How do I get an A* in my English Literature A-Level exam?

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Depending on what examination board (AQA, CIE, OCR) you do, there will be different requirements for you. However, as a general rule it is important that you try and include these things if you are looking to achieve a high grade:
1. Always look at the assessment obejctives. (AO1, AO2, AO3 and AO4). Each paragraph that  you write should include all four of these.
2. What do the assessment objectives really mean?
(i) AO1 - does what you write answer the question?
(ii) AO2 - analysis. The examiner is looking for some great, in-depth analysis of a phrase or word that helps support your point. This needs to be much more detailed than at GCSE.
(iii) AO3 - alternative views. This can be finding critics quotes, or simply expressing that you consider a possible alternative to what you are writing. Remember, critics are like you and me: they have an opinion. You can agree or disagree with it, so don't be shy. 
(iv) AO4 - social or historical context. Social and historical context of a piece of work often helps inform our knowledge of why the person wrote it. Try to make it specific, short and snappy. It works best if integrated into your argument fluently.
3. Depth, depth, depth. Read around your subject/novel/poem/play. What do other people say on it? What are the different interpretations? Are there any reviews or articles that you can find? Good places to start are JSTOR and Google Scholar. Reading around will help you make a better decision as to what you think on text. 
4. Have a strong argument. Your essay must flow from one point to the next. So if you think that Jane Eyre is a feminist text or has post-colonial influence, then you need to make it explicit to the examiner that you think so and make it consistent throughout the essay. 
5. Try to be original. It's hard, but if you can think of an interesting point that sets you apart from the rest of your class, then you will grab the examiner's attention.
6. Finally, make your conclusion strong. Be clear and concise, coming up with a summative view on the text. If in doubt, find a witty quote from a critic or from the text that you are studying that sums up your point.

 

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