English Literature and Language alike, as well as any other A Level subject for that matter, require a reasonable amount of revision if you want to secure a grade to really boast about. This is why you should be aware that revising must involve much more than just re-reading notes taken in class or going over the texts again and again. Knowing your subject inside-out is of course necessary, but good revision is all about being proactive and putting in the effort.
Take the time to find out what you are best at and what part of your exam technique needs some special attention. When you discover what you are good at, you will probably find that it is an area that you enjoy more and therefore have more confidence in.
The best English A level and GCSE revision guides (Photo credit: raindog via Visualhunt.com)
For example, you might be very influential in a language debate or when comparing two pieces of literature. Either way, it is important to find out what your strengths are. As a starting point, be sure to maximise these strengths to their full potential so that you can guarantee scoring well in these areas of the exam. This will give you one less thing to worry about in the run up to exam period.
Meanwhile, those lesser scoring questions should not be ignored, as achieving a good grade means being a good all-rounder. Your teacher or tutor might be able to help by assigning you specific tasks designed to enhance the skills which you at present lack.
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Remember also that shorter exam questions, or those that contribute less to your overall score, are capable of bringing your average up, especially if you answer them very well. Constructing an exceptional responses to what could seem to be a minor question could make the difference in you scoring below or above a particular grade boundary.
Effective revision is all about learning how to maximise your score using knowledge and technique.
Don’t let the exam get the better of you – put in the hard work and this will be reflected in your final grade!
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First of all, you should make it your mission to know your assessment objectives in advance. You can do this by checking out the marking schemes of previous exams, looking at English A level past papers and discussing revision tips with your teacher or tutor.
Take an interest in examiners’ reports too, which are a good means to understanding where common student mistakes occur (either content-related or in regard to exam technique).
Understanding how much a certain question in the exam is worth, and what it is asking of you, can help you to carry out more targeted revision in the run up to the exam too. This is why you should carefully examine the exam structure, taking note of how many sections there usually are and how many questions within each you are expected to focus on. If one is compulsory, be prepared to have to answer a similar question in your exam.
Look out for clues about the structure of your upcoming exam by consulting pas papers. Photo via VisualHunt.com
Though it might seem obvious, knowing your texts and terminology is absolutely vital for exam success. Be sure to look at minor characters as well when it comes to English Literature revision, as less prominent individuals might make for more interesting and varied subjects for discussion. Plus, anything that makes you stand out from your peers has got to be a bonus! Taking a new and well-supported angle towards a text could impress the examiner, even if they (or even you!) don’t agree with the point of view.
You might find an introduction to English language A Levels useful!
If your exam is a closed-book one, it might be useful to compile a list of significant quotes and think ahead about possible arguments to adopt in support of these. If you are taking an open-book assessment, familiarise yourself with where distinctive quotes can be found to avoid wasting precious time during the exam.
It is one thing knowing your texts and terminology, but expressing them concisely is quite another. You should rehearse constructing responses to clearly convey your point and improve the way that you link facts and meaning in your essays. Contrary to what many English students think, listing literary or linguistic jargon does not get you marks; you must display your understanding of the terms in context.
If you haven’t written an essay in a long while, practice writing with a pen! It is all too easy nowadays to complete coursework or essays on a computer, laptop or tablet, but you will need to spend roughly two-three hours manually writing your response in an exam. The quicker you can write (without impacting on legibility), the more points you can aim to achieve.
Perhaps brushing up on English Literature would help you find a scintillating style of writing!
One great way of making revision more effective, whilst also being more fun, is setting up revision groups. Getting together with like-minded individuals who share a mutual interest in achieving top grades can really boost your self-esteem, not to mention allow you to learn from each other.
Not only can you teach other facts about topics that you might not have discovered yourself, you can also benefit from hearing other people’s opinions on subjects to enhance your existing viewpoint. You might even wish to attempt to get reactions from your peers by proposing unconventional arguments to discuss, and then absorb all of their counter-arguments.
Set up group study sessions to make revision more fun. Photo credit: Wendt Commons via Visual Hunt
Revision groups do not necessarily have to be limited to those on your course, however. Get together with your siblings, parents or friends on other courses and test your knowledge on them.
Take a play covered in a Drama module, for example. Explain the storyline to your audience and discuss some of the key characters’ traits then allow them to ask questions about the text as outsiders. How well you back up your responses and your reaction to being put on the spot will determine the ease in which you will be able to come up with strong arguments in an exam response.
Although flash cards now seem a bit dated, some students still find that noting down key information can help them to mentally prepare for an exam. Revision cards might be particularly useful for English Language students trying to retain a list of complicated terminology but could also be used to write down quotes or other literary references to study before going into your English Lit assessment.
Older students tend to have a bag of tricks for effective studying!
Revision guides, along with past papers, can be found on most exam board websites. Be sure to consult your own exam board though, as the marking scheme will differ from one board to the next meaning that revision tips may diverge.
The AQA website, as an example, has a dedicated online resource centre, where you can download a variety of useful documents and find links to external websites offering exam guidance. It makes sense to follow your exam board’s lead when it comes to revision, as ultimately it is their examiners who will mark your work.
You might have been given or found in store a revision guide for your subject. These are usually colourful and divide their content into bite-size chunks for revision purposes. If you work better on paper, then these might suit you rather than looking at guides on a screen.
Paperback revision guides, which are more often than not published in conjunction with exam boards, can be bought from online shops like Amazon or in high street book stores.
As an English pupil, you may be accustomed to reading books as part of your revision. However, some of the best revision help for English exams can be found online.
The great advantage of finding online resources is that they are often free and are accessible instantly.
Student discussion boards are a great way to discover fresh ideas and opinions concerning texts or concepts covered on the syllabus, while AS students might find the experience useful because they can interact with those one year ahead of them.
As well as online forums, English students can find helpful revision tips across a range of educational sites. These websites are often set up by or created in conjunction with teaching professionals with experience of the latest syllabi.
Finally, you may not be all that surprised to hear that there are now apps which can be downloaded to help you prepare for exams. Gojimo, as an example, boasts that 1 in 3 GCSE or A Level students are signed up to receive help in the form of practice questions and quizzes covering a wide range of topics.
With a revision tool at your fingertip, there really is no reason to be unprepared for your A Level exam.