English Literature (Edexcel)

Studying English Literature at A Level will give you immense pleasure, inspire your curiosity, improve your writing skills and develop your proficiency as an informed and critical reader.  The A level in English Literature is designed to build and go beyond the skills that you will have developed at GCSE, progressing to close textual analysis, contextual awareness and critical appreciation. Studying English Literature provides the opportunity to read, discuss and analyse literary texts from all genres and many of the major periods of writing in English.

Throughout your A level study, you will explore a range of texts, all taken from the literary canon. Typically, you will study: a play by Shakespeare, a pre-nineteenth century play by Marlowe; a twentieth century novel and a wide selection of poetry from across the ages.  You will also learn how to write critical appreciations of a wide range of unseen prose and poetry and be encouraged to question critical views.  The set texts are carefully chosen to give you a taste of the widest range of literature, including contemporary feminist texts, and to prepare you for further study at university level.  English Literature is diverse and rich; because of this, some students choose to take their learning further with a literature based EPQ.

English Literature is mostly essay based, although you will be taught in a variety of styles.  You will be encouraged to refine your presenting and discussion skills, so that you are able to confidently participate in lessons.  During the summer term of the Lower Sixth, you will undertake your individual piece of coursework and this will allow you to compare two texts of your own choice. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your independent learning and research skills.

A level English Literature is an academic qualification that is highly valued by universities and employers and will particularly suit students wishing to study all forms of English, humanities subjects or law at degree level.  The course can equip you with many skills that are useful to employers and universities: the ability to construct a well-supported argument, the ability to write fluently and clearly, and the ability to consider and evaluate the opinions of others and draw a balanced conclusion.  The course can lead to careers in PR and marketing, journalism, teaching, law, publishing and many others.

A Level English Literature course outline: Edexcel specification

Component 1: Drama

For this unit students will study two plays based on the theme of tragedy, which will require an understanding of the genre and context, as well as the text itself.  This is an open book exam where students will need to use critical views and theories to enhance their study and exploration of Shakespeare.

  • Drama: Othello (and the study of critics) by William Shakespeare
  • Drama: Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.

Assessment: Written exam, 2 hours 15 mins.  30% of A Level

Component 2: Prose

This is an open book examination. Students will be required to write one comparative essay based on two prose texts from the chosen theme of ‘The Supernatural’, at least one must be pre-1900.

  • Prose: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Assessment: Written exam, 1 hour, 20% of A Level

Component 3: Poetry

In this unit, students will study one named poet or poetic movement, a range of poems from a 21st Century anthology and a selection of unseen poems. This is an open book examination where there will be one comparative essay question on a named poem from the 21st Century collection and an unseen poem, and an essay question comparing two poems from Donne or the poetic movement anthology.

  • Unseen poetry
  • Named poet: A collection of poems
  • Poetry Anthology of post 2000 poetry from different poets

Assessment: Written exam, 2 hours 15 mins- 30% of A Level

Component 4: Coursework

A highlight of the A level course is that students are able to write one extended comparative essay as coursework, where they are given a free choice of two texts to study.

Assessment: An essay comprising 2500-3000 words on two texts of the student’s own choice, which equates to 20% of the overall grade.

Minimum Entry Requirements:  5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including grade 4 in GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature.

Please note that the texts referenced above may change depending on teacher choice.

Updated September 2022