Here at QuickLits, we know just how overwhelming a closed-book English Literature exam can be! Having to learn quotes by heart is no easy task but, don’t worry, we’ve been there and we’ve got you covered! Follow our step by step guide for guaranteed quote success 🙂
Step One: Get Ready
It may seem an obvious one but if you haven’t read your English Literature set texts, do it now! Whether it’s Shakespeare or Steinbeck, having a familiarity with the text you are studying will really help you when it comes to learning quotes.
Step Two: Ensure Maximum Quote Efficiency
When we talk about maximum quote efficiency, what we mean is choosing quotes that have more than one purpose. It might be a quote that provides an example of two different themes, or a quote that contains a theme and a literary device, or a quote that provides character analysis along with a theme. Whatever book you’re studying, select quotes that have multiple dimensions to them. Why? The higher your quote efficiency, the fewer quotes you need to learn!
Step Three: Select the Quotes
Now that you’ve read all of your set texts and understand the principle of quote efficiency, you can start actually choosing the quotes you want to learn. At this stage, you’re probably wondering how many quotes you should choose for each book. That’s a good question and there’s no right or wrong answer here. Some people will go for 10, others for 20. Some ambitious students might go for even more. QuickLits recommends focusing on quality, not quantity. You want to select quotes that highlight a key theme, a literary device, and maybe an important character trait.
If you’re really struggling here, don’t forget that QuickLits can help you here. Our quote-based study guides contain every important quote in a book, leaving you free to select which ones you want to learn. Take a look at our study guides page for more information.
Step Four: Write Them Down
Whether you type them on a Word document or use pen and paper isn’t important. What is important is that you write them all down. Use one document or sheet of paper per book.
Step Five: Remove the “Fluff”
When you’ve got your list of quotes, you need to remove the “fluff” from each one. What we mean here is that you don’t need to memorise lines and lines of a quote, just take the most important part. Here’s an example from Act I, Scene IV of Macbeth when King Duncan has just named his son, Malcolm as his successor. This quote is from Macbeth and links to themes of ambition and of violence (thereby maximising quote efficiency):
“The prince of Cumberland! That is a stepOn which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;Let not light see my black and deep desires.The eye wink at the hand, yet let that beWhich the eye fears, when it is done, to see.”
Do you need to memorise this whole section? No, you don’t. What you need to know is that A) Macbeth describes Malcolm as a “step” to overcome, and B) this part:
So by taking away the “fluff,” you reduce one quote down from six lines to two. That makes a huge difference!