Should we aim to do what these people (the exemplars) do – or put more effort in?
It isn’t a question of effort: it’s a question of judgement and analysis. Use the formulas, and write to time succinctly.

How do we get 8 out of 8?
Aim for breadth and depth of analysis. That is, when you read, see if you can deepen your inference of some points by reference to other points, or appropriate modality. Some markers enjoy creative linking of language points, but specific analysis is king.

How analytical do we need to be in the exam compared to class?
In our class we have analysed in tremendous depth compared to what might be expected in the 15 minutes so of reading and writing. However, thought isn’t a finite, measurable thing: you should find that you are able to analyse succinctly under exam conditions thanks to the practice you have be doing.

Does a conclusion get you extra marks?
A conclusion for the reading questions isn’t entirely necessary, and certainly isn’t referenced in exemplar pieces. As analysis breaks down an article into constituent parts, I would concentrate on expanding analysis for those parts than writing what might be a generic conclusion. Of course, if you did think of an evaluative point about what was, for you, the most important point/device, that wouldn’t harm your writing at all.

Why don’t we plan answers to the first three questions?
The first three questions of Paper 1 (Reading) are planned in terms of your annotations. Remember the Anderson reading method – three times, skimming first time. Find P&A before reading in detail (and read the question, too.) Ensure you have top 3-5 points written in the form of numbers next to the paragraphs. And ensure your first sentence relates to purpose and audience. This will be your plan.

Do we aim for an A* or even more?
Excellent question: ensure that you aware of the writing style necessary for the GCSE paper. We are capable of analysis beyond the remits of the exam, but we must not move too far beyond what the exam intends to test. Remember – the better able you are at analysing an article, the better able you are at recognising and critiquing how it – and teachers like me! – try to manipulate and influence you.

Bear in mind, though, that if you write in a style that doesn’t reflect the exam criteria, you risk missing out on the marks. Be smart, and save your art for where it might matter more.

How analytical should we be in the first question?
The first question should be inferential analysis – not that of language devices. Take reference from across the article, and not just a few parts. ┬áDon’t spend too long.