My ”English Literature” Exam Technique.

Just before I start this little piece, I’d like to say that for the record I have not yet completed my exams. If you’re in year eleven, much the same way, do not take this ‘advice’ or ‘technique’ as gospel. In no way has this been proven to work by any stretch of the imagination. This being a ’lifestyle blog’ I figured I’d talk about what I’ve been up to lately (that being work… boring, I know)

Alright, so the method itself is rather simple. Sensical even. Across three different texts and roughly fifteen different poems, you’re supposed to have at least a basic understanding of context, quotations and how they’re used. It’s all very well and good memorising a vast bank of quotes and whatever else, but something equally important is probably knowing how to use them…

With that in mind, I hand-selected twenty quotes for each of the three major texts- in my case, this consists of: Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ and J.B. Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’. Alternatively, given the fact I studied the play in drama, I can also talk about Willy Russell’s ‘Blood Brothers’, but I will probably avoid doing so, for when talking about Blood Brothers, I’d be far more accustomed to discussing acting technique, or lighting, or how Mickey’s jumper can not only show theme, but allow the actor to get into the mindset of a younger child, playing with the jumper over their legs etc.

In retrospect, I can’t tell if twenty quotes was overly excessive… that being said, for ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, admittedly they weren’t all that easy to find. That being said, leaving it at twenty is better than essentially rewriting the entire texts, i suppose. Now, the reason I did this was because, of course you need good quotes, but to overload yourself with anything more than that would be simply unnecessary. Once I’d chosen the quotes, however- with a smaller quote bank, it’s very important to know that they actually work! So, naturally I looked to previous year’s exam questions, where I could use the twenty flash cards to workout If what I was about to dedicate three weeks to memorising would actually work in a good answer… something I’d definitely recommend you consider doing before learning all of these various quotations which could end up not even working in your favour.

As for the poems, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, a piece of advice I genuinely think is really understated, yet COULD be very useful.

Learn four poems EXTREMELY well, rather than wasting your time with a vague knowledge of fifteen.

Okay, this may not work for all of you, but a piece of advice gifted to us by my English Teacher, says trying to master all fifteen poems is far, far too stressful on top of everything else you need to know for the exam season… and quite frankly it’s not all that necessary.

Personally, I follow AQA’s ‘Power and Conflict’ spectrum of poems. To put this advice to use, pick good poems from both sides of the spectrum. For example, possibly the best poem from across the board is ‘Ozymandias’, challenging power of nature, the fickleness of man’s own power and so on. On top of that, it’s not all that long to learn either, yet you KNOW that ‘Ozymandias’ is a poem you can feel safe making a compelling answer on. Now, the reason you need two is because, say you only memorised ‘Ozymandias’… the exam paper then presents you with an extract FROM ‘Ozymandias’ or even the entire poem, with the line ‘Compare Ozymandias with one other poem in the spectrum’… you’d be a little lost. Hence why it’s always good to have your backup poem!

A happy note to end on.

Good morning, Good evening, Goodnight. No matter what time it is for you at the time of reading this, I do hope you’re having an absolutely wonderful day ‘n’ I do hope regardless of the stage of life you’re at, I hope you could find enjoyment in this piece somewhere!

If you’re like me, chances are the only reason you found this post was because you might just be knee deep in exam-stress, but I just wanted to let you know that everything is okay! It’ll be over soon, and the important thing to remember is that you always know more than you think you do. Always. I Promise that no matter your goals, everything will be okay. So stay happy.


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