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


Do you know that only 16.5% of English Lit students achieved an A*, and just 20.2% got an A in England in 2022?

Do you want to be a part of the A* team? But you’re struggling to understand and effectively revise for your English Literature A-Level exams? The vast amount of material you have to cover does make studying a daunting task. 

However, with the right approach and strategies, you too can grab that A*/A!

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 game-changing study tips and strategies to help you ace your A-Level English Literature. Read to discover more!

How can you revise for A-Level English Literature?

Identify Your Exam Board

Knowing which exam board you’re sitting on when revising for your English Literature A-Level is essential. Why? Because your exam board determines the content and layout of your exams.

Are you studying AQA, OCR or Edexcel?

Make sure you’ve checked the exam materials thoroughly, whichever board you’ve chosen, so you’ll know what to expect. Or you could end up in a real pickle!

In addition, you’ll also need to take note of the Assessment Objectives.

What are the A-Level English Literature Assessment Objectives?

Do you know that the Assessment Objectives (AOs) are the same across all exam boards? 

Here are the 5 AOs you need to know about.

  1. How well you express your own thoughts, feelings, and ideas about literary texts. Do you use appropriate language and terms and write clearly and accurately?
  2. Are you proficient in examining the techniques and elements used to create meaning in a literary text?
  3. Do you illustrate an understanding of how contexts influence how authors write literary texts and how readers receive them?
  4. How efficient are you in investigating connections across literary texts?
  5. Explore literary texts through different perspectives and understandings.

Why is it essential to know specifications unique to a particular exam board and the general AOs? 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 your degree’s English literature a-level requirements.

Pro Tip: Keep track of any changes or updates that might affect your course by watching out for the school website for announcements. And stay on top of any news from your exam board. You don’t want to be caught off-guard on your exam day!

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 prepare for your English Literature A-Level exams 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, they: 

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

On top of that, you can also double-check your answers via mark schemes. 

Use Mind Maps To Help You Make Connections

Mind maps are excellent in helping you visualise the concepts and themes you’ve learned. How? By drawing lines between characters, symbols, and events. Making it easier for you to create meaningful connections between all the information that makes up a text.

So you can quickly scan your mind map and recall everything you’ve learned. 

Mind maps also make it easier for you to understand the story’s overall structure and flow to remember essential details in a snap. 

You can start by drawing a circle in the centre of your paper to create a useful mind map. 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.

Mind maps are a fantastic way to make significant connections to help you interpret texts when revising for English Literature A-Levels. Hence, you can visualise concepts and remember essential details more easily.

Maximise Revision Guides

Another great way to revise 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 because 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

can 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, such as how to use oxford dictionary APA citations, 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 Teachers/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? 

Your professors or tutors can answer all these questions. 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! If you’re wondering, “how do you get an A * in A-Level literature?” Simply look towards the study tips above. 

Remember, revising for an A-Level English Literature exam is no easy feat. Still, with these game-changing tips and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to acing it!

How to Revise for English Literature A-level Poetry?

Revising poetry for A-Level English Literature can seem intimidating at first, especially when you’re not used to reading it. It can even be more difficult when a poem contains unfamiliar words or uses a style you’re not familiar with. 

So here are some strategic tips you need to know for poetry English literature revision.

  1. Read the whole poem, each time with one specific intention in mind, including the following:
  • Personal Reaction
  • Meaning
  • Context according to the author, date, literary context, etc.
  • The Technique used, such as form, structure, and language and how it contributes to meaning.
  1. As you go through each read, annotate the poem with your notes. Remember to highlight the key themes, symbols, and literary devices.
  2. Check out what other English students and teachers have said about the poem.
  3. Once you have your notes, refresh your memory by rereading them regularly.
  4. Use flashcards to familiarise yourself with key quotes and lines from the poems.
  5. Practice answering essay questions under timed conditions.
  6. Make sure to answer different types of questions, including close reading questions, context questions, and comparison questions.
  7. Get feedback on your essays and practice papers from your teacher or a tutor.
  8. Need more motivation? Revise with a group! You’ll learn valuable insights from like-minded people.
  9. Make sure to balance studying and relaxing well so you don’t burn out before the exam.
  10. Finally, stay focused and organised. Make a study schedule and stick to it!

How Many Texts Do You Study in A-Level English Literature?

Your exam board determines how many texts you study in A-Level English Literature. For instance, AQA requires students to study three texts. What are these texts? One poetry, one prose, and one drama.

Edexcel also requires the study of three general texts (poetry, prose, and drama.) With a total of eight texts under these three categories.

Hence, the number of texts you need to study depends on your exam board. That’s why it’s best to check your specifications so you can adjust your revision sessions accordingly.

Is English Literature Hard in A-Levels?

Yes, English Literature is hard in A-Levels. At least when you compare it to Mathematics based on the percentage of students who gained an A*. But English Literature is a bit easier compared to Biology, and about similar difficulty levels to Chemistry.

What percentage of A-Level students achieved A*s and As in English Literature? The table below reveals that around 16.5% got an A*, and 20.2% obtained an A.

English Literature Grade in 2022Percentage
Source: https://analytics.ofqual.gov.uk/apps/Alevel/Outcomes/ 

When comparing A-Level English outcomes to Maths, we have

Grade(English Literature) Percentage (Maths)Percentage
Source: https://analytics.ofqual.gov.uk/apps/Alevel/Outcomes/ 

The table above shows that there are less English Literature students who achieved A* (16.5%) than Maths (22.8%.) How about for A? English’s 20.2% is to Maths’ 24.3%. Hence, English Lit is more difficult than Maths. 

Let’s now compare English Literature vs Biology. 

Grade(English Literature) Percentage (Biology)Percentage
Source: https://analytics.ofqual.gov.uk/apps/Alevel/Outcomes/ 

You’ll see above that more English students received an A* (16.5%) than Biology (12.8%.) The same trend goes for the number of students who got an A, but only by a 1% difference. So English Literature is a bit easier than Biology.

Last but not least, let’s examine whether English Lit is harder or easier than Chemistry by looking at the table below. 

Grade(English Literature) Percentage (Chemistry)Percentage
Source: https://analytics.ofqual.gov.uk/apps/Alevel/Outcomes/ 

The table shows that more English students achieved an A* (16.5%) than Chemistry students (24.4%.) But when it comes to A, the reverse is true. Less English Literature students got an A (20.2%) than Chemistry students (24.4%.)

So students find English Literature and Chemistry at similar difficulty levels.

Looking back across the tables, you’ll see that based on the percentage of students who achieved A*s and As

  • English literature is hard when compared to Mathematics
  • But a bit easier compared to Biology
  • And similar in difficulty level to Chemistry

Is it Hard to Get an A in A-Level English Literature?

Yes, getting an A in A-Level English Literature can be hard. Ofqual Analytics states that only about 16.5% of English Literature students in England achieved an A*, and about 20.2% got an A. 

Do you want to get an A grade in your A-Level Engli Lit? Then, incorporate the revision tips listed above into your study routine. 

Acing your A-Level English Literature exams requires a combination of consistent study habits and effective revision strategies. Having the willingness to seek feedback and guidance is also essential. 

You’ll ace English Literature in no time when you follow these tips to develop a deep understanding of the texts and hone the ability to analyse and interpret. So remember to stay focused and motivated, and you will do great!


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