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English literature 

A Level

studied at all schools 


To find out what qualifications are needed for each pathway/entry route click here.

6 or above in English literature

6 or above in English 

A Level English literature builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills established at GCSE, introducing learners to the discipline of advanced literary criticism.

The English literature A level encourages students to develop their interest in and enjoyment of literature and literary studies.

Students must study a minimum of eight texts, including at least two examples of each of the genres of prose, poetry and drama. These must include:

* at least three texts published before 1900, including at least one text by Shakespeare

* at least one work first published or performed after 2000

* at least one unseen text


You will study a range of texts from different periods and explore the ways in which their cultural and historical context, as well as the way that language, form and structure shape the meanings communicated by the author.

You will also learn about different critical approaches and how this changes how you feel or respond to a text. Thinking about how the context affects the reading is also a key area you will cover.

You will cover FOUR texts and there will be a range of texts which may vary across the schools. You will study a Shakespeare play, two novels that are connected by theme, and some modern poetry. You will learn the skills of analysing unseen texts and making links between texts using your own contextual knowledge.

You will study a collection of poetry during year 12 and write a coursework essay showing your close analytical skills. There will be some wider reading set over the summer to prepare for the contextual and comparative unit.


You will study some pre-1900 poetry and make links with a pre-1900 play that you will also study. You will continue to study one genre topic in detail and make links and judgments about that genre.

You will learn greater skills in approaching unseen texts and the topic study gives the opportunity to really develop independent research and analysis skills.

The Shakespeare text studied in year 12 will be revised and knowledge of the performance issues deepened. There is also a comparative coursework essay where two texts are studied and compared.


* Read widely and independently both the set texts and other texts chosen to complement them

* Engage critically and creatively with a substantial body of texts and explore your own ways of responding to them

* Develop a deeper understanding of how to evaluate texts by using literary analysis

* Explore the contexts of the texts read and how this affects the way they are read and understood

* Explore links between texts in order to deepen your understanding







Component 01


Drama and poetry pre -1900

Written exam 60 marks Closed text

2 hours 30 minutes

 40% of total A level

Component 02

Close reading in chosen topic area

Comparative and contextual study

from chosen topic area

Written exam 60 marks Closed text

 2 hours 30 minutes

 40% of total A level

Component 03

Close reading coursework

Comparative essay

Non-examined assessment Coursework 3000 words 40 marks


 20% of total A level

Component 3 is a coursework element on literature post-1900. Students must submit a close reading or re-creative writing piece with commentary and a comparative essay of two texts. This component is worth 40 marks (20 per cent of the total A Level). Both the above exams are closed text (where books are not allowed).


English literature is one of the Russell Group of universities’ ‘facilitating’ subjects. Students who study English literature A Level go on to a wide range of careers including journalism, teaching, advertising and public relations, the arts and the civil service.