A Level English Literature

Why should I study English Literature?

According to Sir Philip Sidney, the purpose of Literature is to “teach and to delight”. So it could be said that A Level English Literature will bring knowledge and pleasure. Studying a range of literature will broaden your ideas, develop the skills involved in debate and discussion, encourage the discipline of detailed textual analysis – it will stretch your mind! It is a highly regarded, useful foundation for a range of university subjects.

For A level we currently follow the EdExcel syllabus. Students explore texts from Chaucer to the present day, prose, poetry and drama, preparing for tasks in coursework and examinations. Many girls continue with their studies in literature at university.

At the time of writing there are at least 20 girls doing English at universities including Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Durham. Our English A-Level graduates have also gone on to read Literature at World Class Universities overseas such as Yale and Brown.

What will I need to study English Literature?

You will need to love literature to do well in this subject but the “love” without the hard work is not enough for those wishing to do themselves justice in the examinations. You will need to demonstrate the ability to write clearly using appropriate literary terms, arguing fluently and analysing cogently. A grade A or above in GCSE English Literature is required.

Structure and Outline of the Course:

The new qualification requires students to study eight texts. At least three must be pre-1900 (including at least one Shakespeare play) and at least one must be post-2000. There are three examination components (80%) and one coursework component (20%). 

Drama: Two texts from a selection of Comedies and Tragedies: currently Dr Faustus and Twelfth Night.

Prose: Two prose texts (including at least one pre-1900) on a chosen theme e.g. (currently studied) Women and Society: Tess of the D’Urbervilles: Thomas Hardy and Mrs Dalloway: Virginia Woolf.


UNSEEN POETRY: Students will study a wide range of modern poetry in preparation for responding to a post-2000 unseen poem. This poem will be compared to one of the ‘taught’ poems in the Poems of The Decade anthology.

PRESCRIBED POETRY: Students will answer on a collection or a named poet. Current text: John Donne. They will also study, to go alongside the unseen task, Poems of The Decade.

Coursework: This is assessed via two texts. We would teach one or two texts (current texts include: Othello and A Woman Killed with Kindness) and invite students to select a complementary text, linked by theme, movement, author or period. Texts chosen must be different from those studied in other components. 

Student Comments:

“Studying English gives you the opportunity to consider works from a huge variety of periods and enables you to combine your interests in other subjects. It brings to life characters and situations allowing you to become involved in another world.”

“The smaller groups for English at A Level allow for more open discussion which makes lessons very enjoyable.”

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