How to make a revision timetable

Reading Time: 3 minutes In this series, I’m looking at the ways get the most from mock exams, with practical steps to help you dial back the stress. Know your goals. Create a revision timetable (this post) 10 revision tips A good revision space  What to do during mocks Review, reflect, repeat DO NOT get out highlighters and coloured pens. It’s a cliché, but an often true one: the timetable makes so long to make that by the time you’ve finished, you have to do it again to make up for the time you’ve spent making it. There are also online timetable creators like GetRevising, …

Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys” – the importance of literature

Reading Time: 8 minutes Below is a pretty lengthy post, of an essay I wrote to discuss writing style with my Y11s in the run-up to their Christmas mocks.

“Literature is medicine, wisdom, elastoplast, everything”. How does Bennett presents the importance of the literature in the play?

Bennett’s conflicted representation of literature is perhaps startling coming from a man who is, after all, an accomplished and acclaimed writer. Hector’s viewpoint of literature as salvation, comfort, the ultimate distinguisher of humanity, is, after all, the way that writers would, we assume, like to view themselves: creating something of value within the world. However, by the end of the play a very different perspective emerges. Literature (with a capital ‘L’, as ascribed to works of canonical quality) and ‘popular culture’ become indistinguishable as Hector teaches the “tosh” of Gracie Fields and Brief Encounter alongside Larkin, Housman and Shakespeare. For the boys, literature loses its significance, echoing the ways in which the boys grow up and lose some of their admiration for the adults in their lives. The tragedy of Posner is the crucial answer to this question: he is searching for meaning, solace and comfort, and while he has all of the quotations from Hector he has none of the guidance he needs. Although as a writer, Bennett – like many others – might like to think his work has longevity and speaks to our humanity, he is also ruefully aware that for many, echoes of the past fall short.

If you’re studying The History Boys, I’ve also written a five-star revision guide that’s available for just £3!

Unpicking language in literature: why the blue curtains do matter

Reading Time: 3 minutes As a teacher, the thing I find myself saying over and over again to students is, “develop your language analysis”. Every year, every student, almost every piece. It’s not that they’re bad at it – far from it, mostly! But it’s always the thing that makes their explanations more precise and, in the exams they do, will get them better marks. The thing is, we’re trying to make the implicit become explicit. The feeling that you get when you read gets unpicked, understood, and stitched back together again. I usually get shown this meme at some point in the year too: …

Planning comparison essays for GCSE and A Level

Reading Time: 6 minutes One of the most difficult skills to do well is, I think, comparison, and it’s often what distinguishes really good writers – the ability to hold both texts together and weigh them against one another. This post explores some ways to plan a comparative answer – before you’re in the exam hall! I actually think the A-Level style of questions works better to prompt good, focused comparison – so let’s compare the two: GCSE: Explore the way Browning presents painful relationships in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and one other poem from the Relationships cluster. A-Level: Dystopian writing often portrays a bleak future …

Revision tips plus guidance booklet to download

Reading Time: 2 minutes Re-read the set texts For some this is the longest bit! Re-read them, peeferably in full study mode making notes and annotations as you go. if you need to use some of the audio books – you can find most of the set texts on youtube or the BBC (radio 4 on the iplayer can be helpful!) and have someone read to you. Get your books in order They’re the best revision guide you can have. Go through, make sure your notes are thorough and detailed, you’ve filled any blanks and know what you were doing! Try highlighting the page …

Sonnet 29 analysis – Elizabeth Barrett Browning AQA GCSE

Reading Time: 8 minutes 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 …