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Literature Midterms and Finals

How to Study for Success

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When you study for a big exam in literature class, you'll soon find it's easy to become overwhelmed as you review all the works that you've covered during the semester or the year.

You must come up with a way to remember which authors, characters, and plots go with each piece of work. One good memory tool to consider is a color-coded concept map.

As you create the memory tool, you should keep a few things in mind to assure the best study results:

1). Read the material. Don’t try to rely on study guides such as Cliff’s Notes to prepare for a literature exam. Most literature exams will reflect the specific discussions you had in class about the works that you covered. For instance, a piece of literature may have several themes, but your teacher may not have focused on the themes covered in a study guide.

Use your own notes--not Cliff's Notes--to create a color-coded mind map of each piece of literature you read during your exam period.

2). Connect authors with stories. One of the big mistakes that students make when studying for a literature exam is forgetting which author goes with each piece of work. It’s an easy mistake to make. Use a mind map and be sure to include the author as a major element of your map.

3.) Connect characters with stories. You might think that you’ll remember which character goes with each story, but long lists of characters can be easy to confuse. Your teacher might decide to focus on a minor character.

Again, a color-coded mind map can provide a visual tool to help you memorize characters.

4.) Know antagonists and protagonists. The main character of a story is called the protagonist. This character may be a hero, a person coming of age, a character involved in a journey of some sort, or a person seeking love or fame. Typically, the protagonist will face a challenge in the form of an antagonist.

The antagonist will be the person or thing that acts as a force against the protagonist. The antagonist exists to prevent the main character from achieving his goal or dream. Some stories can have more than one antagonist, and some people disagree on the character who fills the role of antagonist. For example, in Moby Dick, some people view the whale as the non-human antagonist for Ahab, the main character. Others believe that Starbuck is the main antagonist in the story.

5). Know the theme of each book. You probably discussed a major theme in class for each story, so be sure to remember what theme goes with what piece of literature.

6). Know the setting, conflict, and the climax for each work that you have covered. The setting can be a physical location, but it can also include the mood that the location evokes. Make note of a setting that makes the story more foreboding, tense, or cheerful.

Most plots center around a conflict. Keep in mind that a conflict can take place externally (man against man or thing against man) or internally (emotional conflict within one character).

The conflict exists in literature to add excitement to the story. The conflict works like a pressure cooker, building up steam until it results in a big event, like an explosion of emotion. This is the climax of the story.

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