What is English Literature?

English Literature covers a wide-range of topics from Chaucer to present-day authors, including works in English from writers outside the UK. The dual aim of the A Level course is to stimulate a personal, imaginative response to literary texts, and to develop the techniques of critical appreciation. Works are studied from the three genres of drama, prose, and poetry. For the coursework module, students are encouraged to select their own texts and topics from any genre.

How is it studied?

English Literature students are encouraged to choose texts that both fit appropriately with the course and match their own individual preferences. The teachers work closely with the students to ensure that everyone reaches their full potential, and enjoys engaging with the texts.

At AS Level, students will explore the three genres of drama, prose, and poetry in the genres of either tragedy or comedy. They will gain a solid understanding of how texts can be connected and interpreted in multiple ways, and become confident independent readers.

At A Level, students will also explore more modern texts engaging in a range of theoretical ideas that go beyond the established genres: either crime writing, or political and social protest writing. Students will also develop independent study skills while producing coursework, learning how to apply different theoretical and critical methods to their own areas of interest.

New students will follow AQA board specification B.

How is English Literature assessed?

A level

Paper Modules Weighting Format
1 Literary Genres:

Option 1A: Aspects of tragedy

Option 1B: Aspects of comedy

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


40% • Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes

• Closed book


2 Texts and genres

Option 2A: Elements of crime writing

Option 2B: Elements of political and social protest writing

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

40% • Written exam: 3 hours

• Open book

(Exam will include an unseen passage)

3 Non-exam assessment: Theory and independence 20% Students produce:

Two essays of 1,250–1,500 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.)


• Assessed by teachers

• Moderated by AQA



Paper Modules Weighting Format
1 Literary genres: drama 50% • Written exam: 1 hour 30 minutes

• Closed book


2 Literary genres: prose and poetry 50% • Written exam: 1 hour 30 minutes

• Open book



Board: AQA

What do I need?

To study this subject at A Level, a minimum of a C grade in GCSE Higher Tier English Literature is necessary. An interest in the variety of human experience, an appreciation of how language is used in literary texts, and imagination are the key qualities needed for students of English Literature. An aptitude for writing clear and coherent English is also essential.

What should I study with English Literature?

English Literature A Level is a good accompaniment to arts subjects such as Media Studies, Film Studies, and English Language. Given its historical aspects, this course would also work well alongside History.

What can I do with A Level English Literature?

English Literature teaches the communication, writing and creative skills that are necessary for a wide variety of professions and university degrees. The A Level provides analytical and critical skills that students will benefit from throughout their careers.

Questions about the course

Can I study an A Level in English Literature in one year?

We recommend at least 5 terms to study English Literature, since you will need to work on cumulative skills and carry out independent research.