The most important Key Terms for GCSE Drama?

I have been researching into the different Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications recently. In particular, the different Key Terminology that they state students need to know or should know. I’m currently working on a study of the impact of those key terms on the delivery of the specifications, how students use them and their importance in the ultimate success of a Drama student at these levels.

This work is still on going and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you, but some interesting variations have already started to appear. For example, looking at the big four exam boards for GCSE Drama (AQA, Edexcel, Eduqas/WJEC and OCR) there are 303 separate and specific mentions of key terms across all their specifications. However there are only 20 Key Terms that appear in all of the specifications.

I thought that there would be far greater consensus on the Key Terminology required for GCSE Drama students to learn, know and apply. Although I haven’t included all 303 words here, they are distinctly different terms. There isn’t a case where one exam board calls an idea one thing and another exam board calls it another.

So, are these the ultimately key terms that all Drama Students should know? The fact that they are included in all four specifications suggests so. Do you agree?



The way you, or an actor, uses their voice to speak in character in the context of the play. This can consist of adapting or changing accents or the way you enunciate words. 


Pace is the speed that dialogue and/or action is delivered to the audience.


Pitch is about the vocal register of the tone of voice, we often simplify this to whether you speak in a high, medium or low pitch.


Language in drama is the way in which a character’s way of speaking has been written, or devised, in a play. The author/s will create characters with different diction, speech or phrasing which suggest a particular class, profession or type of character.



The way you, or an actor, uses their facial muscles to create expression and show emotions. 


A gesture can be any movement made with any part of the body which indicates something to another character or the audience. 


Being still on stage as a response to an action or event within the plot of the play. 

Performance Texts


A climax is the highest point of tension, often at the end or near the end of the play, when the resolution of the plot is revealed and concluded. An Anti-Climax occurs when that resolution is incomplete, disappointing or unsatisfying, 


A character is the role that the actor plays in a performance.


Devised Drama is a performance which is developed by the actors themselves, sometimes with the help of a director and/or playwright. The performance is developed from a stimulus and there is no script from which the actors start working. However, a script may be developed and worked on as part of the devising process.


A genre is the style or type of theatre that a play or performance might belong to. It is possible for a play to be given more than one genre.


A monologue is a speech within a play or performance that is delivered by an actor who is alone on stage.


Subtext is about looking beyond what the characters say in the script and analysing them for a deeper meaning that may reflect the characters sub-conscious, real motivations, delusions or beliefs. 


Stage directions are the instructions that the author has written in the play indicating, telling or suggesting to the actors how and when to enter, exit or say their lines.

Performance Spaces and Theatres

END ON           

An End On Stage configuration is pretty typical in most Drama Studios. The stage, which may or may not be raised, faces the audience who are all sitting in the same direction which looks directly forward onto the stage. Entrance and exits tend to be from the sides and there may or may not be any backdrop, stage flats or furnishing to provide a backstage area.

IN THE ROUND            

In The Round formation has the stage as a circle in the centre of the theatre with the audience sitting all around them. There can be a number of entrances and exits. Blocking the view of the audience can be difficult, so careful consideration is needed when thinking about where to stand, where to move and how to deal with furniture / scenery. 


Promenade theatre is a form of theatre that moves around a space or even venue. The audience can move as well, to follow the action, and see it from different angles and perspectives.


The Proscenium Arch is the most common form of theatre in England. It is like having a box as a stage, but the audience can see through one side of it. There will be a backdrop and flats to indicate setting and location on the three sides of the box and it is framed by the opening of the fourth side.


This stage formation develops from either the Proscenium Arch or the End-On style formations. In this formation, the stage extends into the audience from the main acting area and moves the audience so that they are sitting on 2 or three sides of the noe extended stage.


In this form of staging, the audience are sat on either side of the stage and the stage itself runs the length of the room. Similar to Theatre In The Round, movement and staging can be challenging to make sure that the audience can see what is happening at all times.