Link to OFSTED Report
English Literature Advanced GCE

"You develop the insight of an artist, the analytical precision of a scientist and the persuasiveness of a lawyer."

English Literature builds on the content of GCSE by broadening the range of texts studied and developing the skills appropriate to literary study. Pupils have the opportunity to read a variety of styles including established classics and modern literature. As well as fostering a love of literature and language, the A Level English course is a flexible and adaptable subject that opens up a wide range of career choices. Pupils are encouraged to analyse and discuss; give presentations; read widely; pursue their own independent research and produce clearly structured and well-organised pieces of writing. In the first year pupils will focus on the theme of “Love through the Ages”. In the second year they will explore “Literature from 1945 to the present day.”

Core content:

  • Love through the Ages
  • Texts in shared contexts
  • Independent Critical Study: texts across time

Paper 1: Love through the Ages

Study of three texts: one poetry and one prose text, of which one must be written pre-1900, and one Shakespeare play. Exam will include two unseen poems.


  • Written exam: 3 hours
  • Open book in Section C only
  • 75 marks
  • 40% of A-level


  • Section A: Shakespeare: one passage-based question with linked essay (25 marks)
  • Section B: Unseen poetry: compulsory essay question on two unseen poems (25 marks)
  • Section C: Comparing texts: one essay question linking two texts (25 marks)

Paper 2: Texts in shared context

Modern times: literature from 1945 to the present day In this section of the course, indicative set texts for close study are: Michael Frayn’s Spies (prose-2000 prose); Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (drama); Sylvia Plath’s Ariel (poetry).

Study of three texts: one prose, one poetry, and one drama, of which one must be written post-2000 Exam will include an unseen extract.


  • Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Open book
  • 75 marks
  • 40% of A-level


  • Section A: Set texts. One essay question on set text (25 marks)
  • Section B: Contextual linking
    • One compulsory question on an unseen extract (25 marks)
    • One essay question linking two texts (25 marks)

Non-exam assessment: Independent critical study: texts across time

In this section of the course, pupils craft their own comparative response to two texts on a theme of their choice. The independent focus of the task encourages wider reading and research in the development of an extended essay (2500 words).

Two texts will be taught in preparation for the NEA task, enabling pupils to extend their skills in literary analysis, before selecting at least ONE comparative text of their own. Indicative taught texts here include: Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Arthur Miller’s The View from the Bridge, George Eliot’s Silas Marner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. The class teachers will provide constructive support and advice throughout the production of the NEA extended essay.

One extended essay (2500 words) and a bibliography


  • 50 marks
  • 20% of A level
  • assessed by teachers
  • moderated by AQA

The qualification is accepted by a variety of degree courses. Contrary to popular belief, teaching is not the main occupation of English graduates. Many go into law, management, research and consultancy, the civil service, the media, politics as well as publishing, journalism and the creative industries.

A wide range of teaching styles is used at A Level. Pupils are expected to take responsibility for their learning and are given guidance in organising their private study time and managing their workload effectively. Staff offer a rigorous but supportive learning environment, especially with regard to producing written responses. Pupils are taught to analyse texts critically in terms of genre, context and the writer’s craft. They are encouraged to make comparisons between texts and to develop their own independent opinions and judgements. Pupils of English possess skills in written and spoken communication, working independently and thinking critically, which are skills highly valued by universities and employers.

Also see related pages: Curriculum and Prospectus