Saturday, 13 May 2017

Tips on how to revise for English Literature

THE BEST TIP: re-read. You will do this whilst you collect quotations for other revision activities. The more familiar you are with your texts, the better your recall will be in the exam. Direct quotes are best, but you will be credited for referring to the text and paraphrasing. Do your best to learn some key quotes, but remember it is not vital you get them 100% accurate in the exams.

Buy your own texts and annotate them. Make notes in them whilst you reread. Make sure you highlight quotes that are useful for characters, setting, themes and writer’s craft, such as examples of dramatic irony in a play.

Revise key language and structural terminology and make sure you feel secure with this. The internet is your friend – use it to define any terms you aren’t sure of. For example, do you know enjambment? Caesura? Free verse?

Great internet sites generally are BBC Bitesize, Schmoop, Spark Notes, Cliff Notes. YouTube also has some great videos where teachers have recorded analysis of key texts.

AVOID simply rewriting your notes. You can do this on autopilot and you won’t absorb the information. This is the same for ALL revision. You should actively change your notes so that you are thinking about the content. You can do this by writing summaries or transforming key information into bullet point lists. OR, you can make cards/slides.

Make flashcards or use a PowerPoint presentation and treat each slide as an individual card. You can buy revision cards cheaply at the supermarket or online. Or you could use blank postcards.

For plays and novels:

I suggest you make a card/slide for each key character in the text. Write an overview of who that character is and what they do in the text. Find 4-5 key quotes that summarise aspects of that character.

e.g. Lady Macbeth – Macbeth’s wife; driving force behind his actions; tries to command the spirits; good at deception/putting on a front to conceal her true intentions; represses her actions so that she begins to sleepwalk; kills herself. ‘Unsex me here.’ ‘Look like th’ innocent flower but be the serpent under’t.’ ‘Out, damned spot!’ ‘Plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out.’

You can do the same for key themes: make one card/slide per theme and write an overview of how it is shown in the text. Then find 4-5 key quotes to support it. If you are unsure of the key themes, Google it: there will be Spark notes online that can help you to work through these. BBC Bitesize is also an excellent source for revising English Literature.

Make a card/slide for CONTEXT for each text the requires it. Refer to an overview of your exams to check which bits require you to include AO3, context.

For poems:

Make a card/slide per poem. Select 3-4 key quotes that you think are most important in that poem. Write a list of the key themes, the key structural features and the context of the poem. Make a note of any poems that would link well with this one. To take it a step further, you could analyse the key quotes for language/structural features.

For all Literature texts:

Write your own exam questions, following the wording that has been used in your mock exams. If you need papers, ask your teacher.

Write out detailed plans for exam questions – plan the number of points you could make, find quotations and write brief notes on what you could pick out for language, structure and what effect it would have on a reader/the audience.

Write sample answers. Use different coloured highlighters to create a key: point, evidence, analysis, terminology, effect on the reader/audience, context (if relevant). Highlight your work and look at it – can you see that you have paragraphs with evidence of all colours in them? (Context doesn’t have to be every paragraph, but it should appear at least 2-3 times across the whole piece.)

Use sample mark schemes to try and grade your work. Ask your teacher to mark it for you afterwards.

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