How to study English Literature effectively at Leeds Uni


Exam season is here, and suddenly you’re wondering where it all went wrong. Here’s how to ace your English Lit exams – and walk away with a first.

You have to put in effort all year round

Go to all your lectures – and if that’s too much, your seminars at least. Even if you haven’t read the book, still go – you’ll pick up valuable ideas from the discussion.

But that’s another point – read the books

You may think ‘oh, I won’t use this in the exam’ – but when it comes down to it, and you realise you’ve read 4/10 of the books, and you hate those four anyway, you’re going to be wishing you had paid attention.

Don’t panic

If you don’t understand a text fully, don’t panic. Don’t do nothing, but similarly, don’t read the text four times in a manic frenzy until it’s 5 am, and your eyes are burning. Calmly try to reread it, or at least read the bits you didn’t get. If it’s a tricky text from a few centuries ago, sometimes they’ll have helpful footnotes – be sure to check those out. If you’re still not sure, chat with some of your friends about it. It’s likely they’re struggling too, and it can be good to know you’re not alone. Read up about the text online – often a good way to understand texts is by reading articles about them: they may reveal that you understood more than you realised.

Talk to your tutors

At uni, the relationship between tutor and student may seem very different to what it was like at school. But it doesn’t have to be. Turn up early to seminars and ask them about anything that’s worrying you. Some tutors have a ‘drop-in’ hour where you can go and discuss anything that you’re finding difficult. Be it academic or even pastoral support, don’t forget that your tutors should be one of your first ports of call if you find yourself struggling.

Be realistic

Spending 10 hours a day in the library isn’t just stupid, it’s unnecessary. Nothing will go in if you force yourself to slog it out. Outside of deadline season, three hours a day is a good goal – and even then, that’s quite a lot. But a few hours of solid, intense revision are far better than doing 10 of very little work and a lot of procrastinating.

Re-read the texts

Closer to exam time, you may find you’ve forgotten the plot of that play you read in week 4. Skim read it and refresh your memory. There’s not a lot an English student can do to revise, but re-reading the texts is definitely the first thing you should be doing. You may realise there’s very little to say about a book that was your favourite; conversely, you may realise something you hated is actually perfect for a certain theme. Without knowing the texts inside out, there’s no hope of you acing the exam.

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