GCSE English Literature is a challenging qualification. Students often focus on English Language and so many other subjects that literature can end up taking a back seat with revision. You also have to learn a lot of detail about several different texts, including a Shakespeare play and poetry. Finally, you’re expected to learn quotations for the texts, as you can’t take the books into the exams with you. All of this can seem quite daunting. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered. This guide provides the top 10 revision hacks for GCSE English Literature. These tips are proven to drive fantastic results – we see it every year. The advice below applies to all exam boards and texts. You can also find our revision guides on specific texts on our learn online page. So read on to supercharge your revision.
Remember, for the best possible support with your revision, you should try an online lesson with one of our expert English tutors. They’ll provide personalised advice and support to boost your grades and confidence quickly. We start with a free consultation and then recommend the very best tutor for you. Contact us today to find your perfect English tutor.
1. Start Your GCSE English Literature Revision Early
This first hack may sound very obvious, but it’s amazing how many students leave their English revision until a few weeks (or sometimes even days) before the exams. This is a big mistake as there’s so much to learn. Our advice is to start as early as possible. That definitely means from the start of year 11. Don’t worry, you don’t need to do hours and hours of revision every week. Just set an hour or so aside each week throughout the year for literature revision. You’ll then need to increase this time in the last few months before your exams.
Starting early and revising consistently will ensure you remember everything you’ve learnt at school and will develop your knowledge considerably. If you follow the rest of our revision hacks, then it will also boost your exam technique.
2. Be consistent
If you start early you can give yourself a chance for success with our second top tip – revising consistently through the year. This is a challenge and it takes a lot of motivation and self-discipline, but if you can revise consistently every week for an hour or so – and then increase your revision nearer to the exams – then you’ll see a steady and impressive increase in your marks.
It’s like how a top athlete will train for their sport. They train consistently and with very specific focus on the skills and strengths they need to succeed. We need to do the same with our revision to reach our potential.
3. Know the texts inside out
At school you might just read the texts once (sometimes not even all the way through), so make sure you put the time in to reading the texts a few times. You need to focus on knowing the plot and structure of the texts inside out.
Try this revision exercise:
- read the text you’re studying;
- put it away;
- now try to summarise the plot in your own bullet points;
- skim back through the text to check you haven’t missed anything; and
- carefully assess why the writer has chosen to structure the text in this way.
4. Learn details on the characters
Your GCSE English Literature exam questions will focus on either a character or a theme (hence the next two revision hacks). For each main character you need to know their main character traits, why they’re important to the plot and key quotations. You need to memorise some quotation for each character. Make sure they are good quotes that you can use for multiple different questions.
We’ve got some revision guides and worksheets for a range of texts on our learn online page. Check them out.
5. Learn details on the themes
Themes are the major ideas running through a text. The writer will have developed their narrative to present their thoughts on some key themes. You need to first (and obviously) be aware of the themes in your text, then think about how the themes are presented and learn a range of important quotes for those themes. Then, as we’ll come onto in more detail later, do plenty of practice questions examining the themes.
Check out the link above to our resources page for more information on the themes in some of the most studied texts in GCSE English Literature.
6.Make sure you are confident analysing poetry
Poetry is a major part of the GCSE English Literature exams. You will need to analyse poems that you’ve studied at school, and answer questions on unseen poetry that (you guessed it) you won’t have seen before. For poetry questions you should feel confident writing about all of these elements of the poems:
- form and structure
You can find out more about how to analyse unseen poetry in our unseen poetry guide. We’ve also put together an extensive guide to the most popular GCSE poetry anthology – the AQA Power and Conflict poems. Check out both of these guides and do plenty of practice questions to feel confident going into the exams.
7. Complete our worksheets and condense your revision notes
There’s a lot to learn for your GCSE exams and the revision for English Literature can seem daunting. You should focus your revision on the main themes and characters (as we set out in tips 4 and 5). Start by completing the worksheets for your texts from our resources page. These worksheets can then provide the basis for all of your revision and should summarise all of the quotes you want to learn.
Another great revision tip is to work at condensing your notes down for each area of each text. Aim to fit memory aids for each important theme or character onto half a side of A4 or a classic revision card. Then use these condensed notes to help you answer your practice exam questions.
8. Practice exam questions regularly
Which brings us onto revision hack number 8 – make sure you keep practising exam style questions right through the year, and do plenty of them in the weeks before the exams. There are lots of past and specimen exam papers available on your exam board’s website. You can also ask you teacher or tutor to provide you with extra questions – they’ll be very happy to do so.
Start by just trying to write the very best answer you can – don’t worry too much about time or using your notes. Then, as you get more confident, start timing your answers and doing them without revision notes. If you do enough practice then it will seem like second nature when you get into the exam hall.
9. Mark your own work to improve
When you’ve completed your practice questions, make sure you mark your own work. Use the mark schemes on the exam board websites to mark your own answers and really focus on what the examiner will be looking for in each question. Make some notes on how you could improve your mark and then try doing the question again. Implement the improvements you noted down from the mark scheme. You can then get your teacher to mark the final version to see how well you’ve done.
This process is one of the best ways of revising for GCSE English. It takes dedication and focus, but we know you can do it. Again, it’s about being consistent and revising effectively.
10. Ask for help – why not try a tutor?
Lastly, make sure you discuss your GCSE English exams and the texts you are studying. It’s all too easy to get trapped in an isolated revision world working away by yourself. Make sure you discuss the texts and the exam questions with a friend, older sibling or teacher. You can ask lots of questions to get new advice and they might ask questions of you that get you thinking about texts in different ways.
If you’re looking for personalised help, then why not try a lesson with one of our expert GCSE English tutors? You can contact us directly to arrange a trial lesson. Your tutor will deliver a lesson designed just for you, and you can ask plenty of questions.