A-Level English Literature

hereEnglish Literature A-Level

The English subject link for UCAS and Oxbridge entry is Mr Chevalier.

Interested in some taster reading in preparation for A-Level?

aa quick dip pre-Alevel reading list

A-Level English Literature is an exciting opportunity to explore literature with others dedicated to the art of words. On offer is nothing less than the potential to have your world, and self, transformed; but be warned literature is full of sex and violence and not for the faint of heart. The examinations focus on comparison of texts and cover literature from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century. You will be encouraged to develop your own critical positions and to make your own choices about texts for coursework modules.

A-Level course description

If you have a sharp, inquisitive and critical mind, English Literature is the A Level choice for you. You will have the unique chance to engage with an array of powerful texts which will challenge your perceptions of the world around you. Your critical and creative responses will not only give you a sense of achievement, but also a sense of  enjoyment from tackling and succeeding with such  challenging subject matter. Your essay writing skills will develop rapidly, giving you the skills you need for your other subjects and a vital aid for your UCAS personal statement. This subject builds useful skills for other university degrees too including Law, Anthropology, Languages, and Film/Media courses.

As a lover of reading, you will delve into the literary canon to develop your own interpretations, but will also promote, challenge and debate them with your intellectual peers. You will find the seminar-style lessons centred around high-level discussion and you will be involved in presenting your own ideas, interpretations and evaluations to the class. Regular theatre trips, talks from visiting specialists and engagement with the wider literary world will allow you to develop your analytical skills and become an independent thinker.

A-Level course

The assessment of English Literature is now examined by terminal exams at the end of the course. There are four modules, of which one is coursework. Most recently, students have explored texts ranging from King Lear, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Duchess of Malfi, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Wasp Factory, and read the work of John Donne, Sylvia Plath, and Ted Hughes.

The key requirement for those studying English Literature is that they should enjoy reading, and should want to find out as much as possible about the texts and contexts that they study. Intellectual curiosity and a desire to see new perspectives are both desirable and acquired during the course. Not surprisingly, English Literature is an excellent preparation for anybody whose university subject or future career will involve analytical skills and coherent writing, for example, law, journalism and media industries, or the civil service. However, those looking for a challenging balance to a scientific A-level curriculum will find the rigour and alternative approaches in literary study a refreshing difference.

Still interested in some taster reading in preparation for A-Level?

aa quick dip pre-Alevel reading list

Course content (from 2015)

DETAILS of the new A-Level WJEC -EDUQAS English Literature course may be found here.

Component 1: Poetry – Written examination: 2 hours (open-book) – 30%

Pre-1900 poetry and post-1900 poetry. Poets such as John Donne, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney and Owen Sheers are studied to give you a well-rounded overview of the developments in poetry across time.

Component 2: Drama – Written examination: 2 hours (closed-book) – 30%

Shakespeare – the incredible opportunity to study ‘King Lear’. Not to be missed.

Pre– and post-1990 drama with a focus on ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ (Tennessee Williams) and ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ (John Webster). An impressive and challenging range of work.

Component 3: Unseen Texts – Written examination: 2 hours – 20%

This module presents unseen prose and poetry for analysis. You will study a wide range of prose from 1880 to 1910 and 1918 to 1939. Your wider reading of poetry will be challenged with a poem from the literary canon to consider how its meanings are shaped through language.

Component 4: Prose Study – Coursework: 2500-word assignment – 20%

The study of two pieces of prose and the opportunity to undertake an independent and sustained study.

Within the English Department, trips are organised for Sixth Form English Literature students to visit professional productions of plays that they are studying. Film is used wherever possible to further the study of the literature. Where possible, too, outside conferences may be attended; talks by visiting speakers are also occasionally organised.
Wider reading is an important part of the English curriculum and at A-Level students are expected to read widely and often, as well as keep a personal journal of their reading. We would expect students to also throw themselves into the wide variety of extra-curricular opportunities offered by the English department including working with younger students, attending reading clubs, exploring new forms of writing through a club or competitions, or even trying out film-making.

The Literary Society – A Novel Approach – meets once a week to explore different aspects of Literature – most recently enjoying the fun of cryptic crosswords, and exploring contemporary poetry.

Students are encouraged to follow the English Department on twitter @RGSEnglish


In addition, they will be introduced to a wide range of other literature from all periods of English literary history. There is also both a reading club (which shadows the T S Eliot poetry prize) and a writing group (which offers a range of national writing competitions for sixth formers and supports the creative writing element of the course). The students’ contribution and support as role models for younger pupils in the classroom not only fosters life-long reading habits but also offers them a unique experience and opportunity to share their passion and knowledge with others which has been shown to be mutually beneficial.

Wider reading is an important part of the English curriculum. Students should aim to read a selection of the recommended books: A-Level English Literature recommended reading list


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