If you’re taking Theatre Studies at A Level, the chances are that you want to pursue a career in theatre in some form after you leave Sixth Form. If not, you at least have an enthusiasm and love of theatre that your A Level has helped you to further. However, a written exam is not every creative’s idea of a good time, and it can be hard to now move from a practical performance aspect of the course to a more academic one.
But all is not lost! We have consolidated some of our top tips to make the revision process a little easier, and for bagging top marks in A Level Theatre Studies. We will also help you to see the written exam as just another way to get creative in sharing your theatrical ideas. And... action!
Know Your Texts
It may seem like an obvious point, but the best place to start when it comes to revising is to read, re-read, and continue to read your set texts. Hopefully by now you will have an understanding of the plays that you will be writing about in your A Level Theatre Studies exam, but do you know exactly what happens in Act 3? And what about the appearance of the (hypothetical) estranged brother that was discussed in Act 1? Although the set texts vary depending on which exam board you are studying, each play has been chosen for a reason. Does it make a political comment? Is it demonstrative of a certain style or genre of theatre? If you can get curious about the plays and ask questions of it and its characters, it will make the process a lot more enjoyable! Also, the more you ask questions surrounding the play, the more you will be able to engage with the material. For example, say you are studying ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ by Bertolt Brecht, one of the first things you might discuss in class is that it is a piece of Epic Theatre. As you read and re-read the play, this knowledge will inform you both of character motivations and objectives, as well as technical design decisions you will be required to make. There may even be references within the text that can help inform your stylistic choices, both from an acting and design perspective! As our friend Hamlet says: ‘the play’s the thing’!
Know Your Terminology
A crucial part of the A Level Theatre Studies written exam is getting really familiar with the correct technical terminology, especially when talking about design, as examiners are going to be much more hot on this at A Level. Although the type of question you have may differ depending on which exam board you are working with, all exam papers will get you to write about your set, costume, lighting or sound design, sometimes even a combination of all of these, and it is really important that you are able to express your ideas in a creative yet technically correct way. Not only does this show the examiner that you have an excellent understanding of how theatre is made on a practical level, but it will also help you to express yourself in a confident, concise and succinct way, as you have all of the correct terminology at your fingertips. Although there are lots of useful resources out there, BBC Bitesize has a great list here, so no excuse not to know your gobos from your gauze!
Know the Mark Scheme
Although you may have looked at the ‘Past Paper’ section of your relevant exam board before in order to access some past exams for practise, you may not have realised that the mark scheme is also an incredibly helpful and effective way to gain an understanding of what the examiners are really after. The questions will of course differ from year to year, but the mark scheme will help to give you an idea of things like phrasing, the type of content you are expected to cover, as well as how the marks are distributed. In most cases, a mark scheme will outline ‘indicative content’ and provide guidance for the examiner as to how to award points based on what is written in the exam. Indicative content is a guide for what could be spoken about in an exam based on what the question is asking of you. For example, if we went back to ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’, and you had a question about the ways in which a director could direct their actors in three scenes to highlight conflict within the play, the indicative content might suggest four or five moments where there is a lot of conflict, alongside suggestions of how certain actors would use proxemics, gesture, physicality etc to express this. However, if a student writes about another moment that is not noted down in the indicative content in the mark scheme, but the answers are justified, this is not to say that their point is wrong as the content in the mark scheme is only ‘indicative’, and that marks are awarded in a way that allows for creativity and flexibility of thought. All this is to say that the mark scheme can help you gauge the type of answers that an examiner might be looking for in your A Level Theatre Studies exam, and may even inspire you to think about your text in a way that might not have occurred to you yet!
Know That Your Opinion is Valid!
Whichever exam board you’re working from, your opinion matters! One of the most exciting things about the Theatre Studies A Level written exam, is that you are encouraged to get creative with your ideas, much in the same way you have done for your practical assessments, too. When you are writing about your set texts, whether it’s a question from a design, acting or directorial perspective, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of how theatre is created, based on the work you have done over the past couple of years. A good way to think about this might be to imagine that you are looking at the stage from the audience, for example, and to move through the scene moment by moment. What would you want to happen to the lighting when X character moves stage right? How would you like Y character to deliver the line in order to achieve their objective? This is true of the Live Theatre evaluation, too, and perhaps even more so, as you are being asked to consider the success of a live performance you have watched as part of your course. This space to discuss your ideas in relation to the set question can be incredibly exciting as you weigh up the elements that did, or perhaps did not work, on stage. Your creativity and love of the subject is what made you want to study it in the first place, so hold on to it. And finally…
Remember the ‘Why’
Whichever question you are answering, always remember to justify your ideas! The ‘why’ is incredibly important, and as soon as you start including your justification, your answers will improve tenfold.
We hope that you found these tips helpful in the run up to your Theatre Studies exam! However, If you’re still feeling panicked in the run up to exam day, there is another option: you can always enlist the help of an expert Theatre Studies tutor. Titanium Tutors have a wide range of excellent Drama and Theatre tutors available – both online and in-person – for any period of time. This could include a short burst of revision sessions in the run up to exams, to provide you with any extra support you need. Contact us here for more information, and keep an eye on our blog for more top tips to score top marks in your GCSEs.
Break a leg!
Blog Post Crafted by Cicely
Cicely works on our Admin Team, and also tutors extensively.
In 2020, Cicely discovered her love of teaching, and has been tutoring English Literature and Drama ever since, as well as running a drama school audition help service with her friend and fellow actor to help prospective drama school students with their audition speeches.
Cicely has had her poetry published in anthologies and online, and in her free time is an avid reader. She loves living by the sea, a good podcast, and taking long walks in the countryside.