Planning comparison essays for GCSE and A Level

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 …

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 …

Revision tips plus guidance booklet to download

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 …