Work hard and work smart
We must not forget that English is divided into two separate GCSEs. For both papers, the basis of your revision should be familiarising yourself with the structure of the exam papers. This means getting to grips with the type of questions, how much marks they are worth, the skills required in each, and even how long you should spend on each.
Then, simply practise answering these questions repeatedly. You can get to a teacher to mark your answers, but what is more fruitful is mastering the mark schemes and marking them yourself. Get My Grades allows you to do this! Ask yourself – what does it say I need to do to get top marks? This is so valuable in tackling your mistakes, but more importantly in identifying your strong and weak points so you can work on the areas that need attention. Practising questions without that constant feedback or reviewing process is not as productive.
Most exam boards incorporate an extended writing task – a description or story for fiction and an article, letter, speech (etc.) for non-fiction. You might also be asked to respond to a statement or image stimulus. How would you revise for that?
- Get used to generating ideas quickly by practising with images or story titles.
- Have some success criteria for effective writing and mark yourself against this. Do you know how to use language and structural techniques effectively?
- Time yourself while you write so you grow accustomed to writing accurately under time pressure.
- Ask for (or give yourself) regular spelling tests.
- Start up a ‘word of the week’ routine with your friends where you all take it in turns to choose a word and everyone has to know what it means and attempt to use it in writing that week.
- You knew it was coming: read! Reading exposes you to high-quality writing (if you choose the right book) and will also help to develop your own ideas and vocabulary by giving you inspiration.
Remember that it’s less about what you write and more about how you write it!
Revising for English language can seem difficult and rather unstructured, but websites like Get My Grades help to make it clear, achievable, and purposeful. Use the tools that are around you to aid you.
Whether you are reading a poem, a play, or a piece of prose – analysis is the key to understanding English Literature. So how should you revise? Firstly, we need to change this question. It is less about how you can ‘revise’ analysis and more about how you can refine the skill and become a pro:
- Improve your word connotation skills by drawing mind maps for different words and writing all the word associations you can think of.
- Find a short quotation and challenge yourself to squeeze as much analysis out of it as possible. This also works well for group revision as you can bounce ideas off each other.
- Develop an understanding of key literary symbols. For example, in literature, light is often associated with hope.
When it comes to Shakespeare, you can make use of revision websites, flashcards, notes, YouTube, and many more online resources. Just ensure you are confident with these four areas:
- The plot
- The characters
- Key quotations
- Key themes
If you don’t know where to start with your revision, chunk it into these four areas and ensure there are no gaps in your knowledge.
What about the much-loved and dearly treasured poetry anthology? Do not let 15 poems send you into a hot panic. Here is some advice for revising poetry:
- Read the poem fully at least once and make sure you understand it.
- Annotate the poem with your ideas.
- Annotate the poem with ideas from others. Take a look at this gem of a resource, Bradon English, which has detailed video analysis for each poem in the Edexcel Relationships anthology. Search the internet: there is more helpful treasure out there designed to make your life a lot easier!
- Read over your notes.
- Practise answering essay–style questions with and then without your notes.
- Make everything memorable and strategic. For example, a handy acronym when comparing poems is ‘SPLIT’, which stands for the five things you could compare: ‘Subject, Perspective, Language, Ideas, Tone’. This makes the initially daunting task of comparing two poems more manageable.
Last, but certainly not least: how are you supposed to revise a novel?
- Skim-read the novel again to remind yourself of the main ideas (or read over a synopsis of the plot online).
- Break up your notes into the same four areas as for Shakespeare: plot, characters, key quotations, and key themes.
- Buy a revision guide for your set text (York Notes, CGP).
- For group revision you can have verbal debates to challenge each other’s thoughts and deepen your understanding.
- Make sure you have your own copy of the set text so you can write freely in it and have access to it all the time.
When it comes to English revision, the keys to being prepared are to know what is required of you, to train yourself, to refine important skills, and to practise, practise, practise.
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