Expanding your knowledge
It sounds simplistic, but the best way to help yourself in any and every subject is to read about it!
Not just plough your way through the textbook or the novel you have been set for English literature, but read articles in the newspaper; go into the school library at lunchtime and look at the magazines on display; go into the public library and read articles on your chosen subject in professional journals. It is surprising how quickly you begin to understand and enjoy articles which expand your knowledge and understanding.
Reading and pushing the boundaries of your knowledge also has other advantages. Most exam syllabuses ask you to explain using appropriate vocabulary. Far too many people think this means using long words – it may but you must know the meaning of those long words accurately. If for example you read articles in National Geographic on volcanoes you develop a better understanding of the topic and can therefore answer an exam question more effectively, you also understand the subject specific vocabulary more easily. Similarly, reading a biography of Charles Dickens helps you understand the context in which ‘A Christmas Carol’ was written and how accurately Dickens portrays the time.
You begin to understand how to present complex topics in simple language – newspapers are written to be straightforward to understand and long words are only used where necessary. Your use of language will be far more sophisticated and earn better marks if you use simple words to portray and discuss complex ideas. In addition, the non-fiction passages in examination papers are usually taken from newspapers such as The Guardian, The Times or The Independent. If you read articles from these papers on a regular basis you will find it very much easier to analyse similar articles in the examination.
How do you get hold of these articles? Use your phone.
I have two news apps on my phone – the BBC news app and an international News app which calls on articles from all the major newspapers. This has two advantages, firstly, I am up to date with world events. Secondly, where something really interests me, e.g. the new DNA investigation into the Cheddar Gorge skeleton, I am able to get hold of the references to it, and follow them up on line. Through doing this, I am used to and understand the vocabulary and add to my pool of available knowledge which makes me able to cope with most things.
It is a very useful and interesting way to approach things!