How do I study for a closed book examination at A Level?

The aim of the game with a closed book examination is to test your memory, knowledge and understanding of a text, things you should have built upon in class over the year. However, the thought of having to write an examined essay without your trusty, well-worn annotated copy can induce nightmares in even the most confident A-Level student. Thorough learning of the text through plot diagrams, character profiles then careful selection of quotes will have you writing essays with confidence in no time. The first tip, which should almost go without saying is, make sure you've actually read the whole book, cover to cover, at least once! Once you've done that, then feel free to move onto the more fun film adaptations to refresh your memory... A quick search on YouTube can also dig up lots of people commenting on the book or even making plot summaries for you. Try first to summarise the book in twelve sentences, then be discriminating about which points were most important to the plot and development. Every exam board deals with closed book questions differently, so it's important that you understand whether you'll be asked on a theme, section of a book, character or even a sentence from literary theory you need to agree/disagree with. Knowing this, you can select quotes to learn. There are no magic tricks to wrote learning quotes, but there are lots of things you can try to make it easier. A computer or phone app can give you flashcards with trigger words and a scoring system based on how well you feel like you recalled quote. Good examples are Brainscape or Memrise but there are so many for every platform. Equally, if you prefer a pen and paper approach this works. Stick post-it notes or larger A4 posters with your quotes around your room or house, and if your family are willing, you can always get them to quiz you! Writing them out, covering them up and trying to write them again can be boring but also helps activate muscle memory which can be invaluable in the exam. Once you've got your quotes and themes, it's time to think about how you'll approach an exam question and ensure your answers don't sound contrived! 

Beth W. A Level English Literature tutor, GCSE English Literature tut...

4 months ago

Answered by Beth, an A Level English Literature tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


£22 /hr

Ruth D.

Degree: Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literary Studies' (Masters) - Durham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Geography+ 1 more

English Literature
English Language

“About Me-I am an English Student studying at Durham University. I have always loved literatureand the language that forms it. I also thoroughly enjoyed geography but unfortunately could not take it to degree level, but it still contin...”

£20 /hr

Emily B.

Degree: English Literature (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, History of Art+ 2 more

English Literature
History of Art
English and World Literature

“About Me: I am currently in my third year reading English literature at Durham University. As a considerable amount of my time is spent immersed in a book, both for my course and for pleasure, I hope that I will be able to help you ...”

MyTutor guarantee

£22 /hr

Benjamin F.

Degree: History and Classics (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Maths+ 3 more

English Literature

“With experience in both teaching and personal tutoring I am looking forward to working with you whilst I complete myHistory and Classics degree at the University ofDurham. I really do have an interest in working individually with stud...”

About the author

Beth W.

Currently unavailable: for regular students

Degree: English Literature (Bachelors) - Cambridge University

Subjects offered: English Literature, History+ 5 more

English Literature
English Language
-Oxbridge Preparation-

“I am currently a student at the University of Cambridge reading English literature. Throughout GCSE and A-Level English literature I accrued full marks in every formal, externally marked assessment. I have a limitless passion for my s...”

You may also like...

Posts by Beth

How do I approach an unseen text at GCSE?

How do I study for a closed book examination at A Level?

Other A Level English Literature questions

How do I make an effective analysis of a text?

What do Feminist critics do?

How do I structure a good exam essay?

How does Shakespeare present the theme of justice in King Lear?

View A Level English Literature tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss