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. At AS, 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 the language an author uses shapes meaning.

In your AS year you will study a poet such as Robert Browning or Edward Thomas, together with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  For your coursework module (worth 40%), you can study any three texts written after 1900. 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. One of these three texts must be contemporary, written after 1990, so you could find yourself studying a recent Booker Prize Winner novel such as Atonement, or the script of a recent film such as American Beauty.

Your A2 studies build upon the skills developed at AS. This second year syllabus provides plenty of opportunity for being stretched and challenged with epics like Milton's Paradise Lost and Shakespeare, and poets such as Andrew Marvell and William Blake.

Is AS/A Level 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 English Literature into A2, and often then 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 (20 in 2011/12) to see performances and to develop understanding of context.

How will I be assessed?

Coursework: Year 1: 20% overall (40% of AS); Year 2: 20% overall (40% of A2).

AS Level

One exam, consisting of two essays. One on studied poetry from the period 1800–1945 and the other question on a studied novel from this period. Coursework will be analytical and recreative, looking at two texts written after 1900 and one text written post-1990.

A2 Level

One exam, consisting of two essays. One of a studied Shakespeare play, and the other exploring contrasts and comparisons between one play and one poetry text written pre-1800. Coursework requires students to produce an essay exploring connections and comparisons between three texts that are linked by theme or perspective and often written since 1900. For example, they could come from different periods but all be interesting from a feminist perspective, or all deal with satire in some way, all be connected with nature, etc.


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 studying a 3 or 4 AS level programme 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 AS 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 textbooks, stationery, computer discs and calculators (where appropriate).

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.

Course Code