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English

Head of Department: Miss J V St Jean

Why choose English Language and Literature at A Level?

If you have a genuine love of English, you will enjoy the integrated linguistic and literary approaches to the reading and interpreting of both literary and non-literary texts, from a wide variety of genres. An A Level in this subject will allow you to probe the ways in which different genres convey powerful ideas and themes; through an independent and sustained approach, you will develop your skill as both a producer and interpreter of language.

What does the English Language and Literature combined course involve?

At the heart of the course is the close textual study of three major literary genres – prose, poetry and drama and a range of non-literary texts. The texts and materials for study are grouped in ways that develop your understanding of the value and purpose of an integrated approach to reading, writing, speaking and listening. There is a clear focus on how writers construct a distinctive ‘voice’ and you will be given ample opportunities to enhance your own creative writing skills.

How will I study English Language and Literature?

Small study groups will mean that you will become more confident in expressing your views in a clear and coherent way. Your reading will form the basis of some close analysis of literary techniques and class discussions will require you to consider the views of others and articulate sustained, informed critical judgements about the issues raised.

You will be required to develop your own essay-writing and critical skills, learning to make effective notes and collate information from a range of sources. Your ability to devise, draft, edit and evaluate the effectiveness of your own texts will be informed by peer assessment, debate and teacher assessment. Finally, you will improve your understanding of the English language and how it is used, extending your skills across a range of writing styles, including imaginative, discursive and argumentative. You may also be involved in study visits, theatre trips or visits from authors or academics.

How will I be assessed?

The AQA B English Language and Literature course is divided into four units. The course is demanding, and you will be expected to take an active approach to your studies right from the start.

Unit 1

The study an anthology of thematically linked texts, exploring a range of literary and non-literary writing.

Unit 2

(Coursework) provides your first opportunity to produce a thematic creative piece of writing alongside an analytical essay. For example, you may produce a creative piece based on The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger and write an analytical essay in response to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain based on the theme of escape.

Unit 3

You will study a major dramatist, focusing on how spoken language is crafted by the writer plus an examination of how speech is used in real life.

Unit 4

(Coursework) consists of the study of two literary texts and their transformation into different genres. You will also be required to write a commentary, which is a reflection of the linguistic and literary concepts you have employed in the creation of your piece.

What qualifications do I need to start the English Language and Literature course?

Owing to the level of analysis in the course, a grade B at GCSE should be regarded as a minimum. You will also need to be able to think independently and critically and to have a lively interest in reading a variety of both literary and non-literary texts.

With what other subjects does English Language and Literature fit?

The skills you develop in English will work with any other Arts or Humanities subject and can complement other languages, ancient or modern. In addition, the analytical aspects of the course can work well with Mathematics and Sciences.

What can I do at University with an A Level in English Language and Literature?

English Language and Literature can lead to many other subjects at degree level. These include, Law, Journalism, Teaching, Film Studies, Business, Art and Design, Drama, Classics, Drama, Geography, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology,

(Please note that although this course is accepted at all Russell group universities, Warwick does stipulate that ‘evidence of wider reading must be further evidenced within a prospective applicant’s personal statement.)

Finally, if you are thinking of applying to read English at University, you may well be requested to send in an essay (c.1500 words) as part of the selection process. If you are applying to Oxbridge, this will certainly be asked for. Universities will be using your work to assess a number of key criteria, but most importantly:

  • The ability to express yourself in clear, engaging, precise and concise language;
  • The ability to explore and interpret challenging texts in a sustained and sophisticated manner.

The essay will allow you the opportunity to approach a well-known text in an original way and more importantly, demonstrate to an admissions’ tutor how well you can negotiate the demands of textual analysis. A suggested list of authors is printed below; you may, however choose any author with an established critical reputation.

Suggested authors:

  • Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Edmund Spenser
  • William Shakespeare
  • John Donne
  • John Milton
  • Andrew Marvell
  • Henry Fielding
  • William Blake
  • Jane Austen
  • Percy Shelley
  • Charles Dickens
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Graham Greene
  • George Orwell
  • James Joyce
  • Sylvia Plath
  • John Updike
  • Philip Roth
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Harold Pinter
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Jonathan Swift

How will an A Level in English Language and Literature help me in my future life and career?

English can prove that you have the tenacity to study independently; the capacity to think for yourself; the ability to communicate effectively and the intellect to understand a wide range of texts from a broad spectrum. English can provide you with transferable skills which will be an asset in any occupation and in future study. With limitless possibilities, an English Language and Literature A Level is a valuable, and highly gratifying, option.