How To Revise For GCSE English Literature: The Ultimate Guide

In GCSE by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Revising for any GCSE subject, especially GCSE English Literature, can feel absolutely impossible. Believe me, I understand. Despite this, revising for your exams is incredibly important. This is especially as the 2 or 3 years you’ve spent learning the GCSE content for most subjects will boil down to these exams. With the right revision, these exams will be a lot more bearable. Now, let’s get started!

Banging your head against the wall isn’t a very effective revision method. Instead, continue reading for some great revision tips for GCSE English Literature that with the right usage may even get you a grade 9.

How can you revise for GCSE English Literature?

GCSE English Literature is a compulsory GCSE in many schools in the UK, especially in England, although this is not particularly enforced by the government. Due to this, it is an important GCSE to revise for, especially as many courses at college or sixth form may want you to have either GCSE English Language or GCSE English Literature. To learn more about compulsory GCSE subjects in the UK, check out this Think Student article.

There is no one way to revise so you need to make sure that you find the best way for you. Doing this on your own can be difficult if you’re not sure what to look for. In the headings below, you can learn about several revision techniques that you can use when revising for GCSE English Literature. For some general revision techniques for both GCSEs and A-Levels, check out this Think Student article.

Use past papers to revise for GCSE English Literature

Ever heard of the saying “Practice makes perfect”? Well, when it comes to your revision for GCSE English Literature, nothing could be truer. Doing past papers and getting in as much practice as possible is a great way to feel more familiar with the exams you’re about to do. As GCSEs can be stressful, it’s incredibly important that you feel comfortable with these exams as it can help you to feel more prepared and less stressed.

Also, with only so many characters and themes in whatever play, text, or poem you are studying, there’s only so many questions that can honestly come up. While it’s not an exact science, the more past papers or practice questions you do, the more likely you are to come across a question in your revision that also comes up in your real exam. For more information about the value of using past papers in your revision, check out this guide by the exam board WJEC.

To find past papers for GCSE English Literature, click on the link with your exam board: AQA, Pearson Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, CCEA or WJEC.

Can you use examiners’ reports to revise for GCSE English Literature?

The unappreciated power of examiners’ reports is one that you need to learn about. After every exam season, an examiner’s report comes out for each exam. The examiner’s report is document that acts as a breakdown of the feedback from exam boards about student’s performance in the exam.

This is from a national perspective as it considers the trends in how all students answered the exam paper, rather than individuals. It also breaks down each question on the paper to measure how students performed on each one. For more information about examiners’ reporters, check out this guide from Hinchingbrooke School.

The value of examiner’s reports is that you can learn from past mistakes without even doing the exam. Despite this, it could really help you if you do the past paper, mark it, or look at a model answer and then go through the examiners’ report and take note of what you personally need to work on. This is a great way for you to plan your revision sessions. For more on how to use examiners’ reports in your revision, check out this guide from the exam board OCR.

Use YouTube to revise for GCSE English Literature

With a diverse range of video content uploaded by various different people, YouTube is a great site for you to find something you enjoy in your leisure time. While it is usually associated with relaxation and maybe even wasting time, YouTube can be an amazing resource for your revision as well, especially GCSE English Literature.

When revising for GCSE English Literature, YouTube has loads of content ready for you to consume. From videos outlining the key themes on your texts or poems to real English teachers explaining how to structure your answers. YouTube is a great resource for you to improve on your weak areas or even just for some less intensive revision when you really don’t want to revise.

Some great examples of YouTubers that can help with your GCSE English Literature revision are Mr Bruff, Stacey Reay and Mrs Whelan’s English. Click on their respective links to be taken to their YouTube channels. Alternatively, you can go onto YouTube (here) and find other YouTubers that upload content about GCSE English Literature if that suits you better.

Use mind maps to revise for GCSE English Literature

Mind maps are visual representations of tasks, ideas or concepts that are all linked to each other. These notes and ideas are all stemmed from one central concept, idea or topic, which is usually positioned in the centre of the page. For more information about what a mind map is, check out this article from

As you can arrange all of your notes about one topic or concept in a colourful and organised way, mind maps are an excellent revision method. If you want more information about mind maps and how to use them effectively, check out this Think Student article.

While mind maps can be a great revision method to revise any topic as a whole, they are even more useful when you’re revising for GCSE English Literature. This is because when studying your GCSE texts in class, you often learn about it from beginning to end. In the exams, you’re going to need to talk about several different sections of the text at once in relation to a specific character or theme.

As your school may not teach you in this way, it is important that you spend time revising this skill. To do so, in your revision, you can use mind maps to bring together every important point, quote or even piece of context for the character or theme.

Can you use flash cards to revise for GCSE English Literature?

The revision method of using flash cards aims to keep your content in both your long term and short-term memories through active recall. Active recall is a process where you actively stimulate your brain to remember information. To learn more about the science behind flash cards, look at this article by eLearning Industry. For more on active recall, check out this guide by Brainscape.

GCSE English Literature is all about knowing your texts inside out. Therefore, using methods such as active recall through flash cards is such a great way to revise. One of the best things you can use flash cards for when revising GCSE English Literature is to learn your quotes. Quotes are needed in every single essay question that you write on both papers. This makes it essential for you to have a strong range built into your memory.

If going through flash cards is too boring, there are plenty of ways to jazz it up. You can use flash cards to test your friends or to get them to test you. Or there are a wide range of flash card games, that you can learn more about in this great Think Student article. For more about revising with friends, check out the subheading below.

Alternatively, if you still want to revise on your own, you can use a flash card app. There are a wide range of flash card apps, such as Anki or Quizlet. You can make your own sets of flash cards on them. Also, you can search for flash card sets that other people have already made. As so many people do GCSE English Literature, you’re bound to find a few that will be useful for your revision.

If you don’t want to make your own flash cards, then you can even buy pre-made ones. Look at the following list for links to pre-made flash card sets for some of the GCSE English Literature texts from

Study in a group to revise for GCSE English Literature

Revising with friends or simply as a group with others in your class can be great. This is especially as it can increase your motivation to actually revise as it doubles up as a chance to meet with your friends. While you do need to focus on revision, you can still find ways to make it fun. For example, you can do a quiz on what you know and give out a prize to the person that gets the most questions right. For more information about group revision, check out this Think Student article.

However, group revision can bring its own problems. To begin with, it’s very easy to get distracted. This is especially if you’re revising with your friends, and you just want to talk rather than actually revising. Or if you end up doing something completely different. Due to this, it’s generally not recommended. For more reasons as to why not, check out this informative article.

Although group revision can be counterproductive at times, it can also be a great method, especially for GCSE English Literature. Unlike your individual GCSE options, like GCSE Drama or GCSE Business Studies, if your school offers GCSE English Literature, it is likely that it will be compulsory for your entire school. This means that everyone in your year will be doing the exact same tests when it comes to your exam day. This means that you would all be benefitting from testing each other on what you know.

How do you start revising for GCSE English Literature?

Starting your revision for GCSE English Literature is arguably the most important step. This is because without being properly prepared to start revising, it is going to be incredibly difficult to get into a routine and continue your revision. Despite being so important, the powers of procrastination and uncertainty often make starting your revision harder than you may have initially thought.

Due to this, you need to have your revision for GCSE English Literature properly set up before you actually go to start it to achieve the best results. To learn more, continue reading the following steps.

Know what is on your GCSE English Literature exams

This tip may seem a little strange as of course you can’t know exactly what is going to be on the exact exam paper you sit. However, you can know the exact types of questions and even the trigger words that will be used in your exam papers. You can know your texts and all the key themes, characters and plot points that they could ask about. The idea is to have at least a vague idea about everything significant that could come up on the exam and to then focus your revision on this.

This is an important part of your revision process as it sets out what you need to do in your revision. If you’re not sure of one part of your GCSE content or of the exam papers then you’ll know that’s what you have to work on in your revision.

This step is important, but it can be a little hard to start. I would recommend using the GCSE specification and mark schemes. To learn more about these, check out the following sections.

How can you use the GCSE English Literature specification to start revising?

Every GCSE course from each exam board has its own specification and GCSE English Literature is no different. These specifications essentially list everything that can come up on the exam paper. For more information about this, look at this article by Maximize.

Specifications are useful in your GCSE English Literature revision as they can help you to figure out what you need to know. Personally, I would suggest that you use the specification as a way to identify your weak points in GCSE English Literature. You can use the red, amber, green system to figure out how well you know each topic and then make sure you focus on these and work on them.

To find the GCSE English Literature specification for your course, click on the link with your exam board:  AQA, Pearson Edexcel, OCR, WJEC, Eduqas, CCEA.

How can you use GCSE English Literature mark schemes to start revising?

A mark scheme is a document that is made for each exam that includes the marking guidelines to ensure that all marking is done in a certain way. For more objective subjects, like GCSE Maths or one of the sciences, these mark schemes will provide clear answers and any allowances.

However, this can’t be done for essay-based subjects such as GCSE English Literature, so the mark schemes are more of a guidance that the examiner needs to take into consideration rather than a concrete guide. For more information about mark schemes, check out this page by Collins Dictionary.

A mark scheme is a valuable resource to use in your revision for GCSE English Literature as it can give you a guide to what the examiners are looking for. While there is no official way to answer the questions, looking at the mark scheme can definitely give you a guide on some things that you may want to include.

This is especially as mark scheme for GCSE English Literature may include examples of key features in an answer for the mark to look for. While these are for specific questions, you can still benefit from knowing how much detail the examiner is looking for as well as some key points that may also apply to other questions.

I would recommend that you use mark schemes in conjunction with doing past papers. If you do the past paper and then upgrade your answer using the mark scheme, this should help you understand how to improve your own answers for when you really do the exam.

To find the mark schemes for your GCSE English Literature course, click on the link with your exam board: AQA, Pearson Edexcel, OCR, WJEC, Eduqas, CCEA.

Create a revision timetable for your GCSE English Literature revision

A revision timetable is just as it says. It is a schedule of what you’re going to revise, when you’re going to revise it and sometimes even how you’re going to do so. As it is pretty much just a table with times down the side and days along the top, it can easily be made on a word document and filled in online or printed off. For more information about what a revision timetable is, check out this article by Adapt.

A revision timetable is a useful resource for your GCSE English Literature revision as with one you can set out when, what and how you’re going to revise. Having this plan can help you to stay consistent with your revision. This in turn can make it more effective and make you more successful in your GCSEs. A revision timetable can also very simply make it a lot clearer about what you’re going to revise as it is physically set out.

Having a revision timetable is so important for a subject like GCSE English Literature because it has so much content and there is so much for you to revise. Also, if you’re going to try several different revision methods, which I would recommend, having a revision timetable is an absolute must. This is so that you can better manage your time and make note of when you’re using each revision method.

If you would like to learn how to make your very own revision timetable, check out this Think Student article.

Talk to your teacher about your GCSE English Literature revision

As they teach you all the content and exam skills that you need for your exams, you could say that your teachers are experts when it comes to your course. Due to this, they are the perfect resource to use for your own revision.

This can take place in several different ways. You could simply ask lots of questions while you’re in class. Instead, you could talk to them at the end of class to see if they have any specific tips for you. You could even head to a revision session if your school offers them and ask questions or do the work they set there.

While I admit that asking for help can feel a bit uncomfortable, be assured that it is a natural part of learning. Plus, it can help you to progress faster and even help to develop a growth mindset. This is an important attitude to have not just for your revision, but also for your everyday life and your ambitions for the future. To learn more benefits of asking for help in general, check out this article by Janelle Ryan on LinkedIn.

Talking to your teacher is so important for your GCSE English Literature revision because it is a hard subject to understand on your own. While you can simply memorise facts in subjects like the sciences, it can be hard to improve in essay subjects without someone else to tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. While using your peers can be great, teachers have much more experience and understanding of how the exams work, so they may be able to give you more guidance.

I hope this guide has provided you with some ideas on how to start preparing for your upcoming exams. Happy revising and good luck!

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