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How to do well in English Literature

Published on 13 April 2018 by Edu Aid | Language | Study and Exams Tips & Guide

How to do well in English Literature

Literature is commonly perceived to be a difficult subject to score for exams. For one, exams answers are all in essay format. If you are already struggling with producing a grammatically correct piece of writing, you are on the losing end. On top of writing well, this subject also requires a decent level of passion in reading. Without an interest to read, you will hate this subject too much to excel in it. However, if you are determined as steel to do well in Literature, here is some good advice you can use to excel in the books-based portions of the subject (plays and novels).

Read Intensively

Before your school term begins, you should have read your Lit book at least twice. By the time you are halfway through school term, you should have read it at least 5 times. The first time you read the book, you should aim to have a reasonable understanding of what happened in the play or the novel. The second time you read the novel, you should pick up details you missed from the first read. Every time you read the book again, it must be done much slower than the previous time. This is because you are consciously picking up details from the book. The 3rd time you read the book on your own should be when your teacher is done going through the book, and hopefully given you some good notes with a good guide on how to approach possible exams questions for this book. This time, you should be dissecting details from the book. These details largely belong to 2 major categories: Themes and Character Studies. 

Explore Themes and Characters

If you are reading this article, there’s a high chance that you are not doing very well in this subject without help. It means that you are not someone who intuitively picks up themes from books and understands characters’ personalities that are significant enough to mention. You probably don’t even know if you need to dramatize certain aspects of the book or to downplay some details you spotted. You are not alone, and totally normal. Therefore, we are thankful for Google. The shortcut to Literature studies is simply to Google your book. For example, if you are currently reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” for your Lit text, it will benefit you greatly if you would Google “To Kill a Mockingbird themes”. You will find so many sites with valuable pointers for you to note down.

The exploration of themes and characters is an extremely important aspect in Literature studies – and guaranteed to appear in exams questions. Therefore, you should not fully rely on your Literature teacher to provide you with the pointers. Some teachers are more equipped than others, and you don’t know about yours. By doing more research online and reading sample essays, you will be more prepared to face your exams questions. Keep a notebook of all the themes and character traits of the main characters. Memorize them all.

Memorize Quotes

Memorize exact quotes from your book – as many as possible that are significant. This will help you beef up your essay. When you can back your point up with a quote you memorized from the book, you are more likely to impress the marker. Sometimes, you can even begin your essay with a suitable quote! This makes a great first impression for your marker. If you do not know which parts of the book to memorize, the shortcut would be to read essays about your book online and write down the quotes mentioned in those essays. These would be a safer bet than if you pick your quotes randomly.

Literature Tuition in SingaporeUse Literature Jargons

Not all Literature jargons apply to the book you are studying. Very likely, your teacher would introduce some jargons to you. Do not dismiss them as merely difficult words to avoid, but put in some effort to know them and understand why they are significant to your book. These jargons can help you jump a grade or two! Some of these jargons would be: allusion, analogy, anti climax, antithesis, imagery, irony, juxtaposition, metaphor, oxymoron, paradox, personification, pun, and satire. If any of the above jargons stand out to you because your teacher has mentioned them before, write them down and figure out their meaning. Again, read commentaries about the book you are reading and look out for such jargons. Write them down, especially the way they are phrased in the commentaries. Make sure you know how to use these jargons.

Read Commentaries of the Book Extensively

If you have found a comprehensive guidebook for your text, read it at least 20 times. No exaggerations here. Read essays written about your text online again and again. Get really familiar with all kinds of essays written before, so familiar that when you see your exams questions you are certain you read parts of the answers written by others before. A text with a political theme can’t have a question on swimming. You get the drift. There is a limit to how creative your exams questions can be for your Lit text. Whatever you will be tested on have been written before by someone. Therefore, read all kinds of essays on your text extensively. You will get so inspired during your exams that all you need to do is to try to organize your pointers into a reasonable essay format.

Another benefit that comes from reading all kinds of essays written by others about your text is that it influences your written language in a positive way. Perhaps, your command of English is already not very good to begin with and this puts you on the losing end. However, by reading good essays, your written English can improve as you follow the styles of those exemplary essays.


It is not impossible to score an A1 for Literature if you are diligent to follow the above pointers. Compared to other subjects like Science, Literature may be an easier subject to manage because there are limitations to the exams questions. However, do take note not to commit the mistake of plagiarism. As you read online sources extensively, do not memorize essays in chunks! Get inspired by the pointers and jargons used, and then phrase them in your own way when you answer the same questions. Good luck to you!

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