How to approach GCSE Literature

Published on 26 February 2024 at 16:34

How to approach GCSE Literature

The GCSE's were arguably the most difficult exams I have ever done. It is so difficult to keep up with all the subjects you do. I left with 10 GCSE's and grades I am not ashamed of despite the shocking grade inflation of my GCSE results year. I am someone that is very passionate about literature and I think I am able to suggest ways to get the grade that you want. For some people they will want a 9. Others will be more than happy with a 4. High school is hard and just passing is an achievement in itself. As a result, I will write different suggestions based on the grade you are aiming for. As well at the end of this page you will find my top tips for a 30/30 mark essay and how to make sure you tick every box for the exam. 

Grades 4-6

If you are someone who is aiming for these grades (ignore your predicted grades for this and think of what you would like to achieve) there are several things that you can do as preparation. 

Preparing for the GCSE's does take a lot of time as a whole but I will try and give some shorter time options for those who either have a short attention span, don't like the subject and so don't want to spend time on it or if you only have a short time available to work within.


  • Google a question and plan your response - this is very helpful as in the real thing you have to be able to plan quickly. 
  • Mind Map as many quotes you can recall either from one text or you could do all texts in one mind map.
  • Use Micro-quotations. Personally these did not help me but they could help you so what you do is you'd take a quote such as "solitary as an oyster" and use the memory trigger of "solitary" and then practice recalling the rest of the quote from that. 
  • Practice your pre-made flashcards
  • Explode some quotations - write down a quotation and then around it as much analysis as possible.   


  • Do an essay. You choose if you want to do it open or closed book. If you are very close to the exams I would suggest that you do it closed book.
  • Make character profiles
  • Watch some videos on YouTube. My personal favourites were the Mr Bruff videos but there are plenty ou there to watch. 
  • Memorise quotations using look cover wright check
  • Make flashcards
  • Re-read the text
  • Quiz yourself 

Grades 6-9

For the higher grades I am not going to repeat what I suggested for the previous grades even though you should be doing the same because getting the higher grades requires the basic skills and then you need to add to that. Most of these activities are quite time consuming as well unfortunately, so I can't really recommend you anything that won't take long since these grades do require more time and energy.


  • The biggest thing for these grades would be looking at example essays and reading up about the exam criteria for your exam board. I did AQA and will be explaining the exam criteria for that exam board further down to save you some time.
  • You should really be doing as many practice essays as you can. Make sure they are timed essays and closed book. 
  • I would try and research as much as possible about the texts you are studying look for critical writings from professionals if possible.
  • I would 100% give as many of your essays you have written to not just your teacher but any English teacher in the school if you can so you can experience variations in marking and what that's like. 

Extra Information: 

This is where I will explain everything I haven't so far:

So for AQA the assessment objectives that they mark you on are as followed:

A01: Is you're main essay its the ability to use quotations and have a full essay so your introduction, conclusion, main body paragraphs and for high marks they should all link to a conceptual idea (so like a theme) even if it was a character question you should still think conceptually. 

A02: Is your analysis of writers methods the reference to methods is very important when choosing quotations. Prioritise a strong metaphor over a connotation where possible use your own judgement though. 

A03: This assesses you on your contextual understanding and knowledge. For higher grades make sure it links to the point you are trying to make if possible. 

A04: This is your SPAG marks. 


The AQA exam board also presents a table on how weighted each AO I will copy it over and explain what this means for your essays. 

Assessment objectives Paper one Paper Two Overall Weight
A01 15% 22.5% 37.5%
A02 15% 27.5% 42.5%
A03 7.5% 7.5% 15%
A04 2.5% 2.5% 5%
Overall Weight 40% 60% 100%

From this one can gather that paper two is higher weighted and so if you are at a time crunch for the exams maybe focus on the poetry unless your paper one is like tomorrow. 

It is important to note that you need to have more A02 in your paper 2 than anything else. At the start of every paper I would wright the different A0s at the top of each page to serve as a constant reminder that you need to fulfil them and make sure you try to have a bit of everything in each paragraph. Like more is better just so that when someone marks the paper they know without doubt what level you are in for the paper. 

Also it is really important to try and write in an academic formal register I will try make another article about that when I know more about it and I will link it here. 

Good Luck with the exam you got this!