Learning quotations for English: is it really necessary?

Quotation or close reference? With closed book exams at GCSE and A-Level it’s easy to think that memorising lots of quotations is the way to go. It’s something concrete, solid to learn, and feels like you know a lot. But can you use them? I’ve written elsewhere about how and what to revise, and it’s also worth remembering that the assessment objective for analysis includes close reference, as well as form and structure – not just language. During the revision season, it’s a good idea to focus on detailed understanding of form, structure and micro-quotations, rather than trying to memorise whole poems …

How do I revise for English? Where to start, and a revision schedule.

As a teacher, I’m asked this almost constantly in the run-up to exams. There is a perception that English is a “skills subject” and therefore much more difficult to revise for compared to, say Biology or History. Although there’s a great deal of skill involved, there is a lot of knowledge needed for English exams; the “skill section” is in putting it all into practice.  I’m not sure if the question is a misunderstanding of this, or a sense of being overwhelmed with where to begin. I think it’s sometimes the latter, and so in this post I’ll look at a …

Station Eleven: Unseen practice and sample answer

We’ve been working on unseen, close analysis for the Dystopian / genre question at A-Level. Because AO2 is such a focus, very closely pinning everything to the text has been essential. I’ve particularly made sure that we’re discussing narrative perspective/viewpoint, partly because I think it’s a complex idea which distinguishes high-level candidates, and partly because it gets to the real heart of AO2 in terms of how the text is being presented. Download the extract and this sample answer here. All my unseen questions are on my Dropbox folder — This extract from ‘Station Eleven, written in 2014, echoes contemporary concerns …

Sonnet 29 analysis – Elizabeth Barrett Browning AQA GCSE

Context: Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a Victorian poet, incredibly successful and celebrated in her time, both by the public and literary critics – she was the one other female poets were measured against. Perhaps her most famous and enduring collection is Sonnets from the Portugese, which was a collection of love poems written to Robert Browning – the one who wrote Porphyria’s Lover. They were in love at a distance for a long time, partly because her family disapproved of the relationship (she was disinherited following her marriage) and partly because she was quite an invalid, suffering from severe illness …

Climbing My Grandfather: analysis AQA Love and Relationships

Context: Waterhouse is a contemporary poet; this was written in 2000, just before he died aged 41. Andrew Waterhouse was a concerned environmentalist, studying an MSc in Environmental Science and this follows through into his poetry. A review written after his death said that “His imagination is both vivid and uncluttered.” He uses his love of nature to inform his imagery. “The world their writer imagines is full of solid objects and hard edges – stones, wood, frozen ground – which offer little purchase to its inhabitants. These may be familiar problems of modernity, but both the strength and the …