This article, which is focused on English Literature GCSE, is one of three articles on how to work smarter and revise for year 11 English students.

In addition to helping clarify what students are actually being examined upon, our highly experienced tutors provide some useful revision and exam technique advice.

Links to our other articles and courses for English GCSE are below:


Assessment Objectives, set by Ofqual, are the same across all GCSE English Literature specifications and all exam boards. There are, however, some differences between exam boards with regards to the structure of the course and how the content is examined. This is particularly the case for the CIE exam board, which offers candidates the choice of three different pathways, including the option to be examined on four studied texts or three studied texts and either an unseen text or two-text coursework component.

 However, all boards/examiners will:

  • test your knowledge and skills in prose, drama and poetry
  • look at the same skills, for example reading comprehension, critical reading and analysis, literal and inferential comprehension, comparison and contrasting of texts studied, clear and coherent writing and use of grammar
  • reward students’ higher marks for displaying critical analysis skills, together with relevant contextual background

Ofqual Assessment objectives 

AO1:Read, understand and respond to texts. Students should be able to:

  • maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response
  • use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations.
AO2:Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate.
AO3:Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written.
AO4:Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation.


1 Revising texts/poetry

  • there is no substitute for a detailed understanding of the set texts. It is a smart ploy to download a personal audio of the relevant texts so you can read and listen at the same time. Do the same with your poetry which will be much more understandable when read by the author or a professional
  • in poetry, focus on understanding connections between individual poems in the anthology. Carefully revise the key poetic techniques and focus on how each poet uses these to create particular effects.

2 Learning Quotes

Do not stress over learning long sections of text as quotes. SEE (Short, Embedded, Exemplary) quotes are the answer or close reference to a relevant piece of text.

3 Exam technique/tips

  • read ALL the questions very carefully, plan your essay answers and manage your time appropriately
  • analyse rather than summarise
  • give appropriate detail rather than narrative
  • for questions involving extracts from unseen texts, the name of the book and author will normally be given within the body of the question or on the back page of the exam paper. Referring back to the name of the author/book is good practice.  If these details are not given within the question, mentioning them may also create a more positive impression with the examiner as you appear to be familiar with text even if you are not!
  • for unseen poetry, read the title and look for clues in the questions set before reading the poem very slowly several times. Focus on what you understand, the overall idea, what poetic techniques are used and to create what effects? A short, analytical answer, effectively using SEE quotations, will gain the highest marks
  • try to leave time to proof read your work.


The most common feedback from examiners is that students need to plan more, proof read thoroughly and write less to achieve the highest marks. So, in the exam NEVER confuse quantity with quality.

Your examiners are your ONLY audience and the exam is your chance to demonstrate your skills. So before sitting the exam, make sure you are absolutely clear as to how the mark scheme works so that every word you write will impress your examiner and allow them to give you the highest marks possible.

Familiarise yourself with the styles of the questions and the contents of the texts; practise planning, essay skills and time management; understand what the examiner will reward but most of all WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER!

Success to you all but remember…… you make your own luck!