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How do I prepare for an English Literature exam?

The most important thing when preparing for your English exam is to make sure you have a clear idea of the themes of the pieces – whether they be novels, plays or poems. In my experience, the most productive thing to do is to create a mind map/large colourful page with your main ideas and essay plan written out on it.

For example, if you were doing an essay on ‘Simon is the moral hero in Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Discuss’ it is clear from the outset that there will have to be both a for and against argument with regards to the statement. An essay plan for this topic would consist of an introduction outlining the definition of a ‘moral hero’, your arguments for Simon being seen as the moral hero (references to Christ, references to his altruism, his connection with the forest, his attempts to warn the boys and his ultimate death) backed up by the relevant quotes and devices related to each heading, a counter argument that he was perhaps not heroic enough to be considered a moral hero and a conclusion that clearly weighs down on whatever side of the argument you see fit.

An effective essay plan would be separated into introduction, headed paragraphs and a concise conclusion. I would recommend using different colours for quotes and devices. This would allow you to enter the exam and make a quick outline (paragraph headings) at the top of your page before you start writing to ensure that your work effectively covers the question and that you hit your main point. This will allow for a clear, articulate essay that contains the key themes of the novel but ensures that these are specifically applied to the question asked. The most important thing in an English exam is to answer the question you are given – not the question you wanted to be asked!

Ciara K. 13 Plus  English tutor, 11 Plus English tutor, A Level Engli...

3 months ago

Answered by Ciara, a GCSE English Literature tutor with MyTutor


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Degree: Ancient & Modern History (Bachelors) - Oxford, Magdalen College University

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Ciara K.

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Degree: Law (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered: English Literature, English Language+ 4 more

English Literature
English Language
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“About me I'm a 20 year old Northern Irish student currently studying Law at the University of Bristol.  I acheived 10 A*s and an A in my GCSE exams in 2013 - including full marks in English Language where I came first in Northern Ire...”

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