A-level English Literature

A-level English Literature

At both AS and A-level, English Literature involves the consideration and exploration of many areas of student interest and experience: love, loneliness, prejudice, bravery and perseverance to name but a few. There are not always ‘fixed’ or ‘correct’ responses to issues or questions raised, however, so students need to be open-minded and willing to listen to and discuss the opinions of their peers.
The course covers a variety and range of modern and historical prose, poetry and drama texts. These range from Shakespeare and Oliver Goldsmith to Andrea Levy with many more along the way. In addition, students have opportunities to explore their own interests from their own personal wider reading; indeed a willingness to ‘read around’ texts is essential. Students will develop the key skills of critical thinking, close analysis and structuring responses.
Studying Literature can be challenging but it is also immensely rewarding. We hope that it will not only provide students with a widely respected A-level, but will be an enjoyable experience that enriches their minds. This subject combines well with others such as Psychology, Law, Sociology, History, Media and Business.
Entry Requirements
Although other possibilities may be considered, this course is best suited to students with grade 5/6 in English and English Literature at GCSE (or equivalent). In addition, students need to enjoy reading, writing and sharing ideas. Because there are often no clear conclusions in discussions about Literature, students need to approach the subject with an inquiring mind.

Course Content

The specification we follow is AQA English Literature B. In accordance with College policy, ALL students will be entered for AS, regardless of whether or not they intend to follow the course for the full two years.
AS Level (one year): Students study Literary Genres, focusing on Aspects of Comedy. They are assessed via two examinations.
1. Paper 1: Literary Genres: Drama: Students study one Shakespeare text, currently ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, and one other drama text, currently ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ by Oscar Wilde. Paper 1 is a written exam lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes.
2. Paper 2: Literary Genres: Prose and Poetry: Students study one prose text, currently ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy, and a selection of poetry from the AQA poetry anthology. Paper 2 is a written exam lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes.
A Level (two years): Students study Literary Genres, focusing on Aspects of Comedy, and Texts and Genres, focusing on Elements of Crime Writing. They also complete a Non-Exam Assessment (coursework) entitled Theory and Independence. Note: Students need to be aware that the texts covered at AS level are also examined again at the end of the two-year A-level course.
1. Paper 1: Literary Genres: Students revisit three of the same Aspects of Comedy texts that were examined at AS level. Paper 1 is a written exam lasting 2 hours and 30 minutes. 
2. Paper 2: Texts and Genres: Students study three further texts focusing on Elements of Crime Writing, currently ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan, ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene, and a selection of poetry by Robert Browning, George Crabbe and Oscar Wilde. Paper 2 is a written exam lasting 3 hours.
3. Non-Exam Assessment: Theory and Independence: This is a coursework unit which involves personal reading alongside the study of a Critical Anthology. Students complete two essays, one focusing on poetry and the other on prose, applying a chosen school of literary theory to their chosen texts using the Critical Anthology. Each essay must be between 1250-1500 words.


AS (1 year course): Aspects of Comedy
Paper 1: Literary Genres: Drama. Written exam, I hour 30 minutes. Closed Book. 50% of AS mark.
Paper 2: Literary Genres: Poetry and Prose. Written exam, 1 hour and 30 minutes. Open Book. 50% of AS mark.
A2 (2 year course): Aspects of Comedy & Elements of Crime Writing
Paper 1: Literary Genres. Written exam, 2 hours and 30 minutes. Closed Book. 40% of A Level.
Paper 2: Texts and Genres. Written exam, 3 hours. Open Book. 40% of A Level.
Non-Exam Assessment: Coursework portfolio of two essays. 20% of A Level.

Where does it lead?

This subject is very versatile, developing skills that are relevant in a number of different careers or Higher Education courses, such as interpretive abilities, communication, an understanding of how language works, close analysis, and the ability to construct a well argued case. As well as an English Literature degree itself, students of Literature might go on to study for University degrees in a range of subjects including: History, Sociology, Psychology, Drama and Theatre Studies and Law. Even Medical Schools value the subject highly. Literature is a subject that can support careers in the above areas as well as Teaching, Business and Finance, Journalism, Publishing – even Politics. Employers tend to regard English Literature as an ideal topic of study and one that develops essential and transferable skills.

Reading List

AS set texts: – ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare. ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ by Oliver Goldsmith. ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy. A selection of poetry.
A-level set texts: – All the texts listed above are re-examined at A-level alongside ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan. ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene. A selection of poetry by Robert Browning, George Crabbe and Oscar Wilde. In addition, students should be reading, a wide range of individually chosen texts. Critical texts on any of the above.