English Literature A Level

Course Content

Do you enjoy reading, discussing what you have read, thinking about texts in different contexts and writing about your interpretations?

English Literature offers you the opportunity to study in detail a range of texts taken from different time periods and across literary genres. You are encouraged to analyse texts from a variety of perspectives and to debate the meaning of texts in order to arrive at a real understanding of them. English Literature combines especially well with History, Politics and social sciences, though it also provides a useful balance to Science or Maths. As an A-Level student of English Literature, you will develop a range of highly academic skills, such as critical thinking and constructing arguments, which are regarded extremely highly by Universities and potential employers.


Paper 1: Love through the Ages: Shakespeare and Poetry (40% of A Level mark).  The aim of this topic area is to explore aspects of a central literary theme as seen through the ages.  Written exam: 3 hours (open book for one section only).   You will study three texts: one Shakespeare play, one prose text and one pre-1900 poetry anthology

Paper 2: Texts in Shared Contexts: Modern Literature from 1945 to the present day (40% of A Level mark).  The aim of this topic area is to encourage students to explore aspects of literature connected through a period of time.  Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes (open book).  You will study three texts, one poetry, one prose and one drama, one of which must be written post-2000. You will also answer a question on an unseen extract.

Paper 3: Independent Critical Study: Texts across Time (20% of A Level mark).  The focus of this component is for independent study and autonomous reading.

Coursework – 2500 words. You will write a comparative critical study of two texts: one must be pre-1900 and two different authors must be considered.


To be accepted onto the course, you will need at least a Grade 6 at both English Language and English Literature GCSE. The course demands good essay writing skills and a willingness to contribute to discussion. You will be expected to prepare aspects of the texts for presentation in class. You need to enjoy reading and be willing to read widely, beyond the set texts, to explore the topics being studied. 

Examples of set texts include:  The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, Shakespeare’s Othello, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy.

Examination Board: AQA.    Course Number: 7712