What is English Literature?

English Literature GCSE introduces you to literary study. You will explore texts from a variety of places and times and be able to see how writers respond to and reflect the events and movements that were taking place at the time they were writing. You will study a nineteenth century novel, a play by Shakespeare in addition to a modern drama text and a poetry anthology. You will also develop the skills to analyze literary texts that you have never seen before. The course will develop your ability to read critically as well as to appreciate the different components of literary texts and literary criticism. By the end of the course, you should have a detailed understanding of structure, genre, language and form.

What will I study?

We will begin by studying the beginning of Victorian crime fiction by looking at Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four. We will also look at the AQA Power and Conflict Poetry Anthology, exploring 15 poems from different historical periods and how they explore the ideas of power and conflict. We will also study Shakespearean tragedy by focusing on Macbeth. An Inspector Call’s is the second drama text and will allow you to explore how texts can be influenced by and challenge political ideas.  Throughout the course you will be developing your analytical essay writing skills and learning to incorporate different interpretations and critical approaches into your work.

What will I gain from studying the subject?

English Literature will equip you to be able to engage with texts and language with confidence and insight. You will develop a sensitivity to language choices and language can be used to persuade, engage and direct a reader. It will give you a good introduction to the study of literature, be that English or in a different language at A-level and beyond.

How is it assessed?

Paper 1:

Shakespeare and the 19th-century novel

The Sign of Four and Macbeth

(Written Exam – 1 hour and 45 minutes) 40%


Paper 2:

Modern Texts and Poetry

(An Inspector Calls, Poetry Anthology and Unseen Poetry

Written Exam – 2 hours and 15 minutes) 60%


Exam Board: AQA GCSE (9-1)

What do I need?

You need to have an interest in the written and the spoken word and a willingness to read new kinds of text. You should already be a keen reader and read widely. Being interested in different cultures and different periods of history also really helps as many of your texts will refer to different places and moments in history.


Can I study other texts?

It is possible to study other texts – please enquire if you are interested in this.


When is this exam available?

This exam is available in May/June every year.