English Language
A level

A level English language is very different from GCSE English language.  It involves the study of how English is used in society by individuals and groups and how different factors, such as a person’s class, ethnicity, age, occupation and gender affect the way they use language. 

The course also focuses on how language is learnt by children and how English has developed into a global language.  It will appeal to you if you are interested in what people say, how they say it, how written language affects readers and how you can adapt your writing style to persuade and entertain others. 

We expect to study the following aspects of language, through class work, reading and independent research:

  • How to interpret meanings behind language
  • How people use language in different regions of England and in different social groups
  • How children acquire language 
  • How language is used to influence our thoughts and perceptions
  • How and why language changes

Looking at and listening to examples of language use, identifying aspects of language and learning the technical terms to describe them, discussing and writing about issues to do with language.

This will be done through a mixture of whole-class work, small group activity and individual consultation with your teacher.  It will also involve private reading and individual research, probably involving interviewing and tape recording language users.

This is a new-style linear A level course.  In the second year of the course, you will take external exams that assess content covered in the first and second year.  These exams (along with coursework) will determine your A level grade.

Paper 1: Language, The Individual and Society (40% of qualification)

Section A - Textual Variations and Representations

Two texts (one contemporary and one older text) linked by topic or theme.

  • A question requiring analysis of one text
  • A question requiring analysis of a second text
  • A question requiring comparison of the two texts

Section B - Children's Language Development

A discursive essay on children’s language development, with a choice of two questions where the data provided will focus on spoken, written or multimodal (i.e. both spoken and written) language.

Paper 2: (40% of qualification)

This paper asks students to consider different varieties of English, including topics such as accents and dialects, language change over time as well as focusing on how language can be adapted to fulfil a range of purposes.

Section A - Diversity and Change

One question from a choice of two:

Either: an evaluative essay on language diversity 
Or: an evaluative essay on language change

Section B – Language Discourses

Two texts will be presented concerning a topic linked to the study of diversity and change.

  • A question requiring analysis of how the texts use language to present ideas, attitudes and opinions
  • A directed writing task linked to the same topic and the ideas in the texts

Non-exam Assessment (Coursework): Language in Action (20% of qualification)

This unit requires students to carry out and investigation into an aspect of language of their own choosing and also provides an opportunity to create a piece of original writing accompanied by an explanatory commentary.

Students will be asked to produce:

  • A language investigation (2,000 words excluding data)
  • A piece of original writing and commentary (1,500 words total)

English language effectively complements most subjects.

English language provides an excellent opportunity to develop the language skills required by employers, so will be an asset whatever you go on to do next.

For studying straight English literature at university, A level English literature, not language, is generally required. Otherwise, English language is accepted as a sound preparation for a wide range of degrees because it develops skills in the areas of research, analysis and personal written style, as well as the acquisition of a specific body of knowledge. 

It is very useful if you want a career in teaching, especially at primary level, or in speech therapy. There is a growing number of English language and linguistics degrees for which this A level is an ideal basis.  Many students also go into journalism.

More information about possible careers paths can be found here

Please see below for careers and labour market information for English language - use the refresh buttons to find out about different courses and careers, and use the left and right arrows to view more detailed information.

You can find the prep work for this course at prepwork.farnborough.ac.uk

Q: How does A level English language compare to GCSE English language?
A: A level English language is a very different subject to what you studied at GCSE.  It is challenging, yet rewarding, and fits well with most other subjects.

Q: Is there any creative writing on the course?
A: There is no creative writing on the course but the English department promotes many national creative writing competitions throughout the year and some of our students win prizes and get to see their work in print.

Q: Can I get into a top university with English language?
A: English language is a well-regarded academic subject which is accepted at UK universities (including all the Russell Group universities).

Q: What is the difference between the three different English A levels?
A: A level literature is similar to GCSE in that you read, discuss and analyse drama, poetry and novels and write essays.  The difference is in the level of difficulty and sophistication of the texts. 

A level English language is very different from literature.  In this course, we only focus on non-fiction texts in order to explore how writers use language to represent individuals or issues and influence the audience to react in a certain way.  We also discuss how and why individuals use language differently depending on factors such as their age, gender, ethnicity, class etc.  You need to think of A level English language as a brand new course in which you will explore topics and issues that you have never studied before, such as how children learn language.  If you love all aspects of English, it is possible to take English language A level alongside English literature A level as two separate subject choices as they do not have any aspects in common, but you can’t take either of these with English language and literature A level. 

English language and literature A level covers both fiction and non-fiction texts.  Almost all of the texts are from the 20th and 21st century.  However, it is important to bear in mind that it does not combine content from the other two English A levels, but that it is a course in its own right.

Q: What do you study in English Language?
A: You will be studying aspects of language that you may never have explored before:

  • How we learn it as babies and how we use it as adults
  • How we use it to express who we are and where we belong
  • How language has the power to affect the way we think and influence the way other people perceive us
  • How it has changed to reflect a changing society and its speakers’ needs

Q: How is the course assessed?
A: The course is assessed through two exams in the summer (80% of the A level) and non-examined assessment/coursework (20% of the A level).

Q: What subjects does it go with?
A: A level English language can be successfully combined with any subject.  You will develop your analytical, as well as essay writing skills, which are essential for any subject and career. 

Q: How many students are there in a class?
We have an average of between 18 and 22 students in a class.

Exam Board


Entry Requirements

  • You should have at least a grade 5 in GCSE English language and GCSE English literature.
  • Students should have a grade 5 in at least one other essay based subject.
  • There is no specific GCSE maths requirement to study this course.

Employability Skills

  • Ability to understand others and express yourself
  • English requires you to broaden your vocabulary, appreciate the effective use of English by others and to gather and consolidate ideas
  • Higher thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation
  • Develop the skills which are required to analyse any example of language, whether spoken or written, casual or formal
  • Develop the ability to undertake your own research and present your findings as a formal report
  • Use your knowledge of English to judge the intentions of others and express yourself effectively in any situation

Course Resources

A/AS level English language for AQA Student Book (Marcello Giovanello) - ISBN: 9781107465626, Cambridge 2015