Macbeth Exam Questions Demystified

macbeth exam questions

As part of your GCSE English Literature exams, you will need to answer a question on the Shakespeare play you have studied. This blog focuses on Macbeth exam questions and how this exam will look.

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Macbeth – About the Exam

Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies. Based partly on real events, it’s the story of a Scottish warrior whose desire for power leads him to commit terrible crimes.

Macbeth, the titular character, hears a prophecy that he will one day become King of Scotland. Encouraged by his wife, Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan and takes his throne.

Once Macbeth becomes king, he becomes increasingly ruthless, killing anyone who stands in his way, including his best friend Banquo and the family of his rival, Macduff. His tyrannical rule eventually leads to his own downfall as he is killed by Macduff and Duncan’s son Malcolm takes the crown.

Through the play, Shakespeare explores a number of key themes including power and ambition, fate and free will, and the role of women in society.

The Macbeth Exam Questions

The exam is closed book – that means you won’t get a copy of the play itself. So, it’s really important you revise plenty before the exam so you are fully confident with the text. 

The question will give you an extract from the play. You will then be asked to discuss a theme from in the play in both the extract and the play as a whole.

 You’ll get marked against the assessment objectives – often called the AOs. There are four of them – AO1, AO2, AO3 and AO4.

Let’s have a look at each of these assessment objectives.

Assessment Objective 1

AO1: Read, understand and respond to texts. Students should be able to:
– maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response
– use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations.

This means you need to be able to show you’ve read the text and understand it. You need to have your own personal ideas about the play and you need to be able to use quotes to back your ideas up.

Assessment Objective 2

AO2: Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate.

You need to be able to use the right terminology to talk about the language he used in the play and why he used it. You should then talk about effect this language will have and how the audience will respond. The same applies to the form and structure of the play.

Assessment Objective 3

AO3: Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written.

The first part of AO3 is not relevant here – it relates to the poetry section of the exam. They key part here is the second part – the context.

You need to show you understand about the historical climate that Shakespeare was living and working in. Did certain events influence Shakespeare to write Macbeth? Did these effect how he wrote the play? How would the audience have reacted to Macbeth?

Assessment Objective 4

AO3: Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation.

This exam is mostly testing your understanding of Macbeth but examiners are still looking at your spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Macbeth Revision Resources

If you need some more help, take a look at the Macbeth Revision Guide available in our revision shop.

Macbeth Revision Guide: Cover

Or, for even more content, we have a Macbeth Revision Bundle that’s bubbling over with helpful hints and exam practice.

Macbeth Revision Resources Bundle

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