A Level: English Literature

Course title: Advanced GCE in English Literature (Specification B)

Exam board: AQA

Subject specific entry criteria: Grade 6 in GCSE English Literature and English Language.

Course overview

Unit 1: Literary Genres

The aim of this unit is to introduce candidates to aspects of the genre of Tragedy. Texts have been selected and grouped together to enable students to understand the roots of the literary genre as well as how the genre has developed. Students study three texts: Shakespeare’s play ‘Othello’, Miller’s play ‘Death of a Salesman’ and a selection of the poetry of Keats.

Unit 2: Texts and Genres

This unit introduces candidates to the more modern genre of crime writing and texts wherein a transgressive act is the driving narrative force. This genre, which is heavily influenced by culture and society, is continually evolving and allows students to analyse and interpret more modern texts as well as older texts in new and interesting ways. Students study a broad range of transgressive fiction to deepen their appreciation of genre nuances, as well as three set texts: one post-2000 prose text (Kate Atkinson’s ‘When Will There Be Good News?’), Coleridge’s narrative poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, and Agatha Christie’s novel, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’.

Unit 3: Theory and Independence

This unit is designed to allow students to read widely and develop their skills as critical, crafted writers of extended essays. Students are guided in the choice of their own academically-challenging texts and coached in the understanding that the contemporary study of Literature needs to be informed by the fact that different theoretical and critical methods can be applied to the subject.

Students write about two different literary texts (one poetry text and one prose) through their choice of critical perspectives such as Marxism, Feminism, Literary Value, Post Colonialism and Eco-criticism.

Assessment overview

Unit 1 Examination in June in Year 13.

One closed book exam, lasting two hours and thirty minutes. The paper is in three sections and students answer one question in each section. All three texts will be covered. 40% of A Level.

Unit 2 Examination in June in Year 13.

One open book exam, lasting three hours. The paper is in three sections and candidates answer one question from each section. This includes the study of an unseen extract. All three texts will be covered. 40% of total A Level.

Unit 3 Non-exam assessment written across Years 12 and 13. Recommendation for mark submitted to the exam board in May of Year 13.

Minimum of two texts for study linking to an aspect of the Critical Anthology. A portfolio of two written essays (one may be re-creative). 20% of A Level.

Future progression and potential careers
  • Recognised by top universities as a highly facilitating subject with competitive and transferable skills
  • Recognised by top companies (for example in Google’s ‘Project Oxygen’ and ‘Project Aristotle’ which list top employability and promotion qualities) as developing the creativity, criticality, empathy, and interpretative and critical thinking skills deemed vital in the modern workplace
  • Skills are directly relevant and transferable to the study of degree-level Law, History, Politics, Languages, Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, Classics, Education, Linguistics, English Literature
  • Skills learnt in the study of Literature are also highly useful for any subject wherein the ability to argue critically, evaluate with discernment and critique the written word hold merit
  • As the ability to read extensively and develop independent study skills is so fundamental to many university degrees, achievement in this A Level can provide a sound basis for most courses and a wide range of careers, with common career paths taking English Literature students into lucrative and enriching careers in law, journalism, publishing, advertising, education, and media.
How to succeed in English Literature

You will:

  • have a genuine interest in English Literature beyond your set texts
  • be willing to form and express personal opinions on a text and support those opinions with rigorous textual reference and justification, and be prepared to work independently, analyse in detail and produce work that is thoughtful, critical and astute
  • be willing to seek out research and enrichment beyond the classroom
  • be a keen reader, capable of independently completing reading tasks to deadlines
  • be ready and willing to accept the challenge of evaluative writing and be open to feedback to improve yourself as a critical writer.