Sixth Form: English Literature

Subject Overview

There are two separate A Levels offered by the English Department: English Language and English Literature.

There are many transferable and desirable skills taught as part of the A Level English Literature A Level course. The specification ensures students can gain a solid understanding of how texts can be connected and how they can be interpreted in multiple ways so that students can arrive at their own interpretations and become confident autonomous readers. Students also experience a rich, challenging and coherent approach to English literature that provides an excellent basis for studying the subject at university.

Entry Requirements

Grade 5 in English Literature at GCSE.

Syllabuses (Course Outline and Structure)

English Literature Course Units

Paper 1: Literary genres: drama

What's assessed:

Choice of two options

  • Option 1A: Aspects of tragedy
  • Option 1B: Aspects of comedy

We have chosen Tragedy.

Study of three texts: one Shakespeare text; a second drama text and one further text, of which one must be written pre-1900.

We have chosen Othello, Death of a Salesman and the poetry of Keats.

How it is assessed:

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


  • Section A: one passage-based question on set Shakespeare text (25 marks)
  • Section B: one essay question on set Shakespeare text (25 marks)

Section C: one essay question linking two texts (25 marks)

 Paper 2: Texts and genres

What's assessed:

Choice of two options

  • Option 2A: Elements of crime writing
  • Option 2B: Elements of political and social protest writing

We have chosen political and social protest writing.

Study of three texts: one post-2000 prose text; one poetry and one further text, one of which must be written pre-1900

Examination will include an unseen passage.

We have chosen The Kite Runner, The Handmaid's Tale and the poetry of William Blake.

How it is assessed:

  • written exam: 3 hours
  • open book
  • 75 marks
  • 40% of A-level


  • Section A: one compulsory question on an unseen passage (25 marks)
  • Section B: one essay question on set text (25 marks)
  • Section C: one essay question which connects two texts (25 marks)

Non-exam assessment: Theory and independence

 What's assessed: 

  • Study of two texts: one poetry and one prose text, informed by study of the Critical Anthology
  • Two essays of 1250–1500 words, each responding to a different text and linking to a different aspect of the Critical anthology
  • One essay can be re-creative. The re-creative piece will be accompanied by a commentary.

 How it is assessed:

  • 50 marks
  • 20% of A-level
  • assessed by teachers

moderated by AQA

Students will choose from the following branches of literary criticism:

  • narrative theory, feminist theory, Marxist theory, eco-critical theory, post-colonial theory, literary value and the canon.
  • Students will be given a (guided) free choice of their poetry and prose texts but they cannot select from the A Level set texts.

Activities and Trips

There are usually opportunities to see performances of plays which students are studying for those studying English Literature.

Expected Costs

Students are encouraged to purchase the set texts, so that they can annotate them for revision purposes.

Complementary Subject Combinations and Enrichment Activities

English Language A Level is often studied in conjunction with other Arts-based subjects. Popular combinations include: Theatre Studies, History, Law and English Language.

English Literature can be studied at degree level and can lead to careers   in journalism, the media, education and law

Subject Resources

Other information

This course would appeal to you if: 

  • You enjoy reading a wide range of poetry, prose and drama.
  • You relish debate, discussion and analysis of different interpretations of texts.
  • You wonder how historical, social or literary contexts might influence authors.
  • You would like to trace the development of a literary genre over diverse texts.
  • You are always looking for recommendations of what to read and enjoy recommending books to others.