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Meet James Holloway
He's our Senior English Tutor and has been with us since 2017. He's passionate about teaching, literature and creative writing.
1. Answer the question
It may sound obvious, but make sure you know what each section of the exam involves. Take a look at last year’s exam paper as well as the sample questions provided on the NESA website. Some Modules may require you to focus on a specific character, a specific aspect of form, or even a specific moment in the text. If you are studying poetry, it is possible you will be asked to analyse one particular poem out of those set for study. Make sure you are aware of the parameters before you sit the exam in order to avoid surprises on the day.
2. Circle keywords and brainstorm
When we are in the exam room it can be easy to zoom in on only one part of the question and forget to address the rest. In order to avoid this, it is a good idea to circle the keywords once reading time is over and then write them down on your planning paper. Completing a brief brainstorm before you start writing will help ensure you stay on track over the course of the essay and don’t accidentally forget to include an important element of the question. As always, make sure to keep an eye on the clock so that you don’t run out of time!
3. Address all aspects of the text
Each text is made up of multiple different components including concepts, quotes, techniques, form and context. Most students will be familiar with concepts, quotes and techniques – but many students may not realise that every essay they write needs a discussion of form and context as well. Make sure you include all five components in your essay. If you realise that you are missing one or more of these components, make sure to revise it before the exam!
4. Understand your content
It may sound obvious but make sure you actually understand each of the points you intend to make in your essays. If you simply memorise your notes without fully understand them, you will not be able to adapt easily to the question and will lose marks as a result. When you are revising, make a note of any details that you still don’t understand and make sure to ask your teacher, a tutor, or a friend to explain!
5. Practice practice and practice
This means writing essays to previously unseen questions under exam style conditions. The English exam is hard work and you will be writing until the very last second. Therefore, you must practice beforehand to ensure you can get all your information down AND adapt to the question within the time limit. When it comes to memorising tricky things like quotes – get creative! Create flash cards and test your memory with friends or a sibling. You might even use a flash card app like Anki or Quizlet.