The English Literature exams will be closed book, although for the poetry anthology, one of the poems will be included. This means learning a lot of quotes. Even if you are studying a different subject, you are likely to have terminology, equations and more to memorise. It’s challenging, but with the following tips, you should find it easier.
Before you start learning quotes, choose wisely. Doing so will save you time and reduce the number of quotes you need to learn.
A guide to selecting quotes that could be used to answer a range of questions is given below.
For instance, for ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare, Fair is foul, and foul is fair is easy to remember, and relates to one of the major themes – the supernatural. This quote can also be used if the question asks you to discuss themes of ambition, betrayal, ghostly visions or foreshadowing.
A great strategy is to memorise at least one quote per main character since they are likely to be in your exam question. Use the advice from my previous point when selecting which ones to learn.
Avoid trying to learn long quotes. This only adds to the challenge and is not necessary. Another advantage of shorter quotes is that they can be easily embedded into your writing.
We are more likely to remember quotes if we understand them. Once you have selected the quotes you want to learn, focus on them. You must study and analyse them in order to gain a good understanding of the different ways they can be interpreted, the themes and messages they relate to, and how language is used.
I would recommend learning 5 quotes at a time. If you have learnt your first five, move straight on to the next set. Keep testing yourself on the previous set you learnt. This makes the task less overwhelming and gives you a better chance of memorising everything.
I have seen a lot of success with this strategy. Write each quotation separately on sticky notes and stick them somewhere where you will see them every day, like your bathroom mirror. You may need to sit down and memorise quotations, but if you look at them while you are say, brushing your teeth, they will soon become ingrained in your mind.
This tip is a bit more creative but very effective.
Humans have spatial memory. For example, hold your palm out in front of you and pretend it is your mobile phone. Now try dialling 999 or your phone number. The reason you can do this with relative ease is because our memories work visually. It is why you remember where you live, can find your way to the shops, etc. Applying this to memorising quotes, you may find it useful to try and draw a cartoons (or anything really), that in your mind, represents the quote. Make it as vivid as possible, and include colours. The more detail and the more whacky it is, the more memorable it will be.
Sumantha is an education and training specialist with over ten years' experience in developing and delivering adult and secondary level education. Her professional journey includes a six-year stint as a secondary school teacher. She is currently a freelance content writer and learning and development consultant. Sumantha also has a portfolio of private students who she teaches up to GCSE level.