Gumley House School FCJ

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English Literature (A Level)

Open a book... open your mind.

Head of Department: Ms G Conway

Do you like reading?  Do you enjoy discussing the books you have read and the ideas they raise?  Do you want to learn more about good writing and explore a range of authors, past and present?  This popular course will enable you to do all of these and more.


  • Entry Criteria for A Level Study:
    You should have at least a grade 5 in GCSE English language and GCSE English literature.
    Students should have a grade 5 in at least one other essay based subject.
  • A Level SpecificationEdexcel
  • Curriculum Map and Learning Journey



We study a range of texts, including plays, poetry and novels.  Through class work, reading and independent research we will study the key aspects of literary texts, including the ways in which writers construct narratives and create characters.  We will also study the ways in which literature can be assessed and analysed as well as how comparisons between texts can be made in order to gain further insight and understanding.


You will learn about different approaches to a text, about how to get more out of your reading and about how to write about texts in the depth appropriate to A level.  The lessons will provide opportunities for discussion and other kinds of active participation.  As part of your private study in English, you will also undertake some research into the social, historical and cultural background of some of the texts you study.  Outside the lessons there are English-related activities available.  You can get extra help with essay writing and study skills and there are trips to study conferences, to the theatre and to the cinema.


The course comprises three exam papers and one non-exam assessment (coursework).

Paper 1: Drama (30% of qualification – 2 hour 15 mins exam, open book)
This exam addresses a variety of critical responses to a Shakespeare play and also studies the principles of comedy or tragedy as presented in another dramatic text.

Section A - Shakespeare
Study of a Shakespeare play (we will be studying Hamlet) and a collection of related critical essays (provided by the exam board).

Section B - Other drama
We will be studying The Importance of Being Earnest. 

Paper 2: Prose (20% of qualification – 1 hour 15 mins exam, open book)
For this exam students will be asked to compare two prose texts according to a particular theme; one of the novels must have been written before 1900.  There is a wide choice of novels and themes to choose from, for example under the theme of Science and Society, our students will study Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein alongside Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Paper 3: Poetry (30% of qualification – 2 hour 15 mins exam, one question unseen, second question open book)
For this unit students will prepare for responding to an unseen modern poem, through the study of form, meaning and style; they will also be required to study a range of poetry from either a particular literary period or by a single named poet from within a literary period (we will be studying the poems of John Keats).

Section A - Unseen Poetry
One essay question on an unseen modern poem written after 2000.

Section B - Prescribed Poetry
One essay question relating to works studied in class.

Coursework (20% of qualification)
For their coursework submission, students will study two texts, one of which will be The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, and are required to produce one assignment which will be an extended comparative essay. The advisory total word count is 2500 to 3000 words.


English literature is a useful subject to add breadth to any A level programme and can be combined with any other subject, particularly humanities subjects.


English literature has long been highly regarded by employers.  It helps to develop the skills of communication in writing and speaking, to promote critical, analytical and creative thinking, to encourage both independence and co-operation with others, and to raise awareness of social, moral and cultural issues.  As such it gives access to a wide range of career opportunities.  For the same reasons, universities and other centres of higher education welcome it as an entrance qualification for the majority of courses.


  • Being able to select information to support your case and to piece these ideas together in a coherent piece of writing
  • Develop the ability to understand others and express yourself for maximum effect in all situations
  • Present your thoughts clearly, authoritatively and concisely
  • Broaden your vocabulary, appreciate the effective use of English by others and to gather and consolidate ideas from a variety of sources
  • Higher thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation
  • Articulate your ideas in a logical and clear way


Q: What are the differences between the two different English A levels?
A: You already know what is involved in English literature.  It is a subject that you have been studying for years all through secondary school.  A level literature is similar to GCSE in that you read, discuss and analyse drama, poetry and novels and write essays.  The difference is in the level of difficulty and sophistication of the texts.  You will study texts that are centuries old alongside contemporary literature from Nobel Prize winners. 

English language is very different from GCSE English language - in fact, it doesn’t bear much relation to the GCSE at all!  If you love all aspects of English, it is possible to take English language A level alongside English literature A level as two separate subject choices as they do not have any aspects in common.  

Q: Is English literature highly regarded by universities and employers?
A: English literature is a facilitating subject - this means that is highly thought of by universities and respected by employers.  Taking certain subjects opens up more university course options and English literature is one of a handful of subjects commonly asked for in universities’ entrance requirements.  So the A level choices that you make in Year 11 can have a significant effect on the universities and course options open to you.  

This subject enables you to sharpen many of the skills employers seek out.  Being able to communicate effectively orally and in writing is a highly sought after transferable skill. 

Q: What career options are open to me if I study this course?
A: Students who have studied English literature have gone on to a wide variety of successful careers including law, politics, journalism, fiction writing, blogging, teaching, marketing, civil service, finance to name but a few. 

Q: Do I do any creative writing on the course?
A: There is no creative writing on the course but the English department promotes many creative writing competitions throughout the year and some of our students win prizes.  Some of our students go on to study on prestigious creative writing degree courses. 

Q: Do I do coursework?
A: There is a 3,000 word NEA (non-examined assessment) module.  This is 20% of the total A level. 

Q: How many students are there in a class?
A: There are usually 16-20 students in a class.



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