How to revise for A-level English Literature exams: AQA explains what to do

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Exam and revision advice to help you get your target grades in A-level English Literature

When you're revising for your A-level exams, you want to make the most of your study time.

So, we invited the experts at the AQA exam board to share their tips and advice on preparing for A-level English Literature exams.

The article that follows has been written by an AQA curriculum expert, based on their years of experience in the assessment of their subject.  

You can find more articles in this series, covering a range of subjects at both GCSE and A-level, over on our revision section.

Also on The Student Room, you can find student discussion of 2024 A-level exams.

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Know your texts

Students who have a clear sense of the order of events in their texts (how the stories begin and end and where the key moments occur) have a big advantage over those students who don’t.

So you need to know the whole text extremely well. For instance, detailed knowledge of your Shakespeare play will help you position the given extract within the wider context of the play, informing your response to the task.

Answer the question you’ve been asked

It’s important to answer every single element of the question asked on the day - not the question you hoped you’d be asked.

If you answer every part of the question in full then you’ll naturally cover all the elements of the mark scheme - but you’ll find it hard to write an assured and sophisticated argument if you miss part of the question out.

Time management is really important

Use your time well in the exam. Planning is always a good idea – whether it’s bullet point notes, jottings, or any other means of helping to structure your argument or thought process.

This will help you stay on track with your response and stop you from repeating or contradicting yourself. Remember, examiners read everything so it’ll never be wasted.

Significance is an invitation to debate

Don’t forget that we use the word ‘significance’ as an invitation to debate and ‘significance’ is not the same as importance.

It’s about what’s signified, what meanings arise and what messages are given out by the text. It’s about how these meanings are produced by what writers do and the methods they use.

For instance, are particular characters and ideas given preferential treatment? Are other characters and ideas neglected or sidelined?

Remember your text choices

Plan ahead which section of the question paper you’ll use each text in.

Double-check which texts you plan to write about for each part of the exam. Do you know which exams are open book?

Make sure you have access to a ‘clean’, unannotated copy of the text to use in the exam. We send extra copies of the AQA anthologies to your school or college, just for use on exam day, so no need to worry about those.

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