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How to Succeed in English Class

Have you ever wanted to thrive in English class? Here are some ways to become the ultimate English student.


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    Read, read, and read some more. Always have a book in your hand, and read it during every spare moment: between classes, while you're on line for food, as you eat, on the bus, etc. Read some of the English classics and, if you're feeling ambitious, read poetry (especially Shakespeare).
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    Read what other people, particularly literary critics, are saying about the books you've been reading. Compare their views, and decide where you stand.
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    Share your opinions. When people, whether it's a teacher or a peer, ask you about a book that you're reading, explain whether you like the book or not, and why.
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    Be specific. Instead of saying "Yeah, it's awesome," say something like "I like the way the author creates characters that seem to be polar opposites of each other..."
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    Compare the situations you read about in books to situations in real life. What statement is the author making about society? Was he or she describing society at the time the book was written? If so, does the description still apply, and to what extent?
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    Take notes. If you're reading and you come across a piece of text that strikes you in some way, or that really epitomizes the message of the book, mark the text with a temporary stick-on tab. Colored ones like the ‘Post-it’ tape flags that are easily removed. Don’t draw or underline directly in the book. A teacher who sees the colored tabs sticking out of an assigned book will know you are really working on the text. You can also copy the text onto an index card or in a notebook, along with any reactions, insights, or questions you may have.
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    Participate in class. Don't dominate the discussion; try to get other students to participate. Share your opinion when you feel it adds to the discussion - don't raise your hand just to mention tiny little facts. The best way to participate is to (1) share your opinion, (2) explain why you feel this way, and (3) pose a related question.
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    Write your own literary criticism essays, whether it's for class or during your own time. Read them out loud to yourself to make sure that the text flows smoothly and evenly. Copy-edit your work - poor spelling and grammar are inexcusable for top English students.
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    Once you finish writing your essay (or whatever) just to check the spelling, turn on your computer and type it out on MS Word, to check the spellings and grammar. Sure, if your essay is long it can take time but at least you know that it's correct!
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    If your teacher marks your work strictly (e.g: maybe a short story?) then don't be afraid to ask WHY they've been marking it stricter than they mark the others'. Or just appreciate it, since it shows that they see you as a cut above the others and are expecting a higher standard from you.
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    When you're writing, feel free to take a different perspective from the main topic, just make sure it all still makes sense. For instance, if you have to write a paper about nature, go right ahead and write about how you don't like it, or make the essay on the top ten things in nature that annoy you.
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    Read your assigned essays or writing out loud. Read it to your friends, family or even your dog. Don't rush: Take a good pause after each period (called a 'full stop' in the UK). Mark any parts you find difficult to read out loud, and when finished, go back and simplify that text. Often the easy way to simplify your writing is to break it up into shorter sentences.
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    Trade written work with your friends in the class. Get them to give you an honest appraisal. The teacher may not have time to do more than scrawl a letter grade on your work, but your classmate can talk with you in depth about your writing and the points you are making.


  • A made up story or experience is just as good as a true one as long as it relates to what you are writing and proves your thesis. It's not as if your English teacher will call your family and friends to see if what you've written about actually happened. Be sure, though, that your stories are especially well written, realistic, don't describe your illegal activities, etc.
  • When you come across an unfamiliar word, look it up in a dictionary, and practice using it in a sentence.
  • Teachers would rather read an interesting essay than a boring one.
  • Why not try joining an online writing club to share your work with and get advice from?
  • When writing, use your thesaurus! It'll help improve your vocabulary. (See Warnings)
  • Make sure you can easily mention famous authors.
  • Learn Latin, Greek and French, which will help you guess at the meaning and origin of difficult words (in both English and Spanish) when you don't have a dictionary on hand. At a minimum, learn the English roots that come from these languages.


  • When using a thesaurus, don't put in big words just because they're listed. Make sure you know what words mean exactly. Just because it's a synonym doesn't mean that it has the same exact meaning. Look the new word up before you use it.
  • Don't argue with the teacher about small points on a quiz or test, because some will get aggravated if you nitpick too much.
  • Don't read while you're walking. While it may demonstrate your dedication, you may end up walking into someone, something or worse - getting hit by a car.

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Categories: English