How do I select and memorise my quotes for the exam?

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It can truly add pressure to a student when they have to remember quotes for their exam. How to go about selecting and revising them is also a struggle, however here are some step by step tips on how to do exactly that!

1 – Re-read through the material you will be quoting from carefully

This may seem like a chore especially if you have been studying the same books/poems/plays for an extended period of time. However, you need to select the quotes that will be the most versatile, meaning there should only be a handful per text. If you are studying 2 books that you mustincorporate into the exam, then 20 quotes overall should be the maximum. When re-reading be sure to relate the quotes you are selecting to any overall themes such as friendship, family, religion etc. Therefore, if a question arises about one of these themes you will have a direct quotet. At this point in the process feel free to highlight as many quotes as you feel are relevant and the next step will help you select the most appropriate ones.  

2 – Couple the quotes into categories

Each quote you have selected will be able to be categorized and many students make the mistake of feeling they need a quote from each character. This is not the case and can be incredibly time consuming! Rather the best course of action is to have encompassing quotes. Say that the categories you wish to focus on are:






Most of what you study will have around 5 themes at their root, therefore if you are extracting 10 quotes from each texts you will need 2 per theme. That doesn’t seem like too many now does it? Don’t panic that this doesn’t seem like enough, your examiner doesn’t expect you to memories a huge number of quotes, it’s how you use them that matters. Many quotes overlap, therefore you can usually use one for a group of themes. Take for exam the commonly used GCSE text “Lord of the Flies”:

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.”

This is a relatively short quote yet memorable, it crosses themes easily too. There is a sense of impending death that comes from the threat of the ‘beast’. The idea of “us” is a sign of friendship between the boy. Lastly there is a lack of power, they feel helpless in comparison to this creature. You could even argue that the ‘beast’ is a commonly known name for the devil which would relate to religion. Just from this simple quote you are able to use it for 4 of the 5 themes. Gathering together all the quotes you have for each theme select the most versatile ones and disregard those that are either too long or would only be relevant to a very specific question.

3 – Prepare cue cards and practice, practice, practice!

Once you have gathered together all of the relevant quotes you need to memorise begin to write them out on cue cards. One side with the quote and the other the name of the text that it comes from. When practicing begin by reading aloud the quote to yourself with the card in front of you. Keep on doing this until you feel familiarized with them. Afterwards there are two ways in which you can help solidify the memory. The first is to give the cards to someone else and ask them to read the one and/or two words, allowing you to complete the rest e.g. “Which quote starts with ‘Maybe there’”.  The second way is for them to ask you two quotes you know from the core text at random e.g. “What are two quotes you can remember from ‘Lord of the Flies’?”. They will be able to check whether you quoted correctly as it will be written on the back.

If you are unable to find someone to help you it is always possible to do this yourself, simply write out the quotes incompletely e.g. “____ _____ _ _ beast… ___ it’s only___”. Once you have done this put the paper to one side and practice with your cue cards. After an hour has passed from your revision attempt to complete the gaps in the sentences. Keep doing this while deminishing the amount of words you rely on until you can complete a sentence without any help.

 This however should not be a substitute for creating cue cards as they are not only helpful for keeping all of your quotes together, they are also convenient as you can carry them around with you. Having a quick run through them just before your exam should reiterate how well you know them! However, you must remember to not accidentally carry them into your exam!

Good luck quoting! 

Tianna G. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature t...

About the author

is an online GCSE English Literature tutor with MyTutor studying at Bristol University

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