How I got an A in A-Level English Literature

No A-Level student needs anybody at all to tell them that A-Levels are freaking hard. During the inevitable times of  stress and pressure faced by students, it can be difficult to know where on earth to start when it comes to learning and revising the key information that is needed to achieve the best possible results.

Whether you already have neat and organised folders from your lessons, or loose bits of paper are scattered across your bedroom floor – I hope the advice I have from my own personal experience can help any struggling students. My final result in English Literature was an A, and I honestly could not be happier with the result.

Study

Okay, it is no state secret that in order to achieve good grades, you really need to work hard for it. There is no chance that taking half-hearted notes and not paying enough attention through the course will be enough to get the grades you desire. You can’t only put the effort in during the final months – it needs to be constant. (Not only is this the most beneficial way to learn, but it is also far less stressful.)

First of all, in every single lesson you need to be making detailed notes. Take out a spare piece of paper and jot down any good analytical points from your teacher, all of your own your own ideas, key quotations and any other useful notes that come into your head. ‘I don’t need to write it down, I’ll remember it’ is a fatal concept among students. The honest truth is no, you will not remember it, and that A* level point you thought up in class is now just wasted time.

Secondly, after class you really should be looking over these notes and re-writing them up neat in a separate notebook. Take all the best notes from your scruffy paper and keep them safe in their own orderly and easy to read space. Writing out your own notes should not be revision, it should be done through the year to organise your folder and make your information easily accessible later.

Finally, make flashcards and mind maps as you go through the year. This will make revision a lot easier further along in the course as all your revision materials are sat waiting for you. Flashcards were a Godsend for me, I know I couldn’t have got my grades without them.

Revision

Revision for your summer exams should ideally start around the Christmas holidays, it gives you plenty of time to identify your weaknesses and improve your essay writing skills.

All those notes and flashcards you made through the year will now come in handy! Firstly, read over them to remind yourself of all the information you have been learning and then test yourself, and get other people to test you to make sure you memorise all the key points in your notes.

Make essay plans. One thing I would always do was hop on skype with my friend who also did English, and create essay plans together on Google docs. We would discuss the theme together, and put all our ideas into the document which we would then save to revise from later. These sessions were beneficial and immensely helped my revision.

Go to revision classes to refresh your memory and discuss your ideas with other students. It is incredible how much these classes can help!

Make sure you know your assessment objectives, and revise for them all! If you need to include analysis, context and critical interpretations for your exam there is no point just revising the quotations and the context!!! As long as you know what you will be assessed on, your exam preparation is a piece of cake!

Wishing all you readers good luck with your course, and I hope my advice was at least slightly helpful!!!

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‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley – A Review

In all honesty, if you have not read this book and think you know all about Frankenstein and his creation, you are wrong. There is so much more to this book, and even the monster himself, than is generally expected. Of course, before reading this book for myself, I was exactly the same: I thought everyone knew Frankenstein! However I actually only had a vague idea of the monster. I knew him as a horrific fiend that would appear at Halloween and in horror stories late at night; not as a sensitive being with his own emotions and thoughts – I knew nothing whatsoever about the sentimental side of the story.

This novel is a classic example of a text that displays prejudice for what it really is. Shelley exposes how people’s preconceived ideas about others can dominate our lives, with no regard for how our attitudes can effect those we may judge. The story of ‘Frankenstein’ also shows how bitterness and loneliness can alter someone to make them become something else entirely, sometimes what one feared they would be in the first place. This can apply to both Frankenstein and his monster.

An important ethical question is also addressed. Does a creator have a duty or obligation to care for his creation? What is the creator’s role in the life of a creation? And what should their relationship be like?

The fact is, this story is not terrifying, or the dramatic horror some adaptations have distorted it to become. It is a novel about religion, philosophy, ethics and angst. How one person’s decisions can come back to haunt them and their loved ones.

The descriptions of the monster with words such as ‘creation’ and ‘fiend’ add to the dehumanisation process. Even with the monster’s narration where he explains his life to Frankenstein, the human qualities he attributes are disregarded, and he is still only viewed as the creature he looks like – despite his kindness and compassion.

I fully recommend this book to anybody.

 

 

Top 10 Tips for new A-Level Students

Hello all!

If you are anything like I was two years ago when I began my time at college, you will be freaking out over the transition between GCSEs and A-Levels: how much work will you get? Will it really be that much harder? How different will the teaching be? You will be worried about making new friends, and how on earth to use all this sudden free time in your study periods.

Because of all these worries I had, my first and most important tip is

  1. DON’T FREAK OUT!

Okay, I am aware that is easier said than done.

In all honesty, the transition isn’t as big and scary as it is made out to be. Your new teachers aren’t there to throw loads of strenuous and difficult work at you, in fact, they fully understand your position and will ease you into it. If not, just ask them questions if you are struggling with anything – they are there to help you, not to judge you.

Friendships will also happen. Don’t take it too hard if you don’t suddenly become best friends with the first person you talk to, friendships will come eventually. Maybe start with talking to people in your classes or your frees – or, take a leaf from my book and talk to someone on your bus. Honestly, I would not have the friendship group I have now if I had never started that conversation.

As for what to do in your spare time, my second tip is ..

2.  Use Your Frees

While it is totally tempting to spend your frees talking, eating and playing Cards Against Humanity in the canteen, your free periods are there for you to work. Sure, in the first few weeks before the workload gets tough and you want to make friends, go for it. But sooner rather than later it is best to do your set work and extra studying in your spare time to get the best possible grades.

3. After each lesson, re-write your notes.

Okay, lets be real. Who doesn’t love neat and brightly coloured notes? Unfortunately, these notes are not the kind to be made when revising for your exams at the end of the year. Reviewing the new material the day you have learnt it and writing it in a clear and concise way will really help you when you come to revise the notes later on in the year, and it is more likely to stick in your head from the very start.

4. Start revising for your exams just after Christmas

Even if your college does not do mock exams in January, it is still a good idea to start revising around this time. Ease yourself into the process by making flashcards, posters and mind maps in your study time before getting to the boring bit where you actually have to use them. By starting early, it will be a lot less stressful when the exams get close.

5. Use revision apps

I only started using these in my last term of A-levels and I really wish I had started using them sooner. Flashcard apps especially were incredibly useful, as any time I had a spare 5 or 10 minutes I could quickly test myself on key information. Let’s face it, how often does a student leave their phone at home? If you have your revision material on you 24/7, you are more likely to revise more often.

6. Don’t give up on your social life

Yes, studying is important. But if you revise all day every day (a mistake I ended up falling into) none of the information will stick in your head and you will become more and more stressed. Spend time with your friends without feeling guilty, relax and have a bit of a laugh – you just need to make sure you leave time to study too. It is all about balance.

7. Go to revision classes

Some of the best things I wrote in my exams I would not have thought of without the revision classes my teachers put on in the last term. Not only is this a great way to revise, but it shows appreciation for all your teachers do for you. They are giving up their own time to help you, and I wholeheartedly believe this should never ever be taken for granted. Attend these classes and work hard in them, and you will see the benefits.

8. Get enough sleep

This one is self explanatory really, the more snooze you get, the more you will pay attention in class and the more you will remember.

9. When you aren’t using revision apps, put your phone away.

Even seeing your phone next to you can be enough to distract you from your studies, so even if it is on silent, I would advise you to put your phone in another room or somewhere else out of sight. It is so tempting to check your notifications, especially if what you are studying is particularly boring, but just remember: every 10 minutes you spend on social media could have been 10 minutes of revision.

10. On the day of an exam, wake up early, have a proper breakfast and read over your notes.

No last minute cram has ever saved a student that has not worked for the rest of the year. Remember those concise notes mentioned earlier? Now would be a great time to read over them and refresh your memory. A good breakfast is also crucial to do your best in that exam hall.

Good luck with your studies and if you have any questions about A-levels, particularly essay subjects, let me know and I will try to answer.

My Malta Holiday Outfits

Dress: H&M (Black skater dress with red flowers)

Shoes: Shoezone (Black wedged sandles)

Dress: New Look (White summer dress with pink, orange and yellow flowers)

Shoes: New Look (Brown strappy sandles)

Top: H&M (Black and white stripes, elbow length sleeves) 

Shorts: Next (Blue denim)

Shoes: Shoezone (Same as outfit 1)

Top: Superdry (Blue and white patterned loose summer top) 
Shorts: Next (Pale blue) 

Sandles: New Look (Same as outfit 2)

Dress: Apricot (Navy and white polka dot dress)

Shoes: New Look (Jewelled flip flops)

Dress: New Look (White floral dress with navy stripes)

Shoes: New Look (Same as outfits 2 and 4)

My Photos From the WW1 Battlefields 

Vimy Ridge Memorial 

Vimy Ridge Memorial commemorates the Canadian soldiers that fell in The Battle of Arras.

^ This statue is representative of Canada mourning her fallen sons.

^ Figure of a lady.

^ Two figures symbolising a victorious soldier, and the crucifixion of christ

^ The eight figures at the top of the memorial represent Peace, Knowledge, Justice, Truth, Faith, Hope, Honour and Charity.

^ full view of the memorial 

The Menin Gate 

The Menin Gate is a huge memorial in Ypres, Belgium, which has approximately 59,000 names engraved on it’s walls.

^ Front view of the Menin Gate

^ Some of the many names that live on these walls

^ The Menin Gate at night

Arras 

Arras is the city I stayed in while in France, the site of the Battle of Arras in 1917

^ Arras at night 

Ypres

Ypres is the city I stayed in while in Belgium, a beautiful and cultural city with a lot of history in World War One.

^ The Cloth Hall in Ypres. This building was rebuilt after the war exactly as it was before it was demolished.

The Cemeteries 

^ Tyne Cot – just a small section of the biggest British Military Cemetery

^ ‘These all died in Faith’

What I have been up to

I must admit, I do not have much of a following, so it is doubtful anybody has noted my absence from the blogging world, however I will explain anyway.

Off on my travels

Before A-Level Results day, I spent a few days away in France and Belgium on a tour of the Battlefields of the First World War – an experience I believe absolutely everybody must have at some point in their life. I honestly cannot put into words how overwhelming the entire trip was. It was heart-breaking how many cemeteries there were there: grave after grave after grave after grave – all inscribed with the name of one brave individual with their own unique story. Memorials were flooded with names. The whole trip was powerfully emotional, and put stories of the Great War into perspective.

And, now I have actually jetted off once again – and I am writing this post from the island of Malta; so it is probable I will be inactive for another week or so, though I will try my best to post if I have any available time through the holiday.

Spending time with people

On the 17th of August, the far away dream of University suddenly became very, very real. My place was suddenly confirmed and as were the places of many of my friends – many, including my boyfriend, who will have already left for uni by the time I return from my holiday – so it felt only right to take some time away from my internet life to spend time with people who I will now not see for a while.

I will be back very soon!

My A-Level Results Day Experience

Results day – the most stressful day of a student’s year.

As shown through my literal nightmares about results, my constant stressing and continuous self doubt; It is clear to anyone around me that I tend to be a little bit overdramatic. For nearly 2 months, I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, heart pounding in my chest, the only thing running through my head – ‘I’ve failed’. Which I have since learned was absolute nonsense and I am nothing but an over-emotional numpty.

So understandably, I was over the moon when I discovered I got ABB and was accepted into my top choice University.

While the fact I returned from France late the night before was a decent distraction, the time away was not enough to fully push my nerves aside and I, as I am sure many other students did, tossed and turned through the night – occasionally messaging some friends in the same situation. I knew I had worked hard, I had slaved away in the library, and done hours of revision every night – but I could not help but feel it was not enough. EEE seemed just as likely as AAA, and nothing could shift the mindset that I had totally and utterly fluffed everything up. Long story short – I was a mess.

That is until I logged into UCAS track to discover that all that worry was for nothing: I had been accepted into the course I had been working towards the whole year. (Maybe I shouldn’t have broken the news to my mum while she was still driving me to college, because we were forced to contain our excitement for another five minutes for obvious safety reasons).

I suppose my message for this post is that everyone doubts themselves and does not believe their full potential. I was told many times that I was capable, but I refused to believe it. And while I did not achieve three As, I am not a natural academic – and I know I worked to the best of my ability for these grades.

So, as of next month I will be an English Literature and Philosophy student with A-Levels in English Literature (A) , English Language (B) and History (B).

As long as you put the effort in, you can do anything you set your mind to.

 

On My Shelf – Book Tag

As soon as I found this tag in a blog-reading session, I knew I had to do it. Little games and challenges always appeal to me, and I thought this would be a great way to chat to you all about books that I never really mention (although as you will see from the first book, this didn’t entirely go to plan).

The idea behind this tag is that I give all my books a number, and randomly select some to talk about. So, I asked some friends to give me a number between 1 and 100 and I looked to see what books they had picked. (The fact that someone gave me 69 is a fantastic representation of my friends’ maturity).

14 – Wuthering Heights – Emily BrontĂ« 

Although I chose this tag initially to share books that I would not usually write about, my friend managed to randomly select my favourite novel. If you readers are not already sick of me harping on and on about the fantastic gothic nature of ‘Wuthering Heights’, I am impressed by your patience. As I have previously said, this is a unique and daring Victorian novel that explores topics way beyond the social conventions at the time of writing.  A novel I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone.

43 – Human Traces – Sebastian Faulks 

‘Human Traces’ is actually a novel that I have never read. It is one of those books that I shoved onto my ever-expanding mental To-Read pile and it has unfortunately not been touched since. After reading some reviews on Goodreads, I have discovered that this book explores the human mind, the major theme being psychology.  I love the sound of it, and most certainly will be reading it before the end of the summer.

48 – I Was Here – Gayle Forman 

I read this book about two years ago after my GCSE exams, and even now I can remember exactly how I felt when I closed the final page. The powerful emotions contained in this novel were so engaging and just shows how heartbreakingly easy it is for someone to conceal their emotions. However, an issue I cannot get over with the plot is that a love interest is thrown in. Yes, a relationship is an added extra in many novels but with the images of death and suicide – it just felt wrong and forced.

69 – Maybe One day – Melissa Kantor 

I also picked this book up a few years ago, and actually read it multiple times. Back when ‘The Fault in our Stars’ was the big craze, I found this book that deals with similar themes and emotions. I remember feeling this book was beautifully written and at the time I loved it, however I am not too sure if I would still regard it with the same high opinion if I was to read it for the first time now. That being said, maybe I could. I certainly do love stories that can shatter my heart as I always feel such a connection with the narrative and characters. A story with a melancholic plot full of angst will always appeal to me.

78 – The Art of Happiness – Dalai Lama XIV, Howard C. Cutler

As someone who is always keen to learn more about Philosophy, ‘The Art of Happiness’ was a great read for learning and appreciating an Eastern view of humanity and the world. This book mainly consisted of interviews with the Dalai Lama and I was fascinated by his outlook on life and happiness. I 100% would recommend this book to anyone who would like to branch out from Western views and ideals.

———————-

Since I have not been blogging for very long, I can’t say I have any proper blogger-friends to tag. So, I would like to tag Jazz from the blog ‘Jazz, I swoon over fictional men’ as I really admire her blog and her creative writing.

Please check her out regardless of whether she decided to do this tag or not 🙂

 

Can anyone recommend any books?

Lately I have really been wanting some book recommendations from people. What book would come to mind if I asked you for your favourite? Or a book that you deeply connected to? Made you happy? Or made you cry?

See, when I am picking out new books to read, I tend to reach for classics – just because it is so easy to find opinions on them! As much as I do love reading them, it feels almost like I read that kind of novel because that is what I am expected to read as a student of English Literature. Thus, I neglect other books that I could enjoy.

I would love to hear from you the books that you enjoy, particularly crime, mystery or a moving storyline.