How to revise for mock exams

Reading Time: 5 minutes Whether you call them mock exams or trial exams (nothing reassures you it’s low-stakes like calling it a trial, right?!), whether they’re before Christmas or after, chances are if you’re a GCSE or  A-Level student you’ll have practice exams coming up soon. And in many schools, you’ll have them a couple of times a year. Mock exams. The full experience of walking into a hall, finding your seat number, remembering to bring a clear pencil case and water bottle in case you’ve scribbled some physics formulae on the inside. They can be hard and they can be stressful. But they …

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!

How to write comparison essays in an exam

Reading Time: 7 minutes When you start writing essays this seems really complicated, but breaking it down can help. Remember these two simple facts: 1. Comparison means similarities and differences 2. Comparison means there has to be some link or connection The similarity, specifically literature and English Language, can be either technical – looking at a way of writing, for example a specific use of metaphor – or thematic – the way a similar idea is represented. Ideally the comparison is knitted together, so interwoven that you can’t pull one text apart from the other. That’s the ideal, but there are some ways to …

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 …