This is how I study literature and it works for me( my lit exams marks are typically 70/75 sometimes higher or in the high sixties( 60’s) but everyone is different and it is important that you use what works for you! I hope this helps you in any way big or small!
1: Read the novel. Just read it with no stopping to take notes or highlight, if possible try to enjoy it. This gives you a general idea of all the themes, plots,characters and others.
2: Get a notebook or leaflets of paper binder/folder to keep it all in one place. I prefer a notebook. What I have in this notebook:
I tend to leave the first page blank and later paste a quote on it.
table of contents.
summary of full book.
any research on particular topics (this was homework but i would recommend researching a little if the book mentions a lot of like historical stuff or things you just don’t know).
the main character’s family tree.
a page each for the main characters then I put a page for important families in the book (examples Radley and Ewells family in To Kill A Mockingbird). As well as one or two pages titled ‘minor characters’ where any little detail about these characters can be jotted down here. More on what these pages contain later on.
chapter summaries in order, with beginning and ending page numbers along with a short analysis (on a post-it). I also add a quote that I i liked or felt was important but that isn’t necessary as quotes are covered later down. These summaries are written after I reread that particular chapter, where I underline words I don’t know the meaning of and you can highlight important thing if you want,preferably to a colour code system. here’s a nice little guide to annotating by @mildstudies
3: So what I usually have on these main characters’ pages are:
basic character information (name, age, race.
character sketch (basically the qualities of the person like bravery and kindness).
character growth (more so for the protagonist).
an important quote or two that was said by the character but again that’s not necessary.
my thoughts on the character which I think is really important.
4: Quotes are very important in literature and most if not all teachers will encourage you to use them in your essays so these are two things you can do:
just write quotes that each person said on their character’s page and quotes from the narrative itself on a separate page.
or the second way which I prefer is to arrange these quotes by chapter, highlighting which character said it and then writing a brief analysis on it. You can also arrange them by person and highlight the chapter and page number. I love either ways.
5: Vocabulary is also important ( my teacher once told me about a question asking for the meaning of 'spittoon’ in To Kill A Mockingbird.) When reading over the novel I underline words I don’t know and transfer them onto a separate sheet of paper (arrange by chapter) and write down the meanings. You can use two columns to do this, one with word and the other definition. You can also use studyign’s summary foldables method and make (online) flashcards to test yourself.
6: Reviewing for exams can be hard, especially if you don’t have the time to reread the entire books. But that’s okay because you have the chapter summaries and analysis and all your other information although I do recommend reading or simply skimming the really important chapters. Here are some other tips:
know your exam format and the type of questions. My exam typically gives us two choices for the novel, each of which gives us a particular topic (one example is Jem’s punishment for what he did to Mrs. Dubose) and then three to four things they’d like us to include (example: why did he do that to Mrs. Dubose.) We are to write these in essay formats.
write essays on the book to review later (for TKAM I’m writing an essay on the theme racism using references from the book as well as I wrote a view on Scout’s character and Atticus’ parenting style.) This is really good to read before an exam.
do mock papers, preferably within the usual time period of your exams.
get a good night sleep, eat a good breakfast and believe in yourself. You’ve put in the work, you’ll reap the benefits.
I guess this can be considered hardcore because I’m probably the only one in my class that does this much work but the main reason is that I am being tested on this at the end of the term for probably three terms in all as well as in 2018, two years after we started doing this novel, I will be tested on it for an exam that the entire region (i believe it’s similar to gcse) so all this work is in preparation for that so do adjust it to fit your needs. I’m also very open to ways to improve this!