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Top 7 tips to score A in O-level Literature

Every year millions of students around the world cram for their O-level exams.

These days fierce competition and globalized education system mean that merely passing your exams is no longer enough.

You have to pass them with flying colors if you want to have a chance of being accepted into a prestigious university. Successfully passing your O-levels brings you one step closer to your dream career.

And in order to do so it is not enough to blindly memorize a large amount of study material.

The O level Literature paper consists of several parts and you have to approach your exam preparation in a conscientious manner and develop a clear strategy for how you are going to deal with each part.

Tips discussed in this article will hopefully provide you with better understanding of what is expected of you and thus increase your chances of scoring that much coveted A in your O level exams.


1. First and foremost you need to know your content.

If you're aiming at grade A then you actually need to read the books included in the exam, and then reread them again through a magnifying glass.

Demonstrate that you possess a detailed knowledge of the content under discussion.

If you think that you will be able to somehow wiggle your way out of it and get away with reading a brief summary on the internet you're in for a rude awakening.

The points you make in the essay need to be supported with references to the text an abbreviated version of the book simply will not do the trick


2. You need good English.

I know what you are thinking: DUH! Do I even need to say it?

Well, it never hurts to hear a good advice over and over.

Make sure your answers are grammatically correct, use appropriate vocabulary, observe the punctuation rules and pay attention to the style.

Students who are confident in their level of English may feel it is unnecessary to reread what they have written to check for errors, but if you have extra time on your hands it is always advisable to do just that.

Better safe than sorry.


3. Pay attention to the terms given in the “set text” questions.

Let’s take a hypothetical question “Discuss how different writers reveal X in modern society by referring to the novels you have read”.

Now let’s discuss what clues does this question contain that will enable us to get a higher score. First clue is the term “how”.

It tells us that your answer must contain the analysis of tropes and other methods writers utilized in their works in order to reveal a certain phenomenon.

The term “different writers” call for a comparison between two or more writers, and “modern” reveals that the examiners are only interested in how the X is revealed in the context of contemporary world.

All these terms present you with different opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and score higher marks.

4. Scratch beneath the surface.

In order to achieve high marks you need to show that you have a deeper understanding of the texts you have read. Merely laying out the plot will not do.

You have to demonstrate that you caught on to the main themes of the text, understood the writer’s concerns and identified the effect he wanted to create.

On the one hand, the beauty of the literary text consists in the fact that everyone may have their own opinion on what the writer had meant.

However if the written work in question was extensively discussed during the course then it is perhaps wiser to stick to the interpretation which was agreed upon in the class.


5. Support what you have written with textual evidence.

If you think that you can just write your opinion down and call it a day you are mistaken. It is essential that you support your point with the evidence that is present in the text.

However, try not to devote too much space to writing down the quotes from the author. Simply copy-pasting author’s words from memory onto your exam paper will not do you any good.

It is much better if their words are interwoven with your ideas serve to prove your opinions.


6. Make sure that your essay is well organised and coherent.

That's another one of those points that may seem obvious but still needs reminding.

Examiners cannot give you full marks if they don't understand what you're trying to say. So first of all make sure that your point is as clear as a bell.

In addition, organise your writing into neat paragraphs and make sure that sentences are linked to one another in a coherent manner.

These essay-writing tips are rather basic, but that is precisely the reason why they are considered essential.


7. Comment on the way specific writers use the language to express their ideas.

That is yet another thing you must be able to do if you have high hopes of achieving a high band score.

You must be able to not only comment on the content of the text but also on the style in which the writer chose to present it. So knowing words such as metaphor, simile and metonymy etc. is most definitely a good idea.

You should be able to identify where the writer uses these and other literary device and for what purpose.

What was he/she hoping to achieve by using this specific device? Did they succeed in their intention?

Demonstrating your ability to do this will show the examiner that you are capable of objectively criticising works of literature.


To conclude - don't just memorize the texts, actually think about it, scratch beneath the surface, try to understand what the author was trying to say and why was it so important for them to say it at the time they were saying it.

When trying to prepare for literature exam it is always a good idea to form a study group since ideas become clearer when students bounce them off each other.

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Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

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Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.