Top Ten Exam Prep Activities

Revision is pretty boring…here are a few ideas to liven it up. 

#1 Quotation Quest!

Objective: to practise using quotations, not just memorising them!

  1. Students are given a list of quotations on A4 from across an entire text. For example:

An Inspector Calls, by J.B Priestley

 “Heavy looking, rather portentous man.”

“A rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior.”

The idea is that they must use the quotation to discover its journey across the AOs – how far can they take it?

Quote>Key word connotations>Methods>Context>Theme>Writer’s message

 “A rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior.”> “Cold” connotes heartless and unsympathetic>Direct tone reflects Mrs Birling’s character>Capitalist woman with elitist attitudes; she cannot identify with the working class>Theme of responsibility>Message of socialism; we must all work together.

This works brilliantly with a point system – each step they take on the ‘quest’, their points double. It’s also worth having a go in teams with A3 under timed conditions if you have a smaller class.

#2 Plot to Success

Objective: to visualise the ‘big picture’ of a text and memorise important scenes

Provide students with a blank graph and a list of scenes (these will be glued/copied along the X axis). The Y axis should represent the dramatic impact on the audience or the significance of the scene. Instead of one line, students should include:

  1. An emotional intensity line for each character
  2. A level of responsibility for each character
  3. Reaction to the Inspector for each character

After organising their given scenes into the correct order, they need to plot the lines in specific colours. Each point should include an important quotation that is definitive to the scene. A3 is better for this task! When complete, it is a great reference tool to support other revision.

#3 Context Connection

Objective: to make references to context that shape meaning

Hand out a pack of simple Q cards with context related words on them. For example, for Jekyll and Hyde:


Instead of starting with the quotation or the scene, students must begin with the context. The pack is face down. With a partner, they must pick up a card and link it directly to the text. If they do this successfully, they put it down and pick another; they need to explain as many as possible in a minute.

Darwin: Darwin’s The Origin of the Species was published when Stevenson was a boy. Hyde described as “ape-like”; he is animalistic and provokes fear in the Victorian reader as they may think if you can evolve, then you can regress! Darwin also challenged religion by casting doubt over the power of God. NEXT!”

 #4 Hidden Depths

Objective: to show developed and original understanding of character – underlying meanings

Give students the outline of a gingerbread man or a figure. Outside the figure, they must make notes (including quotes) on:


-Body language



Inside the figure, in designated limbs, they must make notes on:




-Internal changes

Extension: Students swap their notes with a partner to test them on or write a summary of the character in detail.

#5 Looking at Language

Objective: to identify and explore the impact of certain techniques on the reader

Instead of giving students a list of techniques and expecting them to spot them, ask students to consider what they might EXPECT from a certain scene first. For example:

Macbeth’s conversation with Lady Macbeth after he has murdered Duncan.

  • Fraught tone of voice
  • Bloody/violent imagery
  • Semantic field – regret/guilt/death

Provide the description of certain scenes on the board and ask students to note what they’d expect. They should also explain WHY to consider the effect on the audience. When they have noted their expectations, hand out extracts from the scenes noted. They can then see if they can find these within the extracts; it provides more confidence rather than blindly searching – a good thing to consider when reading the exam question!

#6 Consequences

Objective: revising the sequence of the plot

On the board, prepare 15-30 incomplete sentences that begin to explain what events occur in the narrative. For example:

  1. Mr Utterson and Mr Enfield go for a walk and discuss the story of…
  2. Mr Enfield describes his run in with a hideous man named…
  3. Hyde tramples on…and then…

There is one piece of paper that circulates the room. Each time a point on the board is revealed, a student must complete it and then fold down the top and then pass it on…Once each point is complete it can be unravelled and read to the class. The bigger the group, the tougher the challenge as the plot points will be more specific! Works best as a starter/plenary.

#7 ‘Claim!’

Objective: Students use their knowledge of the text to either prove or disprove ‘claims’ made by their peers/teacher

‘Claim’ is a particularly popular word at the moment with my students: if you express expertise at something or state an achievement (usually something ridiculous), others may state this as a ‘claim’ you should then prove.

On Q cards, write out ‘Claims’ (statements) about characters. Students must pick these blind and either prove or disprove the statements based on their knowledge of the text. For example:

Sheila Birling is merely jealous and feels no regret after her tantrum.

 Mr Birling is a capitalist who sees no value in socialism.

 To support students, provide a brief structure on the board as a prompt:

  1. Do you agree or disagree?
  2. Why?
  3. Quote or reference to the text as support?
  4. Context as evidence?

 #8 Theme Demon

Objective: to encourage students to focus on themes

  1. Provide a list of themes featured in the text (at least ten). For example, for Jekyll and Hyde: Death, duality, science, the gothic, religion, secrets, violence, power, sin, punishment.
  2. Distribute the themes to pairs or threes. Students must then create a quotation bank for their given theme on Q cards (mix up the colours!). Ten micro-quotations is fine. Collect in the cards.
  3. In their books/on paper, students need to create a table with each theme listed. Read out the quotes and students must copy them in the relevant column. Certain quotations may generate discussion as they might fall across two or more themes.

#9 Quiz Master

Objective: to promote memory of key information in a text

This is an old favourite and a very simple but effective starter or plenary

  1. A-Z in students’ books
  2. Students fill in as many words as possible linked to the text. Alternatively, the teacher can fill them in on the board and the students make interpretative notes next to each explaining how they link to the text. For example:

A for Animal: Hyde is like an ‘ape’

B for Brutality: Hyde’s beating of Carew is brutal

#10 The Planning Practice

Objective: to feel familiar with approaching a question and planning an answer

  1. Students need a print out of past questions. They should glue these in with half a page of space underneath
  2. Highlight the key words in the question and annotate any thoughts around it
  3. Identify the theme and list 3-5 scenes that reflect it in the text
  4. Add 2-3 key micro quotes to each scene and context where relevant
  5. Note what the audience/reader learns from each scene

Each sequence should take 5 minutes!

Thank you for reading.

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