Top revision tips and activities from our English authors

Jasmine Short

We know that revision can be hard on students and teachers alike, so we’ve asked some of our favourite English authors for their top revision tips and activities. We’ve gathered some quick exercises that your students can use to boost their understanding ready for their examinations. Enjoy!

“Revise key linking words and phrases that can be used in summary and extended writing questions. Furthermore, On the other hand, Consequently, In my opinion…. These can be used in exercises 4, 5 and 6 of the Cambridge IGCSE ESL reading and writing paper and also in speaking paper 5.”

Peter Lucantoni, teacher trainer and author of Cambridge IGCSE™ English as a Second Language.

“When you are revising set plays and novels, don’t always start reading from the beginning at Act 1 Scene 1 or Chapter 1. Examiners have noticed how candidates often know the earlier parts of their set works better than the later parts and this is why! Work in sections, making sure you cover the whole text, and test yourself in an active way as you go along.”

Elizabeth Whittome, poetry enthusiast and author of Cambridge International AS & A Level Literature in English.

“Create and learn lists of key elements to include in each question style you expect to answer in your examinations. If you are approaching a comparative question, a great way to centre your analysis around comparatives is to create a list of key words and phrases to include in your examination. For example, ‘On the other hand’, ‘Both texts show’ and ‘Whereas’. Likewise, if you are expecting to write a text in a certain genre, create and learn a list of key features to include. Key element lists for both of these areas are particularly helpful for the Cambridge International A Level English Language Paper 3.”

Marilyn Rankin, experienced teacher and co-author of our Cambridge International AS and A Level English Language series.

“After practising a written answer for a past paper, ask learners to look at the mistakes they’ve made and think about how they could improve these. For example, I didn’t paraphrase my answer in my summary, I forgot to include one of the points from the email task, etc. Making learners aware of their own mistakes will make them more independent and they will be able to take their learning forward outside the classroom context with greater confidence.”

Katia and Tim Carter, co-authors of Cambridge IGCSE™ English as a Second Language Exam Preparation and Practice and Practice Tests.

“A key element of textual analysis is ‘conceptualisation’ of the text: a sense of its overall mood, tone and approach. Consider the whole impact of the piece and then select appropriate examples to support your points. You could practice this by reading a short text quickly and writing down your initial impressions (context, audience, purpose, overall perspective, etc.). Then read the text again, taking a section by section approach to see if your initial impressions are still true. Try to find 4-5 examples that support your overall ‘feel’ of the text. There are lots of short texts perfect for this exercise in Cambridge International AS and A Level English Language. See First edition, Part 1, Unit 1 for the 2020 exam and Second Edition, Section 4, for exams from 2021 onwards.”

Mike Gould, experienced teacher and co-author of our Cambridge International AS and A Level English Language series.

“A valuable way to increase students’ vocabulary, and enable them to spell more accurately and write more concisely, is to practise the use of prefixes. After the class has read, ask them to identify words with prefixes and to think of other words which have the same ones. If you set a time limit, this can be a competitive and fun exercise for pairs or groups. Knowing, for example, that ‘hyper’ means ‘above’ and ‘hypo’ means ‘below’, gives students confidence in guessing the meaning of unknown words and in expressing themselves using more mature and varied vocabulary. For example, putting ‘re’ at the beginning of a word, as in ‘regress’, is more stylish than saying something went backwards or was done again. Knowledge of the meaning of prefixes also helps with being able to remember literary terms, such as hyperbole, antithesis, juxtaposition, collocation, which are useful in literature essays and discussions. For more information on prefixes, see units 1-4, 6-7 and 12 of the Cambridge IGCSE™ First Language English Language and Skills Practice Book.”

Marian Cox, language enthusiast, examiner and author of Cambridge IGCSE™ First Language English.

Which is your favourite piece of advice? We’d love to hear from you in our comments.