Everything you need to know about the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ GCSE Exam QuestionLeave a Comment
With February being the month of romance, it seems appropriate to take a close look at one of the most romantic stories of all time – Shakespeare’s classic tale of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. So, while there’s romance in the air, let’s spread the love with some top tips for how to answer the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ GCSE exam question.
This tragic play, depicting the lives and deaths of two star-crossed lovers, is one of the most loved works in literary history.
And, of course, there’s also the little matter of the fact that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a text on the GCSE English Literature exam.
The ‘Romeo and Juliet’ exam question: What to expect?
First and foremost, let’s deal with the basics. What can you expect on the exam? Regardless of whether you are studying the AQA or the Eduqas syllabus, the demands of the questions are very similar. There will be a short extract from the play printed on the paper. The question will then ask to focus on a particular character or theme in the given extract.
The AQA exam will then ask you to write about the same character or theme in the whole play. For example:
Starting with this conversation, explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Romeo and Juliet.
- how Shakespeare presents their relationship in this conversation
- how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Romeo and Juliet in the play as a whole.
The Eduqas exam will also ask you to focus on a character or theme in the extract, but the second – separate – the question could ask you to write about another aspect of the whole play. For example:
Read the extract on the opposite page. Then answer the following question:
Look at how Juliet and the Nurse speak and behave here. How do you think an audience might respond to this part of the play? Refer closely to details from the extract to support your answer. For which of the male characters in Romeo and Juliet do you have the most sympathy? Write about how Shakespeare creates sympathy for your chosen character.
So, how do you approach the task?
Focus on what the question is asking you to do
It sounds obvious, but one of the biggest mistakes students make is not focusing on what the question is asking them to do closely enough. Many simply write down the main things that they can remember about the play; choose a few quotes to back up the points they have made; and make the occasional comment about Shakespeare’s language.
Of course, some of all that will be relevant but certainly not all of it.
You need to make sure your answer remains totally focused on the demands of the question, from the outset.
Take this example:
Starting with this conversation, explore how Shakespeare presents aggressive male behaviour in Romeo and Juliet.
- how Shakespeare presents aggressive male behaviour in this conversation
- how Shakespeare presents aggressive male behaviour in the play as a whole.
You need to come up with a statement – an argument – that sums up the main points you are going to make in your answer, such as:
‘In the extract and throughout the play as a whole Shakespeare presents male aggression through every male character – with the exception of Benvolio. This aggression is one of the main reasons why things go wrong during the play of Romeo and Juliet.’
One thing you can be sure of is that you will be expected to use quotes from across the play in your answer. Have a few saved up about characters and themes. However, there’s a lot to remember so it’s best to keep them short and sweet; easy to remember; and to select ones that say a lot about the story.
‘The Prologue’ – right at the start of the play – is as good a place as any to look: “ancient grudge” shows that the problems between the Montague and Capulet families are deep-rooted and long-standing. Similarly, both “star-crossed lovers” and “death-marked love” show that Romeo and Juliet’s relationship was doomed to end in tragedy from the beginning.
If your son or daughter is struggling with the Shakespeare question, hopefully, this blog will have helped a little bit…
But one of our English tutors would be able to help them even more – with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and all aspects of GCSE English Language and English Literature. Get in touch for a chat to find out more.