English Literature

A / AS Level
2 years

What is AS/A Level English Literature?

If you love reading, and you enjoy talking and writing about drama, poetry and novels, this course should stimulate and engage you. You are encouraged to become an informed, more independent reader, able to explore a range of opinions and clearly express your own ideas and interpretations of literary texts. You will develop analytical skills so that you can understand and explain how language, structure and form shapes meaning.

Over the two years you will study a good, wide range of poetry, drama and prose, from the classic to the post-modern. This will include a play by Shakespeare, a contemporary novel written since 2000, and poetry from either the Romantic period such as Keats or Coleridge, or an earlier classic poet such as Chaucer, Milton or John Donne.

Your coursework module will be worth 20% and will be taken in your second year. This will consist of close analysis of an extract or poem, as well as a comparative essay of two texts linked by theme and/or context. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is often a popular choice and A Street Car Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is a play that stimulates excellent debate and discussion from students. Alternatively you could find yourself studying a recent Booker Prize Winner novel such as Atonement by Ian McEwan, or a dystopian classic such as Fahrenheit 451.

Is English Literature suitable for me?

If you enjoy developing and expressing your own opinion, then English Literature is a good choice since all points of view are welcomed when proved with evidence from the text. Consequently lessons are academic yet lively; each year we have a very high proportion of students who continue their study of English Literature on to degree level. One student commented: “I have loved English Literature this year. Lessons have been brilliant, really varied and interesting and my teachers have been very supportive.”

How will I learn?

Lesson activities are wide ranging: from debates to drama-based interpretations to detailed analysis and feedback; to student-based presentations on extracts and context, through to creative responses like painting, collage, or "found-poetry‟. One of the coursework tasks can be to re-create a passage of a text by, for example, re-writing it in the style of a different author, or to a different genre. In some cases you might like to write an extract of a sequel or a part of an imagined sub-plot. Some students, however, prefer to submit more traditional academic essays as coursework instead. We also organise a huge range of trips (15 in 2013/14) to see performances and to develop understanding of context.

How will I be assessed?

Coursework: 20% overall taken in the second year.

Examinations: six hours of exams, taken at the end of the two year course. One exam question will test students’ ability to analyse and understand an unseen text. The remainder of the exams students will write essays on texts studied in class throughout the course.


English Literature is a highly prized qualification and the skills you acquire will not only enable you to read with increased pleasure for the rest of your life, they will also enable you to express yourself precisely and logically, supporting your views with evidence. You may find yourself inspired to study English Literature at university. At the very least you should find yourself referring back to English Literature study for years to come.

Entry requirements

Students should normally have achieved an average GCSE point score of 5.5 or above and at least a grade C in English. Students with a point score between 4.5 – 5.5 will normally take a mixture of Subsidiary Diplomas and A levels. You can check your likely GCSE point score by going to 'Choosing the Right Course' on the website and entering your predicted grades.

You must be someone who enjoys reading, will prepare for lessons and will work hard on finding the best way of expressing your opinion on paper. You are likely to be most successful if you contribute to discussions in class and use these discussions to work towards your own considered opinion.

Course costs

All students will be expected to provide their own copies of the studied texts, stationery, and memory sticks.

Essential: You will need to buy you own texts. This means you can annotate your text and make it your own – a big advantage when revising, even if you are not allowed to take the text into the exam. Books cost between £1.50 and £7.00 each. You will need to buy four texts in the first year at a total cost of around £25.

Optional: A number of trips run during the year, and we ask you to pay for your ticket and for travel. Theatre trips cost approximately £20.

If the costs of equipment, materials and trips may cause you financial hardship, you may wish to read through details of our financial support scheme on our website.