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English Literature

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Key Stage 5

What does A Level English Literature involve?

English Literature is a subject that develops your ability to think critically and to express yourself accurately.  It involves the study of at least eight texts (prose, poetry and drama), covering a wide range of authors and periods.   In addition to the study of literary texts, A Level English requires a sophisticated understanding of a text’s context: this requires reading around the text – other works by the same author; texts related by theme; the social and historical context.  Different critical approaches, theories and responses to the text will also be studied.  

Why study A Level English Literature?  

The study of English Literature at an advanced level develops the student’s ability to decipher layers of meaning in a text, to explore ideas in depth and to improve her written and oral communication skills.  As well as being a necessary requirement for the study of English at university, A Level English is an asset for a number of degree programmes and careers, including law, teaching, the media and management.

What is the ideal A Level English Literature student like?  

The ideal English Literature A Level student will be glad to have left behind the constraints of GCSE and will want to read more widely, covering more challenging texts from a wider range of authors and periods; she will want to develop her critical skills and the ability to explore ideas in depth.  The A Level English student needs to balance a number of qualities: she needs to be hard-working and well organised; to be prepared to contribute actively in discussion; to want to think independently and to respond to texts knowledgeably and perceptively.  


The A Level English Literature syllabus

At Lady Margaret School we study the AQA English Literature A Syllabus.

Two year A Level course


Texts and topics

% weighting

Time / word count

Component 1:

Love Through the Ages


Section A: Shakespeare Othello

Section B: Unseen Poetry

Section C: Comparison of The Great Gatsby and an anthology of Pre 1900 Love Poetry


40 % A Level


3 hour closed book exam.

A mix of open and closed book questions.

Component 2:

Texts in Shared Contexts (Modern Literature 1945-present day)



Section A. Set Text Essay: You will study either Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy or Skirrid Hill  by Owen Sheers

Section B: Unseen Extract Analysis

Section C: One essay comparing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

40% A Level

2 hour open book exam.

 Clean copies of the books may be taken into the examination hall. 

Component 3:

Independent Critical Study


An essay based on the reading of two texts from two different authors:  one pre-1900.

20% A Level

2500 words

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