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How to memorise quotes – (great for closed book exams!)

Memorising quotes can be a crucial element to your GCSE and A-level exams, so mastering the skill can be essential.

Being able to use quotes in your written responses is a sure way to get marks for demonstrating your understanding of a text and deploying evidence to support you arguments.

If you’re yet to pick out your killer quotes, then read our article ‘How to choose quotes for English GCSE’ for some general tips.

We know that trying to learn endless quotes can be a chore – if you’re bored of standard revision methods and want something new, why not try our alternatives? Tavistock Tutors have compiled a list of tips to help improve your memory and help you excel.

Don’t try to learn them all at once

Trying to learn quotes can be hard enough as it is without overloading yourself with them all at once!

So to get yourself start, try and choose 5 or 6 at a time to work on. Trying to memorize too many will be difficult and you’re likely to get them mixed up. You won’t be able to learn 100 quotes in an afternoon – so start early, choose your list, and work through them gradually.

Go post-it note crazy

Want gentle reminders of vocabulary without actively trying to learn them? Using post-it notes can be a great way to learn quotes over a longer period of time.

You firstly write down your quote down on a post-it note; ideally this should be something that is concise enough to fit onto the small space. You could even try and colour co-ordinate your post-it notes, for example having a different colour for a different theme or character to help you remember them in groups!

Keep writing down your quotes onto post-it notes, and then take all these different notes and stick them about your house. You can put them anywhere and everywhere, all around the house. For example, on cupboard doors, in your drawers, mirrors, windows and the fridge (Make sure you get permission first!)

When you next reach for a quick revision snack, you’ll be reminded of the quote. You could even go around the room and try and read them aloud from memory before having a look!

Visualize!

If you know that you’re a visual learner, then why not use this to your advantage?

Repeatedly scrawling notes in the same black pen is exciting for nobody – why not introduce some variety or infuse some colour! Create a mind-map, such as a theme, and then try writing all of your quotes around it. This visual image is more likely to stay in your mind, and you could even try and write it out from scratch to test yourself!

Get creative and draw some images associated with the quote – it doesn’t matter if it’s not a masterpiece – it will help you visualise the quote in your mind as it will be more memorable!

Index/ Flashcards

Whatever you call them, flash cards are an age-old tool which are helpful for remembering small pieces of information – from quotes to statistics. All you need to do is cut up some paper or card into palm cards and write each of your quotes on an individual card.

On one side, write the quotation. On the other, write key words from it.

First, read the quote several times aloud. Then flip the card over and use the key words to jog your memory. Finally, hide the card and see if you can remember. (It can be good to just put one key word on the back as a reminder!)

You can grab index cards in different colours which could work with your colour co-ordination, and they’re small and portable so you can try and learn the quotes anywhere – even on the bus to school!

Play games

You can spice up your revision by doing different things with your index cards:

Put all of your index in an opaque bag:

Round 1: like Taboo, you can describe the quote without using any of the words in the quote. Work your way through all your cards and put them back in the bag.
Round 2: act out the quotation (easier because you already know what’s in the pile!)
Round 3: You get to say just one word to prompt your team to guess the quote (not from the quote itself!)

Read, cover, say and write

This is another classic revision technique that you may have tried when learning words for the first time. But Tavistock Tutors think it can be just as useful now!

Use your index cards again or grab a plain piece of paper which you can fold. Read the quote, cover it over, and repeat the quote. Check if you got it. Then repeat and write it down. You can develop this to repeating the analysis of the quotes too.

This will also show you which quotes you’re struggling to remember – make sure you come back to those difficult ones more often, so that they stay in your long-term memory!
Record them

Here at Tavistock Tutors, we recognise that everyone hates the sound of their own voice – but saying things aloud and then listening to them again has been scientifically proven to improve your memory!

Most phones and computers have a microphone or memo function. You can record the quotes and then play them over again whenever you have a few spare minutes. Hearing them, mouthing the words along with yourself or saying them out loud can all help.

It can be a really easy and passive way to learn quotes, whilst maybe doing something else – Some people even listen to them as they’re falling asleep

TEE Tables

TEE tables may be new to you. TEE tables are based on the middle 3 letters of the STEEL acronym, standing for Technique, Example and Effect.

By creating a TEE Table you pretty much break list your quotes in a super simple format, along with the techniques and brief analysis associated with them, making TEE Tables really useful to study from!

By filling in the technique, example and effect your get all your information in one place, meaning you can then go on to use it almost as a rapid-fire study sheet.

This might be a more drawn out way to learn quotes, but it will also get you used to analysing them – Filling out these tables encourages memory recall of not just the quote, but also the technique it’s showing and how you plan to analyse it. But this skill will definitely will be helpful for your exams!

Example TEE table:

Technique Example Effect
Exclamation ‘How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!’ – Caesar The use of exclamation demonstrates Caesar’s sense of anger. His perspective has quickly changed and he is dismayed at his wife’s actions, which is also demonstrated in the use of direct address at the end of the quote.

Quizzing and teaching

Another uncommon way to learn quotes and small snippets of information, is by working with other people and speaking them aloud. Many people underestimate the power of talking as a useful way of remembering things.

If you’re in a group, or just at home – you could ask someone to go thorugh your revision resources with you. By trying to teach someone else some information, you will simultaneously be strengthening your own knowledge of the topic.

Try and explain the context of the quote to someone (maybe even your dog or a wall if you can’t find someone) and then this will help you to understand it and memorise it better.

You could even produce a small presentation with your quotes on. This could include more context surrounding the quotes as well as images – this is sure to remain in your memory if you’ve been teaching other people using your presentation.

Online resources

If you fancy something a little different, without using pen and paper – then there’s plenty of resources online to help you learn things quickly!

Websites such as Memrise (https://www.memrise.com) and Quizlet (https://quizlet.com/en-gb) are very popular as language-learning tools – but that’s not all they are good for!

You can create your own sets and courses, similar to an online pack of index-cards. These websites then use different types of activities and games to help make learning more fun.
You can even download an app so that you can memorise quotes on the go!

Don’t Panic!

Overall, how you study and memorise quotes is entirely up to you – just do whatever works best (remember that everyone learns differently) and maybe even try some different methods together.

But remember, Examiners understand exam pressure. If you get the quote pretty much right, and a word or two misplaced, it’s not the end of the world.

The examiner is not expecting you to be able to quote Shakespeare word perfectly. If you can’t remember the exact wording of a quote in the exam, you are usually allowed to summarise the quote or explain the context of the quote instead.
Good Luck!

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Additional resources:

How to Choose Quotes to Learn for English GCSE
Do I Need to Memorise Quotes for English GCSE
Cramming Hamlet Memorising Quotations

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