Passing an exam, no matter the subject, is not an easy feat. Attaining a high grade is even harder. Fame and success does not find successful authors like J. K. Rowling. In fact, the now-celebrity did not get the grades she needed to study at her first choice of university. This goes to show that Rowling and many other individuals like her will have had to work extremely hard to get themselves to where they are today. We are sure that they would agree that kicking off this path to success with your GCSEs is vital, regardless of whether your dream is to become a world-famous writer or not.
Are you a mature student? If so, follow these tips for sitting GCSE as an adult!
J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, had to work hard to get to where she is now. Photo credit: lozikiki via VisualHunt
If you want the examiner to notice your individuality in an English Literature exam, you need to find ways to make your work stand out from others in a smart and positive way.
For instance, taking an unusual approach to a text analysis can impress an examiner, even if they (or even you) do not fully agree with that side of the argument. The key, however, is to commit to your response and to be convincing and eloquent in the way you present it.
When the examiner comes to the end of your text, you can bank on he or she wondering why or how they have never heard that argument before. Of course, this will only work if your ideas are plausible. But how can you achieve this and where can you find the information and tools required to do so? Hopefully, by now, you have come to realise that all the answers are not solely found in the books set on your syllabus.
To be close to being able to formulate an intelligent and thought-provoking response to an essay question, you must have some background knowledge of your text and be able to apply an awareness of context, whether that be social or historical, to the areas which you are focusing on. For instance, how better to learn about the times in which characters were living in than by looking in detail at that period in history?
Equally, you cannot expect to understand the meaning of a given text unless you know about the person writing it. All of these factors, which can all come together to reward a fantastic grade at the end of your two-year study programme, are the culmination of effective revision and using all types of online resources to your advantage. The more revision guides you consult and the more official websites you visit, the better your understanding of the book’s context will be.
Similarly, the more texts you access and the greater the variety, the better your ability to analyse and evaluate language will be.
You might find inspiration and novel arguments in past GCSE papers!
As we have touched upon, those who fail or merely pass their GCSE English will no doubt be the ones who did the bare minimum when it came to research and revision. There are no two ways about it, a lack of independent study will result in an undesirable grade.
However, it is not just about the letter you receive at the end of the course. If you fail to prepare for your exam by doing proper revision, you could regret it further down the line. As an English Literature or Language student, you are encouraged to spend time reading widely, understanding the language you call your mother-tongue, learning about your ancestors, finding out about different cultures, … but all of this is easy if you let yourself enjoy the process.
The words on the page are just one piece of a puzzle, however, and it is the underlying interpretations and criticism which truly tell the story. This is why everyone has a different take on a story and why we all have our own personal preferences when it comes to reading books. If you are wondering what exactly will happen if you do not use information gained from revision, then here is just one possible outcome: the examiner will be able to see instantly that there is no depth of understanding to your response. If little effort has been made to offer an original evaluation of the text, they will notice this and your mark will subsequently reflect your basic answer.
Getting hold of revision materials online is a brilliant way to widen your horizons as most resources are easily accessible at the click of a button and are usually free. In addition to websites, students should consider visiting and even participating in educational forums to get themselves used to discussing topics and backing up their ideas with concrete evidence.
As you can imagine, there are endless amounts of tools and resources that can help you with revision, some of which may not even have been intended to be an educational resource. For example, a website offering information about a stately home for tourists might offer you a perfect insight into culture during a particular period of history, and enable you to imagine what other issues or interests a character may have been surrounded by alongside those mentioned in the plot.
Reading information for tourists concerning a historical stately home could give you an insight into culture in its day. Photo credit: Martin Pettitt via Visualhunt
Similarly, reading some very general information online, like what a traditional ball was like in the 1800s, can be extremely useful in understanding certain aspects of a storyline (like Jane Austen’s novels which feature protagonists attending many dances).
Attention to detail is what the examiner will be looking out for, among other things, so all of the extra reading will work to your advantage.
If you have not yet come across it, be sure to visit BBC Bitesize for your learning needs throughout the course. This website dedicated to students of your age will help to break down the topics in an easy way and will help to make learning a little bit more fun. As well as BBC Bitesize, Revision World is a fantastic meeting place for students who need some inspiration with their revision. This easy to use website offers students study help, coursework assistance, essay writing tips, past papers and many more valuable resources to make revising easy and surprisingly enjoyable. Swotrevision.com is a website which offers free materials for students across many subjects, including English Language and Literature.
In its English section, the website offers downloadable documents such as general writing tips and techniques, writing to argue, writing to persuade, writing to advise, and many more. Not only do the different sections individually offer user-friendly and easily applied details and skills, they also back up their recommendations with snippets of sample essays so that you can really see how these tips are to be used in the exam. Teachit, meanwhile, is a website which is primarily aimed at teachers of English, but can also be a useful resource for students looking to get ahead in their studies.
When accessing the site, you can initially download free .pdfs however it is made clear that, if you take the time to register for free, then you can get your hands on thousands more resources. If you are wondering why you should be looking at a website that is used by teachers, the answer is there in front of you. As you set out to revise for your English exam, you will become your own teacher, working independently, evaluating resources yourself and making up your own mind about the texts you are studying. As such, reading any materials that teach your teacher how to teach you must be useful to you and your ability to excel in the course!
Finally, Gojimo is yet another revision tool which enables you to revise on the go, without the need to take a million books with you. So if you are going on holiday, visiting family on the other side of the country or just want to revise using your laptop whilst on a train, you can easily access this website to find what seems like an infinite number of resources for your particular modules.
In this article, you will surely find great sources for studying literature at GCSE level!
You can now also download revision apps dedicated to GCSE students. Not only can they help you with exam preparation, but also by helping you to organise yourself in the run up to and during the busy and stressful exam period. Exam Pal, for instance, helps to keep you on track with data fed by the various exam boards. The app will enable you to schedule revision sessions, will alert you when exams are coming up and will update you on any relevant changes issued by your examination board.
Get revision materials and tips on your phone with apps specifically designed for your GCSE course. Photo via VisualHunt.com
Learn why it is important to check your exam timetable and marking scheme!
Meanwhile, Revision App, created by teachers, offers a vast amount of information designed to help you succeed in the exam. As its name states, this app’s primary goal is to provide revision materials and guidance which you can rely on to help you revise the right content prior to the exam. Just think of these apps as revision tools in your pocket. Each time you pick up your phone to call or text somebody, try to spend five minutes revising instead. Your friends will still there be later but time may be running out for you to revise!