As my students begin revision in earnest, I have prepared a rudimentary A3 checklist for them to self assess where they stand in terms of being able to confidently say they are ready for pending exams. The doc is downloadable here.  I’m really hoping it benefits them. Please feel free to use/adapt it if you can see something in it too.

The grid’s design is analogous to the sequence of teaching that underpins my curriculum: content/knowledge first, then articulating ideas using the content, and finally practising until it becomes automatic. 


LITERATURE: Without the content, successful essay writing is impossible. Students need to know their stuff. What they need to know to be able to write strong essays is hierarchical in nature:

  • Most importantly they need to know the storylines of each text. They should be able to tell you what goes on in each text, with a fair bit of detail. If they don’t know, they must consult the revision website for links to quizzes and flash cards, both of which utilise retrieval practice. 
  • Secondly, they need to know the contexts of each text (even if they are not required to write about it in exams) as this helps provide an overall picture of how the learning links together. This will also serve to augment the memory as schemas are formed because of the interconnectedness. 
  • Next, they need to understand how the characters evolve in the stories.
  • Thirdly, they need to know what quotes will help support their discussions, and they need to be judicious and pragmatic in their choices.
  • Lastly, they need to know what language is worth discussing in depth in the chosen quotes.

If any of these elements need strengthening students are directed to the SDC revision website via the links on the doc. Those with a hardcopy are made aware of the links as the doc is discussed when introduced in class.

LANGUAGE: of course the Language exams are unseen, but still, revision of content is possible. Students need to know what each question is asking of them, how much response they need to give, and what mix of language analysis (AO2) goes with a text’s general interpretation (AO1). They also need to know about time restrictions. Students can view other student responses on the website to help strengthen each of the above aspects. This is the case for both fiction and non-fiction. 

Students should have written at least 2 stories that they have edited and improved to a strong level. The benefit of this is not necessarily that students can use them in the exam, but more so that they have practised and become familiar with the amount of writing needed and how to craft an interesting narrative in that space. They get a chance to really develop their writing when they can spend some time working on it.


LITERATURE: The list of elements needed to compose successful essays is a useful way for students to check if they have the requisite knowledge to articulate the content now in their long-term memories. 

  • HAVE YOU WORKED ON FEEDBACK GIVEN AFTER ASSESSMENT TASKS? – Obviously exams are not going to be the first time students have had opportunity to write essays. The feedback from assessment is often the best practice as students are directed to work on a specific element that needs strengthening. If they haven’t acted on feedback, everything else is a waste of time, including any marking you’ve done. 
  • CAN YOU ANALYSE AN EXTRACT?– most of the exams have an analysis component. Becoming good at this is essential and it involves knowing language techniques and a good comprehension.
  • DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH EXTRACT VS REST OF TEXT VS CONTEXT IS NEEDED? – A crucial but easily practised consideration so students can maximise grades.
  • CAN YOU CONFIDENTLY INTERPRET ESSAY QUESTIONS & LINK TO WHAT YOU KNOW? – Understanding essay speak, and developing links between and within texts based on theme.
  • CAN YOU PLAN OUT ESSAYS FOR MULTIPLE ESSAY TOPICS? – Having a good range of vocabulary to be able to handle variations/synonyms of themes if something pops up that isn’t what we’ve been explicitly studying –e.g. Macbeth essay is about tyranny instead of power. 
  • CAN YOU MAKE LINKS BETWEEN TOPICS AND DISCUSS CONTEXT WITH CONFIDENCE? – Students should have an overall picture of the course, and be able to discuss multiple contexts if appropriate. The industrial revolution is a good example, as it applies to multiple texts. 
  • CAN YOU WEAVE CONTEXT INTO DISCUSSIONS? – Students should be able to extend a discussion with context and not just bolt it on somewhere in the essay.

LANGUAGE: students should be able to show examples of their competence in being able to answer language exam questions. If they can show me, not only do I know they have practised at least once, but also that they can now move into the more demanding but most beneficial component of the revision process. 


The ultimate revision is for students to now practice essay writing. If students have written several essays on each unit they put themselves in a significantly better position in exam conditions compared to those who haven’t practised at all. Even one essay in each section would benefit students as there is a lot of cross over of quotes etc. 

The checklist directs students via links to individual practice tasks so there can’t be any excuses for not being able to find resources. Having said that, only the first tasks in each section are linked, as to avoid it looking too cluttered, but in reality, by the time students have explored the links on offer, they would have become very comfortable with the website and realise that other information is there to be found. 

Of course the practised essays require marking, but this becomes less and less as students get further and further into the practice. The reason is that once students have mastered the articulation of the content, the essays merely serve as necessary retrieval practice and therefore don’t need the level of attention that developmental essays require.

I’m really hoping this works for my students.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me @edmerger

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