English Literature GCSE & A Level - When To Quote

May 11, 2016

GCSE and A-Level English Literature: When to quote

Know when to quote in your exams!

Quotations are useful and can bring strength and support to develop a good point. But there are two dangers when it comes to using quotations: 1. Forgetting their wording and 2. Over-quoting.

Forgetting quotations

Forgetting the quotations you knew before the exam began is a frightening experience but it is one you can deal with. If you want to quote to illustrate your point but can’t remember an exact wording, explain in detail the part you mean.

You can also include one-word quotations (most teachers and examiners love these because they indicate that you are considering a text at word-level) and paraphrase if necessary –anything to outline and support your point will help.

Examiners are aware of how many exams you have, how many texts you have studied, and that learning quotations by rote is difficult at the best of times. They will be lenient and if you really can’t remember any quotations, make sure you highlight how much you know of the text’s key themes and characters and apply these to your argument.


Over-quoting is not a typical problem that candidates face. However, it can be off-putting (both for you and the examiner) and it puts you at risk of achieving a lower mark.

Over-quoting moves a candidate closer to reciting an entire passage, chapter, or poem and overcrowds what you are trying to say. Filling your answer with other people’s words will lose you marks because your answer will be full of basic, superficial explanation of what the quotations mean (assuming you have enough time to write explanations) and little focused, in-depth analysis – which is what the examiner wants.

Be selective with the evidence you use and try to use the P-E-E method in every paragraph/section that you write.

1. Make your Point

2. Give your Evidence

3. Evaluate/Explain the effect

This framework ensures you make your own point first, i.e. you lead with your original idea and/or opinion. You then use a brief quotation or reference to support your idea. How your point and evidence interact (i.e. the approach your evaluation/explanation takes) is up to you. Be careful to show your understanding and knowledge of the point you are making and how it relates to the example you gave

Balance is key here. Use quotations to support your points but be concise; the bulk of what you write should be your original argument and analysis. Keep your voice strong and clear throughout your response.

Learn when to quote!

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