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How To Revise English Literature A Level? Tips By A* Students


How To Revise English Literature A-Level? What’s most challenging about English Literature is the sheer amount of material you need to cover in what feels like too little time.  

If you don’t know what to focus on when studying, you’ll lose the chance of acing your A-Level English Literature subject! 

That’s why we ensure our English Literature summer school students have 1:1 access to expert tutors. To help them maximise learning and develop bulletproof study skills in preparation for university-level English Literature. 

We’ve also gathered practical and efficient study tips and strategies to help you ace A-Level English Literature. Read to discover more!

How can you revise for A-Level English Literature?

Identify Your Exam Board

When revising for your English Literature A-Level, it’s essential to be aware of which exam board you’re sitting on. This will determine the content and layout of your exams and the assessment criteria. Are you studying AQA, OCR or Edexcel?

No matter what board you’ve chosen, make sure you’ve checked the exam materials thoroughly, so you know what to expect. Or you could end up in a real pickle!

One of the necessary details to take note of are the Assessment Objectives.

In general, there are 5 common Assessment Objectives used to grade you. These include the following:

  1. Your responses to literary texts will be graded according to how 
    • articulate
    • personal
    • informed 
    • and creative, you expressed them.

In addition, did you use the proper associated concepts and terminology? Were your written expressions coherent and accurate?

  1. Did you analyse the various ways meanings are shaped in literary texts?
  2. Were your answers demonstrative of your understanding of the contexts behind the literary texts?
  3. How well did you explore connections across the literary texts?
  4. Were you able to extract different interpretations?

Why is this important? Because doing so will give you a clear direction. Allowing you to streamline your revision strategy according to your exam board’s criteria. It’ll also help ensure you meet the english literature a-level requirements for your degree.

It’s also important to keep track of any changes or updates that might affect your course. Keep an eye on your school’s website for announcements. And stay on top of any news from your exam board. You don’t want to be caught off-guard on the day of the big test!

Organise Your Notes According To What Information Matters Most

Once you know your exam board, it’s time to organise your notes. How can you best organise them so that they’re easy to understand and remember? According to what matters most, such as:

  • Story’s Theme/Context
  • Character Description
  • Quotes relating to Theme and Characters
  • Literary Techniques

By doing so, you’ll go through each piece of literature with organised notes of textual analysis. This will help you remember the core information during your revision, as well as aid you in constructing better essays on exam day.

Don’t forget to write down any wider reading or background knowledge you may have acquired on a particular text. This is an integral part of analysing literature and can often be included in exam questions. So, it pays to be prepared!

Use Your Notes To Support Your Interpretations and Learnings

You now have sets of organised notes to scan and familiarise regularly. Now it’s time to write down and incorporate your interpretations and learnings.

Knowing the story’s theme or memorising quotes won’t matter if you don’t know how to incorporate them into your learning. That’s why it’s important to understand the underlying message of each text.

  • How do you analyse and interpret the text/character?
  • How do you use quotes and literary techniques to support your point of view?
  • What’s your conclusion, and how does it relate to your life?

Remember, at the end of the day, it’s about what you learned from reading a particular piece of literature. The goal is to enhance your ability to understand what you’ve read and form well-supported opinions about it.

So, write down your interpretations and leanings as you go through the notes. This will help you build a clearer understanding of each text and support your ideas on exam day.

Use Flashcards To Help You Remember

Flashcards are a great tool to help you remember essential information and quotes quickly. How do they work? They contain key points of a particular text, author or theme on one side of the card and its explanation on the other.

For English Literature A-Level exams, this could be anything from character descriptions to quotes that support a particular theme. And by writing and memorising the key points on both sides, you can practise quickly recalling information.

Why use cards when you’ve already written these on your notes? Because you can make a game out of it. For instance, when you see a character quote on one side of the card, can you recall the explanation or context written on the other side?

Try reciting to yourself what you recall. Then turn the card around. Do you remember correctly? 

Plus, you can shuffle cards around and get one at random. Ensuring your brain associates according to logic and understanding. And not just through spatial recall as it usually goes when solely studying via notes. 

Strategically Revisit The Texts

This tip applies if you’ve already read the text in full prior. Allowing you to revisit the text a second time, but now with an intentional eye. In this round, you’d find it beneficial to focus on two particular parts:

  • the chapters or sections you didn’t give much attention to before
  • and those that your professor highlighted during the discussion

Why is it essential to revisit chapters or sections you may not have given much attention to before? Because you’re sure to find character quotes or pivotal themes you may not have noticed. The details you’ll gather here will reinforce your answers during your exams.

Now, focus on the themes and topics your professor discussed.

  • How did they explain it?
  • How did they interpret it?
  • How does this fit into what you already know about the text?

Use the knowledge you’ve gathered to create a bridge between your interpretations and those of your professor. This will help you gain an even deeper understanding of the work.

Revising English literature for A-Levels means writing down notes and intentionally revisiting your texts. This allows you to take insights from your and your professor’s interpretations. And use them to enrich your knowledge and recollection during exams.

Take Full Advantage of Past Papers

Past papers are a great way to revise for English Literature A-Level for a few reasons. 

To start, they give you a sense of what the exam will be like. For instance,  

  • What are the usual questions? 
  • In what format? 
  • How long do the papers often go? 

Practising with past papers helps increase your confidence. Helping to minimise stress on exam day. 

Another advantage of using past papers is that you can measure your progress. How? By noting which topics or texts you struggled with and then revisiting those specific areas.

You can then test yourself on these topics by trying some practice questions. If you can answer them with quickness and assertion, you know you’re ready for the real thing.

Finally, past papers are an excellent resource for reference. If you have a question in your revision that you need help with, you can look at the corresponding past paper to see how others have answered it. 

This can provide you with some valuable insights and help boost your confidence.

All in all, using past papers is an effective way to revise for English Literature A-Level exams. They 

  • give you a sense of what to expect
  • help you measure your progress
  • and act as a reference tool

So make sure to incorporate them into your revision strategy!

Use Mind Maps To Help You Make Connections

Mind maps are an excellent way to visualise the concepts and themes you’ve learned. How? By drawing lines between characters, symbols, and events. Helping you create meaningful connections between all the information that makes up a text.

Plus, you can quickly scan your mind map and recall everything you’ve learned. This also makes it easier for you to understand the story’s overall structure and flow, so you can remember essential details in a snap. 

To create a useful mind map, draw a circle in the centre of your paper. This is where you’ll write down the text that you’re studying. Then draw branches out from this central circle and write down the characters, symbols, or events associated with the text.

Let’s say you’re reading Pride and Prejudice and want to study the theme “Marriage.” You can put it in a circle and connect all the quotes, chapters, and scenes where it is discussed or demonstrated. Allowing you to review important details at a glance.

When revising for English Literature A-Levels, mind maps are a fantastic way to make significant connections to help you interpret texts. By allowing you to visualise concepts and remember essential details more easily.

Maximise Revision Guides

Another great way to revise for English Literature A-Level is to use revision guides. These provide a comprehensive overview of the texts and themes studied in your course and are an invaluable resource for exams.

Most revision guides contain:

  • summaries
  • quotes
  • key facts
  • and analysis of each text

Plus, they usually include practice essay questions and their answers to help you prepare for the exam.

The best part? Revision guides are widely available. Most come with topics broken down into manageable chunks and lists. Making it easy to track your progress as you go through each section.

Remember that for all the good revision guides can do for you, it’s there only to aid you. And not to replace actual reading and rereading of the original text! Why? Because as we have mentioned before, what matters most is how you interpret the text.

What revision guides can do is supplement your notes. To fill in the gaps you may have missed. Therefore, giving you a more complete study.

So if you want a comprehensive resource to revise English Literature A-Level, then using a revision guide is beneficial. They’ll help make studying easier for you!

Engage in Study Groups

One of the best ways to revise for English Literature A-Level is to participate in a study group.

By getting together with other students, you can

  • Share ideas
  • Compare notes
  • and discuss themes and characters in the texts

Plus, if there’s something you need help understanding, another may be able to explain it better.

Having a group of like-minded peers to discuss texts can also be motivating and mentally stimulating. It’s always more enjoyable studying with other people, and groups often devise creative ways to approach complex topics.

Study groups are also beneficial for practice exams. You can 

  • Quiz each other on various questions
  • Exchange essay plans
  • Compare answers

Providing a more profound learning experience and giving everyone a better understanding of the texts.

Watch Videos For Inspiration

Need inspiration to understand your texts on a whole different level? Consider watching videos for inspiration. This is especially helpful when you’re reading an old text. The unfamiliarity of the

  • Cultural norms of the time
  • The language used (e.g. Old English)
  • And genre

may become huge stumbling blocks to your learning. And you may find yourself stuck in the mire. This is where a full-on visual presentation can throw you the ropes. 

Watching a movie adaptation or an educational video analysis of the text can help you grasp its true depth. Or they can stir your interest and curiosity and make you think, “this story isn’t as dull as I thought it was!”

Many educational videos provide helpful lessons on the texts studied in your course. These are often presented by knowledgeable teachers or professors who can explain complex concepts. 

However, remember this golden rule: read and re-read the original text for the following reasons:

  • Movie adaptations often change or omit details
  • Interpretations won’t make much sense until you read the actual text
  • When answering essay questions, you must cite quotes and scenes from the original texts.

Videos allow you to gain a more vivid understanding of the text and can even help you develop different interpretations. So if you need a lift, take some time to explore videos related to your course and see what great insights they have in store for you!

How To Ace Your A-Level English Literature Exams

You now have a plan of attack for revising English Literature A-Level. So how do you ensure that you ace your exams? The following tips will help you ace your A-Level English Literature exams.

Develop a Consistent Study Routine

A consistent study routine is the best way to ensure you are ready for your exams. How often and for how long should you revise? It all depends on the amount of material that needs to be covered. The important thing is that you find a routine that works for you.

It could be an hour each day or two hours every other day. Figure out which pattern works best for you and stick with it. It can be a flexible schedule as long as it helps you review your texts thoroughly before the exams.

Prioritise Revision Strategies

You should prioritise specific strategies over others to ensure you cover all the critical topics and texts in time. If you feel like you understand the text but don’t know how to apply it to essays, then focus more on developing essay plans.

If you find specific themes or characters particularly difficult, spend more time reviewing them. This strategy will enable you to answer any questions on the exam with confidence.

Evaluate Your Practice Essay According to the Assessment Objectives

When practising essays, evaluate them according to the assessment objectives. This will help you understand what areas you need to focus on to score well on exam day.

You should also practise answering questions under time pressure. So you can develop effective strategies for managing your time and tackling challenging questions.

Lastly, remember to get feedback on your practice essays. Otherwise, how will you find out that you’ve improved? Getting feedback helps you gauge where you’re at in your progress. 

Consult with Professors/Tutors

When in doubt, it’s always best to consult with your professors or tutors. They can provide you with clarity and help you hone in on the topics that need more work. 

For instance,

  • How else can you interpret a text? 
  • What are some other approaches to look at when answering essay questions? 
  • Are there literary theories you haven’t applied yet? 

All these questions can be answered by your professors or tutors. So make sure to consult them if you’re feeling stuck. And if you’re looking for top-ranked UK universities for English Literature.

There you have it! Revising for an A-Level English Literature exam is no easy feat, but with these tips and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to acing it.


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