How do I revise novels my English Literature GCSE exam?

Firstly, make sure that you understand and can remember the plot of the book. If you have not made summarising notes throughout the year, do not worry. Although your personal notes are better as they are more tailored to you, websites such as Sparknotes are extremely useful for reminding you of the plots of books. From these summaries, make your own, more concise notes to read over- this way you are doing something practical (reading alone is rarely effective revision). Perhaps make flashcards of the key points to keep going over.

Next it is crucial to revise the key themes of the book. Make a list of all of the themes that you can think of- start with the obvious ones and go until you cannot think of anymore, even if the final themes on your list are tenuous.

If on your exam board you have to compare multiple novels, do the above for both books and then see which themes match. Even if you have not used exactly the same words to describe the themes, they may still match. Maybe create a venn diagram to enable you to visualise which themes connect the novels.

It is useful to create a mindmap of each theme to expand on why the themes are important, how they are presented in the plot, stylistic devices and structure of the novels, and (if relevant) how they connect the different novels. This should provide you with lots of ideas to draw upon in an exam.

Next it is important that you learn some key quotes that relate to each theme. Quotes which work for more than one theme are great! Even if your exam is ‘open text’ (you are allowed the book in the exam), it is always useful to know some quotes because flipping through a book looking for a quote soaks up valuable exam time. The process of learning quotes also helps you to gain a deeper understanding of the text.

Even if your themes do not come up in the exam, because you have covered so many in your revision it should not be too difficult to adapt your ideas and your knowledge to the question.

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