This is the first of four blogs to support you with last minute exam practice for the OCR GCSE (9-1) English Literature exams later this month.
With revision jitters no doubt needing to be quelled in classrooms across the land, I wanted to share some practical tips and activities around some of the key aspects of the new OCR GCSE (9-1) English Literature assessment.
This series of blogs includes suggested activities designed to support effective preparation for GCSE English Literature in an engaging, student-friendly way and have been devised by practising teachers. Whilst some text-specific examples are provided, the activities are designed to be used with any of the chosen texts. Here’s the order of play:
Upfront, it’s worth clarifying that the GCSE (9-1) English Literature exams are not designed as a memory test, rather to provide an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate their understanding of and engagement with their reading. The introduction of unseen texts as part of the assessment arguably further supports this, as candidates can respond to unfamiliar texts in a fresh and personal way, making connections with their studied texts.
As far as quotes are concerned, OCR does not prescribe the number that should be included, it is very much about how quotes are used judiciously to illustrate or develop a particular point. It's also worth noting that short quotes can be very powerful to bring to life a particular character, idea, relationship, plot device or development, etc. Markers will always seek to mark positively what a candidate has written so a slightly misremembered quotation will not be marked down, especially if it is embedded to good effect.
Look at a range of unfinished quotations your teacher or classmates have provided and complete them.
Match quotations your teacher or classmates give you with characters / events / settings from the text.
Choose a quotation from your studied text and decide which is the most important word or phrase in this quotation and why.
Make a habit of learning key words or short phrases from the text – e.g., we do not live alone / horrible / bees in a hive (An Inspector Calls) – these can be embedded into your response in the exam and are quicker and easier to learn if you find learning quotations difficult.
Remember that you can paraphrase from the text (use your own words) as a way of illustrating the points you make – you are showing that you know the text well but without using the exact words the writer used.
It's worth having a look at a range of our published candidate exemplars published on the GCSE English Literature subject webpage - this will give you a sense of how the most successful answers have used textual references including quotes effectively and also hopefully reassure you that it is not an absolute requirement for candidates to pepper their responses with quotes to secure the highest marks.
You might also be interested in an earlier tweet we sent out pointing to a couple of resources focusing on tips and tricks for memorising quotes:
Quote unquote blog
10 strategies for remembering quotes
Please do also take a look at the new Exam Preparation section of the digital poetry anthology which has lots of advice and practical guidance for students to prepare for the poetry part of the exam, including choosing a poem and writing about it from memory.
Let us know if you’re finding this series of blogs helpful and do get in touch if you have any questions – Follow us on twitter @OCR_English or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Part 2 will cover Comparing Texts.
Kate Newton, OCR English Subject Advisor
Kate has worked at OCR for 4 years and is a member of the English subject team with particular responsibility for GCSE English Literature and AS/A Level English Language and Literature (EMC).
She previously worked for a number of national public sector education organisations, including the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) and the General Teaching Council (GTC), primarily on new policy initiatives. Prior to that, after graduating with a BA Joint Hons in English and Education from Cardiff University, Kate started her professional career with a competitor Awarding Body (mentioning no names!). She loves to cook and eat out as well as exercise regularly, which includes running around after her two young children.