English Literature (A Level)

Why should I study A Level English Literature?

Are you someone who enjoys lively discussion of books? Literature is a course which enables you to engage in depth with a range of powerful and inspirational texts. It involves looking at poetry, plays and novels to explore how writers create characters, tell stories and present themes. 

Literature lessons involve are varied, ranging from group and whole class discussions, creative approaches, drama activities and independent research. You will be encouraged to explore your own ideas about the texts. 

As well as extending your experience of literature, this course allows you to sharpen and refine the ways you analyse texts. You will be taught how to write an effective critical essay and the skills involved in shaping and structuring ideas will be useful in all essay based subjects.

Course Content

The course has been designed to encourage you to think about how Literature reflects the time in which it was written:

Love through the Ages

For this topic you will study the presentation of the theme of ‘love’ in a novel, a range of poetry and a Shakespeare play. You will examine changing attitudes to love across the centuries and also consider how forms of writing have evolved. We teach a range of texts: some of the most enjoyed are Atonement, The Great Gatsby and Othello.

Literature of Modern Times from 1945 to the present

Here you will be focusing on three exciting texts from recent times. You will cover prose, poetry and a play, for example The Handmaid’s Tale, Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy and A Streetcar Named Desire. This unit invites you to think about the themes that are a common feature of modern literature and how these are presented.

Non-Examined Assessment

A longer essay in which you compare a pre-1900 text you have been taught, with a text you have chosen, for example a comparison of the presentation of outsiders in The Catcher in the Rye and Dr Faustus.

Progression onto Year 2

Progression to the second year of this A Level course will be dependent on having made satisfactory progress in the first year of the course, including achieving at least an E grade in a formal late spring assessment, as well as the maintenance of a good level of attendance and commitment throughout the year.

Final Assessment at end of Year 2

Two written examination papers taken at the end of the second year and a piece of non-examined assessment. 

 Paper 1: (40%) Love through the Ages. Two essays and a comparison of two unseen poems.

Paper 2: (40%) Modern Times. Essays on three modern texts and critical analysis of an unseen prose extract. 

Non-Examined Assessment: (20%) A comparative essay, which you work on independently, focused on two texts, one of which you have chosen.

Minimum Entry Criteria

Standard College entry requirements (as detailed on page 12 of the Prospectus) and a minimum of: 




GCSE English Literature






GCSE English Language

We are an inclusive department and we will in some situations consider students who have achieved a good grade in only one GCSE English course.

Some applicants may have a career plan for which taking both English Language and English Literature as two separate A Levels would be appropriate, giving them an increased chance of progressing to a highly competitive university, for example, to study journalism. As taking both subjects narrows a programme of study, it is strongly advised that such students take four subjects at A Level (see page 35 of the Prospectus for the grade profile required to study four A Levels).

What can I do after studying A Level English Literature?

The thinking, speaking and writing skills you develop on this course are highly valued by universities and employers. We also have a great deal of experience in supporting those students who opt to take Literature at University, including Oxbridge applications. Our former students have gone on to study a wide range of subjects including history, law, drama and medicine, and pursued an enormous variety of careers. 

Further Information

Students who like reading and want to expand their horizons choose English Literature. Our students frequently comment on the friendly atmosphere that arises from the kinds of discussion that take place. Students will be provided with a variety of course handouts, but must purchase their own texts. Financial assistance may be available where required. 

English students are offered a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities such as trips to the theatre, cinema, lecture days and support for those applying to study English at university. We run popular residential trips including Stratford-Upon- Avon and a creative writing retreat, and invite visiting speakers such poets, novelists, playwrights and journalists to talk to our students. We also participate in the Royal Shakespeare Company live streaming of their productions and offer Additional Studies in Creative Writing, College Magazine and Debating.