Tutor Icon  Request A Tutor
English Literature Tuition for GCSE

Passing English Literature Exams

Examining the Examinable: Passing English Literature Exams.

In my experience preparing students for English Literature exams, a complaint that I commonly get from students is that they have no idea what the examiners are expecting from them. This confusion is experienced by students at all levels, from GCSE to Degree. Even the most intelligent students I’ve taught have become unstuck on the question of what on earth they’re being marked for.

The fact is that the quality of a piece of literary criticism is something that’s extremely hard to quantify. Unlike a Maths or a Science paper, where answers are either wrong or right and it’s clear where to allocate marks for working, it’s difficult to come away from reading a literary critical essay and say precisely whether it’s a 67% or a 43% or 28%. Why not a couple of percent higher or lower? What logic is informing that weirdly specific number? If someone gets 74% then does that mean that 26% of their response was wrong? But how can 26% of a literary essay be wrong? It can be badly argued, of course, but out right wrong? It’s not possible to say either way – literature is a qualitative and not quantitative subject. And if it’s not possible to say how much of a literary essay is right and how much is wrong, then why are percentages even being used here as a measure of quality? There’s no wonder that students get so baffled by the marking system in English Literature.

But of course the examiners aren’t just pulling the marks out of thin air; there is something called a mark scheme, and though the criteria that it specifies are actually quite airy and subjective, it does at least provide a basis for how to go about writing a high scoring essay. It’s quite shocking just how many students I’ve taught who haven’t even been shown a mark scheme, let alone been told what aspects of it they need to improve on, and, in my experience, when they finally get their heads around it, their mark as well as their confidence shoots up.

It might seem simple, but that’s the most important advice that can be given to a baffled literature student: look at the mark scheme. And don’t just look at the general mark scheme, look at the paper specific mark scheme which tells you exactly what you’re being tested on in the particular paper you’re doing. Some papers test you on your ability to compare literary texts, some test you on your ability to relate literary texts to their historical contexts, and some test your ability to analyse language, form and structure closely (the latter two aspects being themselves very difficult to pin down).

It’s hard to give general advice about how to succeed in a literature exam – each paper is so different. But when preparing for exams one thing that will pay dividends is to brush up on exam technique. At the risk of sounding like a philistine, it’s worthwhile being as familiar with the mark scheme as you are with the texts your studying. If you’re comfortable with what your being tested on, then you’ll feel much more comfortable when thinking about the texts you’re studying, and you’ll get much more out of your reading as a result. English Literature is one of the hardest subjects to score well in, but it’s also one of the most rewarding – indeed, it’s hard and rewarding for the same reasons: it’s open and free and conjectural. Whilst you’ve got to reconcile yourself with the capriciousness and subjectivity of the marking system, understand also that the way your essays are judged is not completely random.

If you feel out at sea with English Literature, then the mark scheme, whilst it wont guide you to firm, dry land, will at least provide you with somewhere to dock.

LETS STUDY FOR YOUR EXAM TOGETHER

 
Melodie Argi
Melodie Argi
08:14 18 Oct 19
Tavistock tutors is by far the best tutor agency is London. The tutor selection is of the highest quality. Handpicked from the British intellectual elite in all sorts of disciplines. The staff is wonderfully helpful as well as being extremely attentive to feedback.read more
Henry Smith
Henry Smith
22:27 17 Oct 19
I have been employed as a tutor with Tavistock Tutors for over 5 years. I tutor mathematics and also help people with job preparation for different career routes (cv, cover letter, interview preparation and online test prep). They are simply a wonderful team of individuals who work collectively and strive to deliver the best possible service to both clients and their tutors. They work doggedly to achieve results. They are particularly honest and their feedback to tutors on how to improve is tailored, concise and always highly constructive. Even after 5 yrs, they only put me forward as a tutor if they think I am the absolute best they can find otherwise they are honest with me and explain why I was not put forward. I think this transparency is a huge reason for their success and keeps the best tutors on their books for years. Their communication on what a client wants is also clinically precise and effective and the team go out of their way to provide potential interests/passions of the client to help the tutor prepare accordingly for the lessons and nurture that interaction. Simply the finest agency and I have tutored with some of the best. World-class tutors and utmost confidentiality with respect to their clientele. I cannot be happier to work for them, a dream job with a team whose capacity for kindness, empathy and boundless intellect never ceases to amaze me. Their work ethic inspires me to relentlessly push myself to be a better tutor with their encouragement and constructive feedback.read more
Albert Tam
Albert Tam
20:50 17 Oct 19
Best tutors in London! Great experience and amazing customer service. Highly recommend, my tutors were all fantastic and a huge help. Really recommend Tavistock Tutors as I never had to worry about not getting the highest quality tutors unlike other agencies and online tutors.read more
I ME
I ME
16:13 17 Oct 19
I’ve used Tavistock multiple times and they never disappoint! I used them for myself secondary school, whilst at university and even now whilst working. Their service is second to none as are their tutors. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to better themselves academically or personally.read more
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
13:22 06 Oct 19
Why most reviewers have one contribution, namely to the Tavistock Tutors? High standards ? Mate get a real job rather than living off other's qualifications. Reality Check (See photos attached - that is the owner “looking for me” 1.5 years after leaving London and while my name and photo was on first page of Tavistock Tutor website...)read more
Jonathan Aaron
Jonathan Aaron
16:39 01 Aug 19
Amazing experience, the tutor was reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced and the company was both professional and reliable. Definitely will be using them again!read more
David T
David T
16:34 01 Aug 19
I used Tavistock for some Corporate Finance and Financial Modelling training at my firm. They were extremely helpful and the trainer, Simon, was of top quality, experience and charged a fair price. Thank you!read more
Olivia Pluss
Olivia Pluss
11:05 13 Jun 19
I had a fantastic experience with my tutor Elena and Tavistock Tutors. They were very well organized and made the entire experience so seamless and easy for me. I passed my assignment with great marks and the experience was much less stressful than if I had tried to complete the assignment without Elena's help.read more
J Mathews
J Mathews
11:27 22 May 19
My child used Glenda for HL biology. Glenda was outstanding. I would not hesitate to recommend her. Extremely intelligent, always prepared, knows how to teach/very helpful, and also just a nice person. Also, I would use Tavistock again for sure because we had such success with Glenda.read more
Alan Radford
Alan Radford
09:34 09 May 19
Tavistock Tutors were a delight to deal with, and highly professional at all times. They provided my daughter with an excellent tutor at very short notice - after my having approached them on a Thursday urgently requesting a tutor for that weekend. Tavistock Tutors immediately gave the matter their attention; they appreciated the urgency and responded quickly and efficiently, and helped to set my daughter up with exactly the right sort of tutor. Fantastic!read more
Sophie Taieb
Sophie Taieb
12:55 29 Mar 19
Very happy with Tavistock tutors services. They provide a wide range of tutors, from all backgrounds and for all types of needs. My uni son needed some help in research and methodology. We found a perfectly suited tutor in less than 3 days. He is very knowledgeable, punctual, open minded and brings the support needed to my son. I would definitely recommend Tavistock tutorsread more
Next Reviews
 

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 fo...

How to choose quotes to learn for English GCSE

We know that learning quotes for a closed-book exam can be daunting, difficult and boring – especially when you’ve already been studying the text for an entire year. In our article ‘Do I need ...

Do I need to memorise quotes for English GCSE?

With the new GCSE specifications released in 2015, most English Literature GCSE exams have now become closed-book exams.

But what does this mean?

This means that in your exam, you won...

Call Now Button