Page 1

Last-minute Learner

The top 10 things you must remember when revising…

An Inspector Calls 1 Understand and answer the question Work out exactly what the question is asking and ensure that everything you write is relevant! For example, if the question is about Mr Birling’s attitude at the start of the play, you must focus on Mr Birling in your answer, not the other characters, and you should remember to discuss only the first part of the play. Always tie your points back to the question, asking yourself, ‘Does this answer the question?’

2 Know your themes! The main themes in An Inspector Calls are: An equitable society; Responsibility; Love; Time. Get your head round these, and you’ll be well on your way …!

3 Plan, plan, plan! This is a key exam tip as well as a great revision exercise. Always jot down a plan before you start your answer. This gives your essay direction and ensures you’re answering the question.

4 Language Focusing on the language used by J. B. Priestley will help you to understand the characters and the themes, and to respond to the play effectively and precisely. Contrast the ways characters speak; who uses provincial language? Which character speaks ‘carefully’? Are there any differences in the way the younger generation speak compared to the older generation?

Prepare to Succeed!

5 Get to know the characters There are relatively few characters in this play, so you should know them inside out! Try linking characters to themes, for example, Sheila and Gerald with ‘Love’; Mr & Mrs Birling with ‘An equitable society’. This may help you to ‘map’ your ideas in a more effective and memorable way. Also, don’t forget the stage directions: these will often tell you a great deal about what the characters are thinking and feeling! When revising, try to memorise some relevant quotations – they are the best way to illustrate a point in your essay!

6 Time yourself Even the most last-minute of revisers has the opportunity to write a couple of timed essays. This not only lets you see what you already know, but shows you where there are gaps in your knowledge. Moreover, you are getting yourself into the habit of writing effective, precise and interesting essays under pressure. Try using the list of ‘Further questions’ at the back of the York Notes study guide.

7 Context It is key that you grasp the significance of Priestley writing the play after the Second World War, yet setting it in 1912. Why does he do this? Knowing about Priestley’s interest in and preoccupation with war, society and change will help you to understand An Inspector Calls fully. Use the ‘Key contexts’ section of our York Notes study guide to help you, and look out for the launch of our Online revision guide, which has a whole section dedicated to key contexts!

8 Dramatic techniques An Inspector Calls is, of course, a play, and will therefore use a variety of dramatic techniques. Familiarise yourself with dramatic irony and coups de théâtre – why does Priestley use these? Also consider the role of dialogue and rhetoric, and the effects of these. Ask yourself: does the pace of the play change? Why is the Inspector’s final speech so powerful? Remember to always consider the effect of Priestley’s techniques when writing about them. You could even draw up a simple revision table, like the one below, to organise your ideas! Technique



dramatic irony

9 Proofread! Always, always, always proofread your answers – do your sentences make sense? Are you answering the question? Have you checked your grammar and punctuation? Try to give yourself 5–10 minutes at the end of your exam or timed essay to read through your answers …

10 Keep calm and be confident The best advice in any exam setting is to keep calm. No matter how difficult the question first appears, break it down, plan an answer and do not panic. Try to be confident when approaching the question – you have the knowledge and capability to do well if you keep cool, calm and collected!

Discover more at

York Notes: An Inspector Calls Last Minute Learner  

Essential Study tips for GCSE Exams