English Revision Guide


Step one for revising for any exam do not panic! You already have everything you need that will enable you to get a good mark. Confidence is key!
Before beginning, its worth remembering that revision is a marathon, not a sprint. No amount of cramming the day before will make you feel more confident or prepared!

So, step one – planning your revision time effectively. This applies to every subject youre studying. Now is the time to get smart and savvy with your time management!
Firstly: which exam comes first?
Secondly: which texts/material do I need to prepare for that exam?
Thirdly: will I have any material with me in the exam (is it a seen/unseen exam)?
Now you have a timeline, you can arrange your calendar accordingly.

Give yourself as much time as possible. Mark the days and make a schedule for yourself e.g. Monday evening phonetics and prosodics, Tuesday evening Wise Children, etc etc. The more time you give yourself, the better. Starting is the hardest part trust me when I say it all gets easier once youve put pen to paper! P.S. You MUST include breaks within your revision schedule. Your brain can only take so much information at a time, so resting is vital. Do not underestimate the power of a 20 minute break to help solidify information in your memory!

Layout all the areas you need to cover and begin plotting when you can slot these into your timetable. Again, the more time you can prep, the better. Remember that youll need go back and revisit all of them again, so dont assume that if youve revised it once, youre finished!
So now youve got a timetable of what youll be revising and when.

So now, an incredibly simple question: what do I need to do to get the examiner to award me marks? Easy! To allocate marks, examiners will be using a set of criteria called assessment objectives (AOs). Your teacher will know exactly what these AOs are already so you could ask them, or you can find them yourself in your course syllabus via the exam boards website. For example, for AQA A-Level English Literature, AO2 measures how a student analyse(s) ways in which meanings are shaped in literary texts, with particular focus on the structures of texts as a form of shaping.
Out of all of the AOs, AO2 contains a large portion of marks allocated, so from this, you know you need to devote a lot of time in your essay to exploring how meaning is construed in each of your texts, and what various literary structures the author uses to achieve this for example, in Great Expectations, you might begin to discuss about how Bront manipulates a conventional narrative structure in Wuthering Heights by deploying the use of multiple unreliable narrators, thereby shaping our meaning and understanding of truth in the novel.

By translating each AO into real terms, you can begin to build yourself a framework from which you can hit all the criteria needed for a good grade.

Now you know what things youll need to write to collect some marks, its time to look at past papers and do some light detective work.
Past papers are an extremely useful resource. Try and get access to as many of them as you can. Read through all the questions what questions have been asked in the past, what themes recur regularly, are there any topics you hadnt considered but have appeared in a past paper? The more of a profile you can build of what may be expected of you in the exam room, the more prepared you can be.
Combining what you know from past papers and from what you have been studying with your teachers, come up with some alternative possibilities of what you may be asked. This might be approaching a theme from an angle that you hadnt considered before, for example, instead of women in Shakespeare, maybe sisters, or mothers in Shakespeare.
Do some work for all of these alternatives – that does not mean spend two hours writing an essay question for every possible option (youll burn yourself out!) but instead, come up with three strong specific points with supporting evidence. If you are thrown a curveball, you will then be able to improvise around it easily with your wide baseline of knowledge. Exams are designed to test your independent spontaneous thought dont be scared to input your opinion, as long as you support your arguments fully. Youre telling the story of your interpretation of the text if youre passionate about it, the examiner will see that through your writing, which means more marks!

So try find something about your materials that interests you. If the gender politics within Great Expectations makes you furrow your brow, investigate them! Read an eco-critical interpretation of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, anything that sparks an interest outside of your prescribed study. This is a great way to bring a personal passion into your subject, which will only be beneficial to your writing. A little extra goes a long way to show that youre thinking critically about the text.

For your first trial run with a practice paper, I would recommend to give yourself a little more time than granted in the actual exam maybe 20/30 minutes. Its your first go, and this is the perfect opportunity to write as much as you can and in as much detail as you can.
From this, you can then review what youve done with your extra time and see how you can structure your essays differently to save time, refine your arguments, and prioritise your points.
Once youve done this a couple of times, then you will feel much more comfortable putting yourself in a timed scenario. They say practice makes perfect they are not wrong. The more papers you do, the more confident youll feel in your writing.

There are so many potential methods to revise for any exam, so its good to experiment with what ways work best for you. Try colour coding and making flash cards; record yourself presenting your essay in speech form; form discussion groups with your peers. Primarily, look after yourself. Rest, get plenty of sleep, and do not panic! Youre in the drivers seat, and the examiners want to give you marks. All you have to do is give them what they need!

Now go write the best essays of your life!

Additional resources:

How to Choose Quotes to Learn for English GCSE
Tips for Oxbridge English Applicants
How to Structure an English Literature Essay: AS and A-level

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