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How to Revise Quotations

Use quotes. You have to know your quotes. Support your ideas with quotes. Quotes are important.

We are quoting right now: quoting from the many English teachers all over the country who are very keen for you to use quotes in the English GCSE Literature exams. Your set texts and the sturdy, beloved revision guides are not allowed into the exam room and you have to rely on your memory for banking all the words and phrases and lines that show themes and characters and create tension and reveal the writers’ messages. It seems daunting but there are many tricks which you can use to get these quotes firmly lodged in your brain.

Choose short, easy to remember quotes:

Choosing really short quotes is one key to success. For example:

‘Fire and blood and anguish’ in ‘An Inspector Calls’. Easy to remember, yes?  It’s only 5 words long and 2 of those words are the same as each other.

Don’t try to memorise whole chunks of the poems or long multi-clauses sentences about Scrooge. It’s a waste of time and your brain will struggle. Short quotes are just what you need.

Here are some other examples of nice, short quotes from different texts:

‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’ from ‘Macbeth’

‘honey nurse’ from ‘Romeo and Juliet’

‘one coal’ from ‘A Christmas Carol’

‘ape-like fury’ from ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’

‘every voice, every cry’ from the poem ‘London’

You need to choose about 50 quotations for each of your texts so that you cover all the themes and characters and context and language analysis. If that sounds tricky, then do remember that Lightbulb Revision Guides have already done this for you. Our revision guides have all the quotations that you need already organised into themes and characters.

'ape-like fury'


Macbeth and The Witches


Choose quotations which do lots of different jobs:

Lots of the quotes can be recycled. By this, I mean that a well-chosen quote can cover off lots of different themes and characters and be used in several different essay titles.

Here’s an example from ‘Macbeth’:

‘fair is foul and foul is fair’

This quote can be used to show:

the power of the witches

establish setting

create dramatic tension

highlight the theme of appearance/reality

show ideas of order and disorder

It’s a nice easy quote which performs extremely well in a number of situations. In the Lightbulb Revision Guide for ‘Macbeth’, this quote is used in four different chapters. To save clogging up your memory with extra quotes, we have recycled them as much as possible.


Choose quotations that tick off language and context:

You have to analyse language and explore context in the exam so arm yourself with quotes that can be used for this. Again, here’s an example, this time from ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

‘I hate hell, all Montagues and thee’

Tybalt says this in the first scene, telling Benvolio that he is ready to fight the hated Montagues. The declarative statement shows how unyielding and inflexible he is, while linking the Montagues to hell would show the religious Elizabethan audience just how deep his hatred runs.

And I don't like your tights either...


"sharp ring of the door bell"


Memorising your quotations:

Everyone has different ways of learning their quotes. Much depends on the type of learner that you are. Here are some of the ones we’ve heard work well.

  1. Write them on post it notes and stick these around the house- on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the stairs- places that you go to all of the time

2. Draw a picture to go with the quote e.g. ‘sharp ring of the door bell’ 

 3. Find ways to insert quotes into conversation e.g. say to your dad ‘you’re squiffy’ next time he pours himself a large glass of wine. Ok, that might not be such a good idea….

  1. Record you saying them onto your phone and play it back

Learning your quotes is possible and can even be rather satisfying.  And once they’ve embedded in your memory then you will be in a good position to tackle your exam. So start with a nice easy one and build up your bank of quotes from there.  

Next: How to get a grade 9 in English Literature