How to Learn Quotations

Today I’m going to give you some tips and suggestions about how to memorise quotes for your English exam in a manageable, and maybe even a fun (!) way.

  1. Don’t try to remember too many at once

Pick out five quotes at a time to work on. Trying to memorise too many all at once is going to addle your brain. As your first five choose the ones you mostly likely to come back to and use time and again – basically the most important ones.

  1. Choose quotes for the main characters and themes

Whatever text you’re studying start by learning the quotes that you seem to use most often.

The best quotations will have lots of different purposes e.g. they are useful for examining character, theme and context.

For example:

“they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish”

This can be used to: explore the character of the Inspector; explore any character who fails to learn a lesson; explain the significance of the ending of the play; explore the theme of responsibility.

  1. Make an index card for each quote

My very favourite revision method for memorising facts and information is using index cards

Write your quote on one side. On the other side write the key words from your quote. So, for the quote from An Inspector Calls, you might write: taught, fire, blood, anguish.

When you first start trying to memorise the quote look at the side with the full quote on and read it out loud to yourself several times. Then, flip the card over and use the key words to prompt your memory. Finally, hide the card and see if you can still remember it.

You can carry your index cards around with you for the quotes you’re currently focusing on and if you get a quiet moment e.g. on the school bus or while you’re waiting for a lesson to start you can quickly go over them.

  1. Make sticky notes and stick them where you’ll see them

Many people swear by this. You can stick them above your desk, on the back of the loo door, around the mirror where you do your hair and make-up or on the fridge door. Read over them whenever you see them.

5. Draw cartoons or sketches to help you remember

If you’re a visual learner drawing pictures, cartoons or dingbats to help you remember will probably help.

  1. Read, cover, say and write

I did a lot of my learning by reading outloud, covering up the information and then saying it as I wrote it out again and again and again.

7. Analyse each quote

You’re memorising these quotes to support your arguments in English essays. That means you’ve got to know what they signify and mean. To help you with this write the quote in the middle of a piece of paper and create a mind map where you’re brainstorming everything you can think of about the quote. For example:

  • What it says about the character
  • How it demonstrates or expands on a theme in the text
  • The use of language in the quote
  • The rhythm, meter, rhyme or other plays with language such as assonance, alliteration or sibilance and what this says about the affect the writer was trying to achieve

8. Little and often

Focus on one or two quotes for 3-5 minutes at a time up to five times per day. This way, your sub-conscious mind will have time to absorb the information. You’ll be amazed at how well you can remember a quote that you started learning two hours ago if you have a break in between! Start to memorise quotes as early as possible so you’ve got time to learn ten quotes per week using the little and often method. Whatever you do, don’t leave it until the day before the exam to start learning them! When you’ve learnt a quote keep going back to it to remind yourself of it. So, don’t learn a quote this week and then forget about it until the week of the exam. Instead, make sure you read it through 2-3 times per week to keep it fresh in your memory.

9. Use them!

If you have been memorising quotations about Sheila, write an essay question about her to embed and use your knowledge of the quotations. Either make up an essay question or ask your English teacher.


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