How do I achieve a higher grade in A Level English Lit?

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MrXtra
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Hi all.
I currently study A Level English Literature and getting around Cs in my assessments. I am currently in Year 12 and I do the AQA A specification.

I am really struggling in the subject. In mock exams, I do analyse and mention things like literary critics, historical context etc. and I can not get past a C.

How do I achieve a grade A by the end of Year 13?

What are your top tips?

From a stressed out student 🙂🙂🙂
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123vet
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Hard to know where you need to improve without reading one of your essays, but here are a few thoughts:

How good is your overall essay technique? Do you start with a short and clear intro, and finish with a firm conclusion? An essay should be like an argument. In your intro, you set up where you might take this argument; in your conclusion, you wrap it up. Imagine dropping the mic after your final sentence - that's how decisive it should be.

Are you really engaging with the critics, context etc. or are you just quoting and name dropping? Part of getting that A is about engaging with the material you are using. Why is the context relevant to your point? Do you agree or disagree with the critic's argument? Why?

Check the mark scheme. What are the marks for? Look at the assessment objectives (AOs). Read examples of work that scores highly, and try to work out why it gets the A or A* grade.

Lastly, the best thing you can do is speak to your teachers and ask them for help. Don't stress out, you've got plenty of time to improve but talk to someone early so they can help you.

Hope this helps - pm me for more advice!

*I do English Lit A Level, not AQA but quite similar, currently in Year 13 and averaging A/A* grades.
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MrXtra
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Would you like to see an Othello response?
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MrXtra
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Thanks for the advice too- what grades did u get in Y12?
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123vet
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Yeah sure - not studying Othello but doing Shakespeare so might be able to help.

I got As in Year 12 but I've definitely improved a lot since then (more than the grades show), so I know how it feels to be pushing yourself to improve
(Original post by MrXtra)
Would you like to see an Othello response?
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MrXtra
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MrXtra
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Ah, uploaded a photo twice. My apologies. Name:  9B89E318-DD85-4080-9E39-3E804EE3BF5A.jpg.jpeg
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OctoberRain7
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I’m sitting on an A in the AS course at the minute, here’s a couple of things that might help:
-Your argument (answering the question) is the most important thing. You should have a few main points which everything (analysis, context, etc.) links back to and supports
-You need to establish a clear idea of the type of literature you are writing about (tragedy/comedy/etc) and link this to your argument. Mention these things explicitly in your writing. (I think this applies to A2 but I have only done the aspects of tragedy bit thus far)
-Literary critics are for giving you ideas and helping you understand the texts. You don’t need to write about them or quote from them, and I would recommend not doing that
-It’s better to write a lot about a little than the converse. If you can analyse one quotation/stage direction/etc in depth (especially in an extract question) and link it to other pieces of the text, relevant context and genre while making it say something about your argument, that should be a whole paragraph and a whole point. You don’t need to say everything in your essay, only what is relevant to the question
-Looking at the way that you write helps. Sometimes you can take a whole sentence unnecessarily stating something that could be summarised in one adjective inserted into another sentence, but it’s better to make all of your words matter. I would recommend quoting from the text often, mainly short quotations of one or two words that you can easily remember
-Don’t retell the story. If you say something about an event, be as brief as possible about it and explain what it says relating to your point
-Whenever you analyse something always try to use technical terminology when you can (e.g. sibilance, dramatic irony, parallel syntax) and explain the effect it creates. e.g. The alliteration in “X” creates the effect of Y on the reader which proves my point of Z because Q
This was really long but I hope it helps, honestly one of the best things to do is ask your teachers why they mark your essays the way they do but I understand some teachers aren’t great at that. Also you have another year to improve so there’s no need to be stressed right now, a C is still good!
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123vet
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Thanks - can you send me the question title too?
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username4064618
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I'm currently getting B's at Year 12 AQA Love through the ages.
You need to constantly reference to the writer not the characters. You also need to cut out irrelevant info - for instance in poetry don't mention context unless its crutial. So in 'Who so list to hount' you can mention that Wyatt might have wrote the poem to reflect Anne Boleyn but don't dwell on this. The poems have speakers and are not all autobiographical.
In Othello make sure you use the passage for more than one paragraph and constantly refer to Shakespeares motives. Try not to retell the story
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123vet
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So it's a little hard to read (your handwriting's neat, my screen's just blurry ) but here are a few quick thoughts:

I wonder if you are doing enough analysis - that means using technical terms to pick out techniques that Shakespeare is doing for a reason. There are definitely moments when you do this well - well done Now see if you can be even more specific and technical. If you find this hard, maybe use shorter quotes (some of your quotes are long-ish; fine, but shortening them might help you improve?)

This was an extract question, I think, so you can pick out specific words or phrases that are useful to your argument. Think about specific words (verbs, adverbs, abstract nouns etc.) up to connected words (e.g. 'the lexis associated with...') and about imagery, metre (iambic pentameter, prose etc.); more importantly, think about how and why Shakespeare is using them.
Here are some examples of what I mean by analysis:

Shakespeare's use of the repeated, monosyllabic verb "Drown'd" emphasises the finality of death and the character's realisation of their own mortality. The simile "XYZ" reinforces this...

Or

The stark contrast between imagery relating to fire and water may be used to suggest an internal conflict within the character. This is further heightened by Shakespeare's use of...

See?

Also think about the way you open a paragraph. 'In this play/extract' is fine, but try to avoid doing that more than once. (Also, try not to split your answer into 'in this extract' and then 'in the rest of the play'; work back and forth, making links between the two in every paragraph).

The way I often choose to open a paragraph is by connecting it to a theme e.g. 'Shakespeare's exploration of death and different responses to it begins with Character A and Character B's plot to murder Character C at the start of the extract'. This shows you know what's going on in the extract, and you've linked it to a theme (death) and sets you up nicely to go into analysis like that I mentioned above.

Summary: good start - now try to work down from big ideas (themes) into really tight analytical points. Your analysis looks really promising - give more of it and make sure you support any of the claims that you make.

It's worth saying that I don't know this question or the mark scheme - these are just a few tips that help me. Definitely ask your teacher about what AQA wants from you because they will know more about this than me.

Hope this helps and do ask if any of what I've said is unclear.
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MrXtra
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@123vet. Will direct message you now🙂
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MrXtra
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“Examine the view that masculine love is dominated by self interest in this extract and throughout the play”
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123vet
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Tough question! That sounds difficult...

Just had another look and a few more thoughts:

Try to avoid using "I" - it's not the end of the world and some people who get As and A*s do it. But for really great essay technique, it's better to avoid it - it leads you to make statements like "I agree with X/Y/Z" which is again fine, but you can do better.

Some ideas on how to manage this
"While this extract seems at first to support the view that masculine love is dominated by self-interest, Shakespeare's presentation of Character A and their response to B/C/D challenges this interpretation, suggesting instead that..."

Even if you do agree (that's fine!) think about giving a slightly more balanced view i.e. agree to a certain extent, but disagree slightly on the basis of Point X. Or if you wholeheartedly agree and you don't see any way of disagreeing, then nuance it a bit more - in your argument talk about how the extract supports the view, but if one was to read "masculine love" as including/excluding X/Y/Z, then this statement would no longer be so easily applicable.

Hopefully that helps - keep up the good work
(Original post by MrXtra)
“Examine the view that masculine love is dominated by self interest in this extract and throughout the play”
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MrXtra
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Thank you everybody, your all so kind! I just wish it was good work as I’m really aiming for a B at then end of Y12 then an A at then end of Year13🙃
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123vet
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No problem! Just keep pushing - you might feel like you're not getting anywhere at first but if you carry on working you can definitely get that A at the end
(Original post by MrXtra)
Thank you everybody, your all so kind! I just wish it was good work as I’m really aiming for a B at then end of Y12 then an A at then end of Year13🙃
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ghostgrrl
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First of all: please don't worry yourself so much, you still have plenty of time to get to where you want to be, success isn't necessarily linear and occurs in leaps and bounds for some.
I'm a pretty consistent A / A* year 13 student, who has achieved an A* in coursework.

What helped me more than any exam board technique has geniunely been reading, whether it be fiction or essays related to my set texts. Steal phrases! Take note of structure! Fake it till ya make it etc! Try to find an angle on your texts that geniunely interests you, and conduct your own research using newspaper articles/ literary journals and so on. It's incredible how much skill can be absorbed through osmosis alone.

I was lucky to get away with hardly planning all through my GCSEs, but now it's an absolute godsend. Bullet point every quote, piece of context and critical analysis you want to get into each paragraph. Have a few sturdily universal critical quotes that you can spice up your conclusion with. Opening a dialogue will get you credit.

Stick to a roughly constant structure in introductions, or so much time will be drained away from stressing about your opening.

Keep writing, and you will find a niche 'voice' that works for you, and style alone tends to count for a lot.

Good luck! You can absolutely do it!
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