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How to study for A-level English literature?

I'm the kind of person where I need specific instructions and steps to take in order to get anything done, which is why I tend to excel in learning languages. I have started my A-levels over six months ago, studying French (which I do very well in), English language (which I do average in) and English literature (which I am absolutely awful at). I got an E in my last English literature mock, and I just have no idea how to study in the next eight weeks in order to get the A that I want. I need specific instructions and methods to study. Everyone tends to say things like "read critical articles" and "study themes and characters" and that doesn't help me at all because I just don't know where to start, and I get easily overwhelmed by the amount that I have to do. This whole thing really upsets me because I've always been quite good at English literature. Everyone said that I would need to ditch the methods I used to study GCSE English literature (I got a 9), because it was so different at A-level, but all that has done is leave me at an impasse. I just don't know how to get the A that I want in this subject. Could anyone give me some advice on how to handle this subject without getting overwhelmed?
(edited 2 years ago)
Reply 1
list out all the themes from the texts you've studied. look at past paper qs and see which ones have come up already. make plans for these essays, not long but enough there for you to write an essay. Print out a sheet or ask ur skl for a sheet with all the A0s (if your board has them) and see if you're getting a decent mark in each one. Getting an E mostly means you don't know the text well enough, so reread them if necessary, and read articles on them for the perspective of others. Then write these essays. As many as you can, without burning out or making it too burdening for you. You'll ultimately improve from practise, so get these marked by your teachers if possible.
You say that people told you to ditch how u wrote essays at GCSE, have you tried doing so? If so and it doesn't work you need to ask your teachers where you need to improve. Nobody here knows how you write and what your capable of, so arrange an after school meeting with you teachers if necessary. You want an A, so put in the work needed for the A.
Just don't stress too much. You have enough time to improve, and you finish content quite early in Lit so you'll have plenty of time to revise. But your goal is improve ASAP so set your deadline sooner. You need to catch up to everyone else and they're not waiting so don't waste anymore time. Otherwise you'll be in year 13 still not sure how to write better essays after putting it off for months on end. if you need more specific advice, i can lyk what i've been doing (y13 rn and got an A in my jan mocks)
Reply 2
Original post by H.dy
list out all the themes from the texts you've studied. look at past paper qs and see which ones have come up already. make plans for these essays, not long but enough there for you to write an essay. Print out a sheet or ask ur skl for a sheet with all the A0s (if your board has them) and see if you're getting a decent mark in each one. Getting an E mostly means you don't know the text well enough, so reread them if necessary, and read articles on them for the perspective of others. Then write these essays. As many as you can, without burning out or making it too burdening for you. You'll ultimately improve from practise, so get these marked by your teachers if possible.
You say that people told you to ditch how u wrote essays at GCSE, have you tried doing so? If so and it doesn't work you need to ask your teachers where you need to improve. Nobody here knows how you write and what your capable of, so arrange an after school meeting with you teachers if necessary. You want an A, so put in the work needed for the A.
Just don't stress too much. You have enough time to improve, and you finish content quite early in Lit so you'll have plenty of time to revise. But your goal is improve ASAP so set your deadline sooner. You need to catch up to everyone else and they're not waiting so don't waste anymore time. Otherwise you'll be in year 13 still not sure how to write better essays after putting it off for months on end. if you need more specific advice, i can lyk what i've been doing (y13 rn and got an A in my jan mocks)

Thank you for the advice! I'd love it if you let me know what you have been doing if you don't mind.
Reply 3
Original post by Mirai227
Thank you for the advice! I'd love it if you let me know what you have been doing if you don't mind.

So our teachers usually gave us an essay every month or so, and in the meantime I would do different things for different parts of my course. We (aqa lit A option B): do Gatsby, love thru ages anthology, Othello (closed book), Owen Sheers - Skirrid Hill (A2), Revolutionary Road (A2), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (A2) and Hedda Gabler (text for coursework). There are 2 unseen questions, one is unseen poetry (paper 1) and the other is unseen prose (paper 2).
Poetry and Gatsby - I'd go through my anthology and choose a solid 5-8 poems that I know I understand and make plans for them linking to themes that come up in Gatsby as well (the question is comparing 2 poems and Gatsby). The most common ones revolve around love and different types of it, so quotes are very inter-changeable. If i find an theme a bit challenging I'll write the essay and ask my teacher to mark it + feedback (something you'll find is really common here)
Othello - my only closed book exam so I make sure to learn the quotes for key themes, and since we got the reduced content I'm focussing on looking at Act 3 and what they could ask about it (I'm guessing Iago and i'll kms if it's some bs like Cassio and they ignore the biggest speeches in the act). Im gonna have to practise writing up more essays, but for since this q is Shakespeare I can pull some Biblical quotes and whatnot for some extra marks.
Unseen poetry - I won't lie, you've either got this or you don't. It's the ability to understand what the writer means, and link it to the time period. That means practise, and learning the time periods (our teacher made us learn them) and see if their writing aligns with the time period.
RR and Cat - my worst essay last mock, and something I'd need to work on. One's a play, and a short one so in the exam I'd be able to quickly look for quotes since I know where they are. For RR, I'm going to need to focus on key themes and end up making character profiles (i hate this it's so boring) just because it's a chunky text. The question was acc so aids, something about love which is actually bs but oh well.
Skirrid Hill - probably my favourite text (petry anthology) and I treat it the same way I treat the other poetry in the sense that I choose my strongest 10 poems and know how to use them off by heart. Sheers nicely arranged his poems so they all match in groups of 3 (theme wise) so it's easy to prepare imo. Only problem is context because it was written in like 2005, and idk what to relate it to. Once again, practise essays (so fun).
Unseen prose - can be better than unseen poetry, but it depends on how it's written. I had to do like 5 essays in class on it, but tbh that's all I did as preperation for my mock. Probably gonna look at past paper qs and model essays bc i cba to write any essays on it. My mock one was pretty easy - abt some girl who can't do physics because she's a girl and she gets steryotyped etc.
Hedda Gabler - my coursework text from skl, i dont think i should explain this because i didnt really prepare it for an exam, it was all done at home and i submitted it today. 20% of my grade so hopefully i get the A* in it.
umm i think that's it, and as u can see not very eventful. But do not overthink this and end up writing too much like a robot. when you write like 4 sides, the quality tends to decrease from then on so make sure you don't waffle in the exam as u lose A01 marks. Also make your main argument the one you agree with. Arguing with passion from your own beliefs outperforms essays that choose easy points that you're impartial to or disagree with.
Reply 4
forgot to mention there should be yt videos u can use to help u revise. i used them when making quote banks to see what i need to cover
Reply 5
Original post by H.dy
So our teachers usually gave us an essay every month or so, and in the meantime I would do different things for different parts of my course. We (aqa lit A option B): do Gatsby, love thru ages anthology, Othello (closed book), Owen Sheers - Skirrid Hill (A2), Revolutionary Road (A2), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (A2) and Hedda Gabler (text for coursework). There are 2 unseen questions, one is unseen poetry (paper 1) and the other is unseen prose (paper 2).
Poetry and Gatsby - I'd go through my anthology and choose a solid 5-8 poems that I know I understand and make plans for them linking to themes that come up in Gatsby as well (the question is comparing 2 poems and Gatsby). The most common ones revolve around love and different types of it, so quotes are very inter-changeable. If i find an theme a bit challenging I'll write the essay and ask my teacher to mark it + feedback (something you'll find is really common here)
Othello - my only closed book exam so I make sure to learn the quotes for key themes, and since we got the reduced content I'm focussing on looking at Act 3 and what they could ask about it (I'm guessing Iago and i'll kms if it's some bs like Cassio and they ignore the biggest speeches in the act). Im gonna have to practise writing up more essays, but for since this q is Shakespeare I can pull some Biblical quotes and whatnot for some extra marks.
Unseen poetry - I won't lie, you've either got this or you don't. It's the ability to understand what the writer means, and link it to the time period. That means practise, and learning the time periods (our teacher made us learn them) and see if their writing aligns with the time period.
RR and Cat - my worst essay last mock, and something I'd need to work on. One's a play, and a short one so in the exam I'd be able to quickly look for quotes since I know where they are. For RR, I'm going to need to focus on key themes and end up making character profiles (i hate this it's so boring) just because it's a chunky text. The question was acc so aids, something about love which is actually bs but oh well.
Skirrid Hill - probably my favourite text (petry anthology) and I treat it the same way I treat the other poetry in the sense that I choose my strongest 10 poems and know how to use them off by heart. Sheers nicely arranged his poems so they all match in groups of 3 (theme wise) so it's easy to prepare imo. Only problem is context because it was written in like 2005, and idk what to relate it to. Once again, practise essays (so fun).
Unseen prose - can be better than unseen poetry, but it depends on how it's written. I had to do like 5 essays in class on it, but tbh that's all I did as preperation for my mock. Probably gonna look at past paper qs and model essays bc i cba to write any essays on it. My mock one was pretty easy - abt some girl who can't do physics because she's a girl and she gets steryotyped etc.
Hedda Gabler - my coursework text from skl, i dont think i should explain this because i didnt really prepare it for an exam, it was all done at home and i submitted it today. 20% of my grade so hopefully i get the A* in it.
umm i think that's it, and as u can see not very eventful. But do not overthink this and end up writing too much like a robot. when you write like 4 sides, the quality tends to decrease from then on so make sure you don't waffle in the exam as u lose A01 marks. Also make your main argument the one you agree with. Arguing with passion from your own beliefs outperforms essays that choose easy points that you're impartial to or disagree with.

Thanks!!

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