English Literature
A level

Do you like reading?  Do you enjoy discussing the books you have read and the ideas they raise?  Do you want to learn more about good writing and explore a range of authors, past and present?  This popular course will enable you to do all of these and more.

We study a range of texts, including plays, poetry and novels.  Through class work, reading and independent research we will study the key aspects of literary texts, including the ways in which writers construct narratives and create characters.  We will also study the ways in which literature can be assessed and analysed as well as how comparisons between texts can be made in order to gain further insight and understanding.

You will learn about different approaches to a text, about how to get more out of your reading and about how to write about texts in the depth appropriate to A level.  The lessons will provide opportunities for discussion and other kinds of active participation.  As part of your private study in English, you will also undertake some research into the social, historical and cultural background of some of the texts you study.  Outside the lessons there are English-related activities available.  You can get extra help with essay writing and study skills and there are trips to study conferences, to the theatre and to the cinema.

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.

The course comprises three exam papers and one non-exam assessment (coursework).

Paper 1: Drama (30% of qualification – 2 hour exam, open book) -  This exam addresses a variety of critical responses to a Shakespeare play and also studies the principles of comedy or tragedy as presented in another dramatic text.

Section A - Shakespeare

Study of a Shakespeare play (e.g. A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and a collection of related critical essays (provided by the exam board).

Section B - Other drama

A second play (e. g. 'A Streetcar Named Desire').

Paper 2: Prose (20% of qualification – 1 hour exam, open book) -  For this exam students will be asked to compare two prose texts according to a particular theme; one of the novels must have been written before 1900.  There is a wide choice of novels and themes to choose from, for example under the theme of Childhood students could study Dickens’ 'Hard Times' alongside McEwan’s 'Atonement'.

Paper 3: Poetry (30% of qualification – 2 hour exam, one question unseen, second question open book) -  For this unit students will prepare for responding to an unseen modern poem, through the study of form, meaning and style; they will also be required to study a range of poetry from either a particular literary period or by a single named poet from within a literary period (e.g. either an anthology of romantic poetry or a study of the poems of John Keats as a representative of that period).

Section A - Unseen Poetry

One essay question on an unseen modern poem written after 2000.

Section B - Prescribed Poetry

One essay question relating to works studied in class.

Coursework (20% of qualification) -  For their coursework submission, students will have a free choice of two texts to study and are required to produce one assignment.  This will comprise either one extended comparative essay referring to two texts or one recreative piece on one literary text plus an analytical commentary AND one comparative essay referring to both texts.

The advisory total word count is 2500 - 3000 words.

Although there is a free choice as to which authors and titles are selected, the chosen texts:

  • must be different from those studied in components 1, 2 and 3
  • must be complete texts and may be linked by theme, movement, author or period
  • may be selected from poetry, drama, prose or literary non-fiction

English literature is a useful subject to add breadth to any A level programme and can be combined with any other subject except English language and literature.

English literature has long been highly regarded by employers.  It helps to develop the skills of communication in writing and speaking, to promote critical, analytical and creative thinking, to encourage both independence and co-operation with others, and to raise awareness of social, moral and cultural issues.  As such it gives access to a wide range of career opportunities.  For the same reasons, universities and other centres of higher education welcome it as an entrance qualification for the majority of courses.

We recommend that you read the novel 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley.  This is not the first text that you will study, but it is the most substantial and the one that takes students longest to read, so it would definitely be an advantage to have read this before the term starts.

Once you have read the novel, watching the following BBC documentary will give you some useful contextual information.

Exam Board

Edexcel Learn More

Entry Requirements

  • You should have at least a grade 5 in both GCSE English language and GCSE English literature and at least a grade 4 in GCSE maths.

Employability Skills

  • Being able to select information to support your case and to piece these ideas together in a coherent piece of writing
  • Develop the ability to understand others and express yourself for maximum effect in all situations
  • Present your thoughts clearly, authoritatively and concisely
  • Broaden your vocabulary, appreciate the effective use of English by others and to gather and consolidate ideas from a variety of sources
  • Higher thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation
  • Articulate your ideas in a logical and clear way

Course Resources

The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde) - ISBN: 9780713630404, Bloomsbury 1988 (New Mermaids series), RRP £8.99

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) - ISBN: 9780141439471, Penguin 2003, RRP £5.99

Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) - ISBN: 9780571258093, Faber and Faber 2010, RRP £8.99

Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry (Various) - ISBN: 9780571325405, Forward 2015, RRP £8.99

Buy from Wordery