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Help! How to revise for English A-Level poetry watch

    • Thread Starter

    Hi, so I am beginning to panic because I know you're meant to start revision pretty early for A-Level (I'm not doing AS) and I'm not sure how to revise for poetry. Last year with GCSE I didn't really do much for it but I know A-Level is different, any ideas?

    The thing that people often don't realise about English is that you should NOT be coming up with an answer to the question in the exam.

    "Explain how obsession is presented in poems X and Y"
    Hmm, what do I know about obsession, let me think...


    To prepare, you should of course go through the poems thoroughly and make notes on things like language, rhyme, rhythm, use of alliteration, voice, character etc. Then you should make comparison between poems. THIS poem is similar to THIS poem because they both have rigid rhyme scheme. THIS poem is different to THAT poem because, despite the fact that they're making a similar point, one uses a rigid rhyme scheme to get that across, whereas the other doesn't rhyme at all!

    Finally - and this is the key bit - you should identify the key themes and/or features present in the poems you are studying. You can group them together. Poems A, B, and C deal with love. Poems C, D, and E deal with death. Poems B, D, and E are sonnets. And so on. You can write practice essays comparing and contrasting these features between poems if you like.

    Then when it comes to the exam, instead of thinking up an answer when you see the question, you fit the points you have already thought of to the question

    "Explain how obsession is presented in poems X and Y"
    Well, poems A, B, and C are about love. B and C are pretty intense - you could call that obsessive love. And then just write down all of your best points that you have already thought of about language and love and whatever in those poems, but just relate them to the theme of obsession

    Your next point might be how D, while it's actually about death, is actually quite fixated on the fear of death. You could call that obsession as well. Then just go ahead and make all your favourite points about death in poem D, while relating it back to the theme of obsession.

    This works for literally any question, even really weird ones, so long as you have gone through the poems properly and really thought about them.

    "Explain how poet Z uses rhythm to create a sense of character"

    Whaaattt?? No honestly it's fine. Just think back to all the great points you've already thought of about rhythm in the poems, and relate them back to character SOMEHOW. Think about all the notes how already made about character and see if you can relate them back to rhythm. Think about ANY of comparisons you have previously thought of between the poems, and see if you can shoehorn character and or rhythm in there somehow.

    I hope that made sense. Poetry and English in general is just as revisable as any other subject, don't let anyone tell you otherwise! And don't panic either, this is mad early to be thinking about revision, you're gonna be fine.
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Updated: November 13, 2015
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