Handling Closed Book Literature Texts I Oxford Open Learning


    Handling Closed Book Literature Texts

    If you are an English Literature student, you will probably know you will have some closed-book assessment as part of your course. This is for A-Level and GCSE. But don’t panic: just because you won’t have your trusty, reliable set text in front of you doesn’t mean you need to stress out. There are ways of helping you prepare that will help you with being successful.

    Know Your Literature Text

    Whatever your set text is, it is important to know it. If it’s a novel, you need to know key events, where they happen, what the main points of different chapters are. If it’s a play, know the scenes and acts, for example. One way you can help yourself is by re-reading the text in plenty of time – not rushing it the night before the exam!


    Having some useful quotations on hand is brilliant for closed-book examinations. You can’t be expected to remember stacks – besides, some won’t be useful. Try to revise short quotations, ones that can be applied to different types of questions, about characters or themes. So – be selective with your quotation choice and you’ll have a good stash ready for the examinations.

    Use What’s There

    Some Literature questions will focus on an extract from the text; then, you’ll be expected to branch out into the wider text. Look at what’s there and what you are given – and think about how you can link this extract to other chapters, scenes or acts in the text.

    Show, Don’t Tell

    What you don’t want to do is ‘re-tell’ the story. Examiners want to see how amazing your knowledge of the text is. So, show them. ‘Show’ that you understand the pressures on a character through how they are treated, what they say, perhaps how this links in with the context at the time. Your exam is a great opportunity for you to show your examiner that you really know your text.

    There You Are – Some Tips To Help You With Closed-book Examinations

    Whatever your text and whatever the requirements of your exam, you need to approach closed-book calmly. You won’t have the book in front of you, but sometimes this can be a hindrance anyway. Make the most of what you know and wow your examiner.

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