. For Speaking, go through sample questions with your students. Emphasise that it doesn't matter if what they say in the exam isn't true: telling the examiner that you have three hamsters in correct German when you don't is better than struggling to say that you have a parrot when you can' t remember the correct vocabulary!

Remember that for all parts of the exam, practice really does make perfect.

You can help your students to feel at ease in an exam situation by going through filler phrases such as 'Wie bitte?' and 'Ich bin damit einverstanden'. Make sure you phrase any questions you ask in a slightly different way to how they are written on the sheet. This will help the students to cope with unfamiliar structures and words in the exam. Note any recurring errors and correct your students at the end of the session, but make sure that you also include lots of positive feedback to build their confidence.

Finally, staying motivated is essential if your students want to do well, so be sure to show them why German is fun: play them German songs, show them bits of German films, and upload cartoons and articles to the lesson space. They'll see that they can understand more than they think and will learn new words without even realizing it, helping them to develop a lifelong love of the German language.

Written by - Jess Allen

Jess Allen graduated with a first in French and German from Oxford University in 2016, and has since completed over 80 hours of tuition with MyTutor.

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