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Revising for your Exams

As I always say, the best way to revise for any exam is to practise exam questions, have them marked by a teacher or tutor and then go back and improve it -correcting errors and checking it again with the teacher to see how you've improved (see here for advice).

However this can only make up part of your revision schedule as other subjects revision comes along and leaving time for the other essential part of exam revision - relaxation (not all the time though!). If you are over-stressed you can't function properly (just as if you are too relaxed you can't function properly) - so make sure you balance the two.

Throughout this post I'm going to link to some useful posts I've put together on how to prepare for exams.

This post was a big hit last year and helps you mentally prepare for exam - Stressed with revision? Click Here

There are two types of revision you can do - generic (focusing on all the things that could come up in the exam) and specific (weaknesses you know you definitely need to focus on).

Generic revision is everything you have covered in class but do you know what your specific weaknesses are? Your teacher should have told you, you should have written it down and you should be working on it. You will have done activities like the Writing MOT or feedback grids to help you identify this. Make sure you know your targets and what you need to put real time into focusing on.

Listed below are my top tips for short revision tasks for both Language and Literature examinations:

Language Exam

Mimicking Writing - Take an article from someone like Grace Dent, Charlie Brooker or Caitlin Moran. Take a paragraph and try to imitate their style (look at language, punctuation and sentence structure) about a different topic of your choice.

Top Trumps - Either check out my top trumps cards here  or make your own.

Language Forfeits - Check out the list of vocabulary here and use it in sentences with your friends. If anyone can't use a word or uses it incorrectly you choose their forfeit ( disclaimer... keep it clean: keep it legal).

What's the Point - See how quickly you can identify the topic sentences in a newspaper or web article. Time yourself highlighting them and check what you've highlighted with your teacher.

Write the Headline / Produce the Picture - Do a random google image search and write an effective headline for the picture you've found or vice versa - search an online newspaper and produce the picture (check these with your teacher).

Literature Exam

Quotations, Quotations, Quotations

Quotabix - A great idea I saw another teacher promoting - Stick quotations from the set texts to your cereal box and they are the first thing you see every morning. Read 5 each bowl of cereal you have.

Memory Palace - People with better memories do better in exams. Lots of people with great memories create a memory palace. A room or place that is familiar to them they visualise retrieving the information from. Place quotations around your bedroom and read them aloud each time you pass them. In the exam you should be able to picture your room and where the quotations are.

Sounding Smrt - As you progress through the marks in an exam you often gain more marks for the way you sound as much as what you write. Make sure you are using formal standard English. You might want to check this post and practice using the phrases between now and the exam.

Class Characters - To help you remember a character in a text or poem assign someone in your class or someone you know who has some similar attributes. When you are in the exam and you need to describe characterisation you could visualise that person.

Quotatoin Forfeits - Go back and forth between friends saying quotations from your set texts. If anyone can't use a quotation or uses it incorrectly you choose their forfeit ( disclaimer... keep it clean: keep it legal).

Check here for some Of Mice and Men Quotations

Happy Revision!

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21 April 2014 at 19:50

Hi Sir, I looked at your feedback and had another go at the Jan. 13 Past Paper, as my mock is tomorrow. Could you look at it please?

One thing that I immediately learn about the Amazon Tribe from Source 1 is that is “isolated”. This suggests how the Tribe is very self-dependent, as they will have to cultivate the food that they need to survive. However, we later learn how that they are actually managing to do this, as they are growing “maize, sweet potato, pumpkins” and other food, while they are also perfectly “healthy”. Hence, I am able to learn how the Amazon Tribe are independent, but, despite this, they are still able to survive well.

Another thing that I learn from Source 1 is about the issues faced by the Tribe, who “don’t have intimacy with water”. From this I can interpret that they will be unable to survive and be clean, while the indication that their strange lifestyle highlights how they will be unable to live life in the same way as humans. This is then supported later in the article, as we learn how “contact with the outside world” is dangerous for them: it can kill “up to 50 per cent” of the Tribe. Thus, I am able to understand how, albeit being able to survive, they at an incredible risk of disease and death.


The headline uses half-rhyme and assonance. The rhyme between “armada” and “nuclear” suggest danger, since “nuclear” brings in the idea of a massacre, while an “armada” connotes the idea of an army. It’s almost as if the writer wants to make the reader realise the extensive risk the jellyfish are presenting to the “divers and nuclear plants”. Linking this to the text, we further learn of the huge size of the jellyfish from the idea of them being “200 kg” and “6ft idea” , with the statistics’ large magnitude reinforcing the scale of the problem, due to the incredible amounts of danger these jellyfish possess.

The picture is effective because it uses different shades of blue, with the light blue at the top proceeding into darker shades of blue, as you get deeper into the ocean. The change in colours is a symbol for the development of the problem: the primary blue suggests happiness, while the dark blue suggests mystery. This juxtaposition successfully signifies how the sea is no longer a place associated with happiness, and instead is a place where unknown danger lurks deep beneath. The makes the reader draw parallels to the text, where we learn of how “no one is sure” about the causes for the threatening armada.

Additionally, the title uses the word “Slimezilla”. Not only is this a pun of ‘Godzilla’, but it is directly followed by an exclamation mark. The pun creates the effect of highlighting the control the jellyfish now have over the sea, since God is associated with the idea of omnipotence, though another reader might link this to the exclamation mark which has the effect of abruptly cutting the tension short. The abrupt effect makes the reader realise how the scientists are unable to see past this problem and towards a solution. In the text, we learn how the “reasons” are unknown, implying that a solution is also not known, as does the headline.

21 April 2014 at 19:50


At the beginning of the text, the writer feels scared. The short sentence “I sat bolt upright” creates a sense of tension, with the idea of a “bolt” suggesting how he is alert. From this we can interpret that he has just realised the reality of the situation and is starting to feel endangered and scared.

Then, these feelings start to transition into feelings of helplessness. The adjective “wimpy” is used by the writer to describe his knife, which highlights that he felt that his defence against the ‘bear’ is worthless and that he’ll never be able to win the fight against it. From this we can interpret that, although he is with his friend, he thought that he needed to be brave and try to protect them, but then he soon realised that his chances of winning are minuscule. This highlights how his protective instinct then quickly faded into feelings of helplessness.

Towards the end of the text, his feelings change slightly – to feelings of bravery. He “shouted” at the ‘bear’, which suggests how he was starting to grow in confidence and believed that he would now be able to defeat the bear – perhaps because now Katz is helping. However, we later interpret that the writer was never actually feeling brave, and he didn’t move the tents to “confuse [the bear]”; instead, it was because he was frightened. This is suggested by the repetition of “really” to show how he just wanted the animal to go away, so he doesn’t have to fight, because, deep within, he’s still scared.


Both Source 3 and Source 2 create a sense of danger, though Source 3 also initiates a sense of foreboding. In Source 3, the plosives sounds in "breaking branches" create an image of strength and force, making the reader picture the bear as a creature that is going to possess danger to the writer. Additionally, the later juxtaposition between "knife" and "wimpy" effectively reinforces this. This is because the word "knife" brings in the connotations of control, but the idea that it is "wimpy" suggests the fact that the bear is dangerous and the writer has a weak defence against it.

While Source 2 also successfully creates a sense of danger with the "armada", it doesn't use plosive alliteration or juxtaposition to do this; semantic field of menace in "monster", "armada" and "threatens" is used instead. The word "monster" seems childish. This makes the problem seem as though it is not important. However, it's use in succession with "armada", which creates the image of an army, is subtle, but makes the reader realise how the danger of these jellyfish was unexpected, just like how we as readers interpreted that the problem was something minuscule, through the childish connotations of "monster".

Source 3 uses the repetition of adverbs to highlight the fear of the writer. The adverb "carefully" suggests precision, as if the writer feels that the slightest mistake will put him in danger. However, this is then repeated, but with the use of the word "very" proceeding it. This suggests the fear concealed within the writer, as he is trying to do everything he can to be safe.

However, although Source 2 use repetition, it also makes the reader the reader fear the jellyfish by effectively using a list, which has more than three words. This list places crisp emphasis on how it is "6ft wide", "200kg", "slimed" and "repellent". Particularly, the use of the numbers seem of a large magnitude, successfully illustrating the scale of the problem, and how dangerous these creatures are. This makes the reader doubt their own safety in the sea, and hence fear the jellyfish.

21 April 2014 at 19:53

I made up my own writing questions:

5) Write a website on your best and worst experiences at a theme park (16)

Theme parks: soaring through the air like a blinded bird, unaware of what it's doing, and falling to its death. But then, you're saved! Well, last year, I had my first experience at Thorpe Park - but it was the worst experience I have ever had...

Early morning light pierced its way through the blinds, lighting up my psychedelic green and purple walls. Instantly, I jumped out of bed, like a spring does when you let go. Today, I'm going to go on a ride - today, today, today. I repeated that line throughout the journey.

The coach was the best part - actually: Katy Perry's harmonious voice, inspiring me to go on a ride and 'Roar'.

Well, that was until I feel sick...

As I took small, duck-like waddles off of the coach, 215ft of twisted and churned metal stared at me: it was calling me.

"Come on, come on - let's go on Stealth!" All of my friends ran - aimlessly - towards the ride, only to find themselves standing behind columns of people - chattering and moaning. I tip-toed behind, like a child, trying to listen to his parents' secret conversations, hoping not to be seen. But my tip-toeing was not a success: "Aaran, are you going to go on ride?" I was convinced that the next ride was definitely for me - I'd just give this one a miss.

All day, I used the same excuse...


Running into Thorpe Park - I'm brave: Stealth, Nemesis, SAW or Rush - which one first? All of them!

I sit in the cart, coated in friendly green, with jolly blue highlights. The wind tickles my cheeks, red with excitement.


I sit upright. Another dream: I will only go on my best theme park experience in my dreams; it's the place where I get the closest to getting on the rides.

6) "The government are implementing a new school rule which means that children will have twenty minutes at lunch break and no play-break in order to improve learning." Write an article in which you argue for or against this.

Selfish schools

School - what is it? We all know that it is the place where we can learn about the most innovative of things and what is not already known. Despite all this, you really love going to school the most because, according to 'Schools4You', you can spend time with your friends. That's school - the school that we love!

However, when can you socialise and spend time with your friends? At Lunch, of course! A reduced lunch time will mean that you will have less time to spend with your friends. There won't be the school that you love going to; instead, you will be enslaved by schools, expected to work like a robot.

This, of course is manageable - apparently.

Some of you might agree with the change - it will let us have more time to learn. Yes, that's right: there will be an increased opportunity to learn about the wonders of space, rhetoric and how the solve inhumane equations. But you have to think of yourself as a sponge: it can only absorb so much at one time. And you're the same! In fact, the University of Cambridgre recently proposed a theory - that was come across unexpectedly, as a student was carrying out an experiment, in preparation for her dissertation. The theory had been formulated on the function of our brain. Since it is made up of thousands of neuron cells, there is actually a chance of these cells dying if exposed to too much strain. So, where are the benefits now?

All in all, the government's preposition is ludicrous - completely insane! Unless you have the attention span of someone inexistent, this reform will not affect your - obvious - love for school, but it will hinder your chances of performing outstandingly. Don't let these schools be selfish. Let's do the apt thing, by keeping our break time and get fantastic results too. And that's an irresistible combination, right?

26 April 2014 at 13:45

Question 1) 6/8

Your skills are secure here but I would like to see another point to develop full coverage of the article.

Question 2) 7/8

I'm not sure about your half-rhyme and assonance point. Although you could argue that it is there is it really the thing that stands out the most about the headline? You've got the connotations of Armada and Nuclear that might be more appropriate. That said you would still get credit for this.

The rest of your points are good though always be mindful of the fact that you should only comment on colour if it is apparent that it is a choice the article / photographer has made. The lighting is probably a choice but the blue is not.

Question 3 8/8

A strong answer showing awareness of writer's craft and inferential meaning.

Question 4 - 14/16

Excellent analysis but I'd want a further point perhaps linking to the irony within the two sources.

Section A - 35/40

Section B

Content - 8/10

Remember when making questions to sue key words of Inform, Explain or Describe (or combinations of). This allows the examiner to judge whether your writing meets it's purpose.

In both your writing pieces I'd like to see a grasp of some more sophisticated vocabulary (check the link on this webpage for examples) used in context to show full control over the English Language.

Accuracy 5/6 - You would get the extra mark for correct spelling of advanced vocabulary.

Content - 13/16

For the top of the sophisticated band I would be looking for Juxtaposition of ideas. Perhaps showing pathos or deliberate or controlled use of informal language.

Accuracy - 7/8 As above slight typo as well preposition vs proposition.

Section B 33/40

Total 68 / 80

Well done - Secure A*

9 February 2015 at 18:13

How would you answer this question?:

‘There’s no point making the effort and taking the risk of travelling the world, disturbing
people and animals as you go, when you can see it all on TV or the Internet.’

Write a magazine article which persuades young people either to travel or stay at

23 February 2015 at 19:51

Choose a clear stance - for or against.

Think of the image you want to create of travel - Select some positive vocabulary and key metaphors to develop.

Think of some insults to throw at those who oppose your ideas (Fat slobs stuck in the groove of their sofa / Unwashed hippies who believe we all need to hug a tree in the amazon).

Punchy concluding paragraph with anaphora and triadic structure.

4 May 2015 at 16:53

Thank you sir for you wonderful help . Tomorrow is my English board and i thank you from my bottom of my heart as you helped me a lot to improve my skills. I look forward to talking to you. Can u please tell me is the paper related to feeling and emotion article or a directed writing.

Thank you

Your faithfully

4 May 2015 at 19:50

The Exam tomorrow is a directed reading paper. This is what I believe you are calling the feeling and emotion article.

Good luck with your exam.

Mr Milne

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