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A Level English Literature

A Level English Literature



This information can be also downloaded at the bottom of this page.


English Literature is one of the A Levels that is highly regarded by Universities precisely because of the fact that it is still deemed to be very challenging.

Course Requirements:

To secure a place on the A Level English Literature course, you must gain a ‘B’ grade or higher in both GCSE English Language and English Literature.

Outcomes of the course
· You will study texts from different centuries, including novels, plays and poetry. 

· You will read texts independently and discuss them in class.

· You will write essays on these texts for coursework and examination purposes.

· You will develop your skills as sophisticated readers of a wide range of texts.

· You will hone your analytical and discussion skills in a supportive environment.

· You will develop an understanding of the author’s craft.

· You will gain an appreciation of the social, cultural and historical contexts in which texts were written.


Please find below a breakdown of the course. Further information can be found in the full specification which is available on the CIE Cambridge International AS & A Level Literature in English 9695 webpage.  Assessment is completed in two stages: the AS examinations at the end of the first year and, in the second year, either two examinations or one examination plus coursework.


Paper  3.      Poetry & Prose Examination.   (2 hours)  – 25% of the A Level

There are two questions in this examination, one on a prose text, and one on a poetry text. There will be a choice of either an essay question OR a passage-based question on each text.

Paper 4.  Drama Examination.   (2 hours) –  25% of the A Level

There are two questions in this examination, one on each of the two plays studied. There will a choice of either an essay question OR a passage-based question on each play.


Paper 5.       Shakespeare and other pre-20th Century Texts.  (2 hours) – 25% of the A Level

There are two sections: Section A: Shakespeare; Section B: other pre-20th Century Texts. Candidates answer two questions: one question from Section A and one question from Section B.

And either:

Paper 6.       1900 to the Present.      (2 hours) – 25% of the A Level.

There are two questions on different texts.

In each of these components, students will be assessed on the following objectives:

  • AO1: The ability to respond to texts in the three main forms (Prose, Poetry and Drama) of different types and from different cultures.
  • AO2: An understanding of the ways in which writers’ choices of form, structure and language shape meanings.
  • AO3: The ability to produce informed, independent opinions and judgements on literary texts.
  • AO4: The ability to communicate clearly the knowledge, understanding and insight appropriate for literary study.
  • AO5: The ability to appreciate and discuss varying opinions of literary works.



Across their time on the course, students will study a variety of genres and will need to be familiar with their historical, political and social contexts.

Genre Examples of set texts on the syllabus; these change after a few years. 

The class teacher will decide which of the set texts the students will study.

Students will study some from each genre: poetry, prose, drama.

Prose E M Forster – Howards End 

Andrea Levy  – Small Island

Stories of Ourselves – Selected stories

Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey

Charles Dickens—Oliver Twist

Geoffrey Chaucer – The Franklin’s Prologue and Tale

Thomas Hardy – Tess of the d’Urbevilles

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah Eleanor Catton – The Rehearsal

T S Eliot – Four Quartets

Athol Fugard – Township Plays: The Island, Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Nongogo, No-Good Friday

Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Poetry Robert Frost  – selected poems 

Owen Sheers—Skirrid Hiill

Songs of Ourselves 2 – selected poems

Andrew Marvell  – selected poems

Percy Bysshe Shelley – selected poems

Derek Walcott – Selected poems

Drama Arthur Miller—All My Sons! 

William Shakespeare – Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare Henry IV, Part 2

Wole Soyinka – Death and the King’s Horsemen

Tennessee Williams – Sweet Bird of Youth

William Shakespeare – Richard II

William Shakespeare – The Winter’s Tale

Tennessee Williams – The Glass Menagerie



To fully understand their set texts, students will be given the opportunity to explore the context and relevant ideology.  This may require research into the historical context, such as Medieval times, the Renaissance or Victorian England.

The study of English Literature opens doors to an understanding of history, society, attitudes and how these have changed over time.

Students are encouraged to widen their understanding further by exploring the ideas of others, such as literary scholars A.C. Bradley and F.R. Leavis.

A useful resource is The Philip Allan A-Level Review Magazine which is available online through the VLE – Philip Allen Review Magazine Online Archive, no password required.

They also provide some free online extras with each magazine. Students will find a variety of useful resources: PowerPoint presentations, quizzes, revision posters, Podcasts!

We also subscribe to Emagazine published by the English & Media Centre.

Ideology refers to the systems of beliefs and ideas that underpin our attitudes and behaviour.

Without a clear understanding of the context of the text, students cannot fully comprehend the views and values of the author, nor the overall meaning of a text.

The historical context is important to note especially when large changes have occurred between the time the work was produced, and the present day.


There is no expectation that students purchase any of the below books; they are all stocked in the department and in the College library. However, students may wish to use some of the texts to enhance and enrich their understanding of the course’s theoretical concepts. The list below is therefore intended to give a flavour of the course and provide a reference point if any topics prove particularly challenging.

An Introduction to English Poetry – a useful reference guide to poetic study.  It discusses the effects of different structural devices as well as introducing the work of a wide-range of poets.

Publisher: Penguin.  Author: Fenton, J.  ISBN: 9780141004396  Published: 2003

Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose – the three major literary genres are covered with discussion of style and use of extracts to engage analytical and reflective approach to literary study.

Publisher: Routledge   Author: Short, M.  ISBN: 9780582291300   Published: 1997

Literary Criticism: A Graphic Guide – an easy access guide to the function of Literature. A brief introduction to literary criticism.

Publisher: Icon Books  Author: Holland, O and Piero  ISBN: 9781848319042  Published: 2016

Sparknotes – No Fear Shakespeare – this site offers text guides on a wide number of texts.  The Shakesphere section offers a line by line translation of various plays.


The Art of Writing English Literature Essays: A Level and beyond – can be read fully as a guide or dipped into as a reference text. It offers practical advice about how to establish a personal, critical voice and build a clear argument.

Publisher: Peripeteia Press  Author: Meally, M and Bowen, N  ISBN: 9780993077845 Published: 2015

The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory – comprehensive reference work that offers definitions of a wide range of key technical terms and critical theories such as romanticism.

Publisher: Penguin  Author: Cuddon, J A and Habib, M A R  ISBN: 9780141047157 Published: 2014

Tragedy: A reader’s guide to essential criticism – for more able students of Literature. It offers a comprehensive introduction to tragedy in terms of criticism and debate.

Publisher: Palgrave   Author Dewar-Watson, S  ISBN: 9780230392601  Published: 2014


This website contains comprehensive and interesting guidance about how best to read and discuss a wide range of texts, both individual and paired. A brief but helpful history of English literature, from Middle English to the late 20th Century, is also included.

This site has basic, but very useful notes on a huge range of commonly studied texts, with chapter   synopses, character analyses, themes and motifs, essay ideas, and suggestions for further reading. It is a very useful site indeed.

Study notes on a very wide range of texts, with notes, suggested essay titles, and guidance on further reading (you need to register to access the material, but at the time of access there appeared to be no charge).

The site contains detailed discussion of a wide range of novels old and new, with relevant           background material.

Some quite basic, but very helpful and reassuring advice on how best to approach the study of        literature, notes on how to study poetry, and on a few individual texts.

A very detailed listing of resource material on Shakespeare, his life, times and plays, particularly useful for advanced learners.

A site geared towards pre-A-Level learners, but it does contain good and practical advice on       planning, organising and writing critical and other sorts of essays.

Thfollowing sites ardesigned fomore advanced study, but are well worth lookas theimaterial is full,    detailed, aninvariablinteresting.

This site is designed for university learners, but also helpful at A Level. Discusses a range of study skills, including how to structure and write good literature essays.

The material here is advanced, but useful and thought-provoking. A wealth of resource material is offered on a huge range of writers, old and modern.

This site contains very detailed and advanced material – mostly resource-based – on writers from the 19th and very early 20th centuries. Well worth a visit if you are studying a text from this period.

Many universities across the world now have podcast courses that are distributed through the Itunes university. Both the Open University and Oxford University have podcasts on Shakespeare and his times. Some sites provide free audio versions of classic texts. There are many films otexts that can bdownloaded.


  • Organisational skills: Use your folder effectively and keep it neat. Ensure that all of your classwork, prep work, handouts and resources are organised chronologically and by topic. You will thank yourself for doing this come revision time.
  • Wider reading: Push yourself to read around your set texts. For example, if your set text is a dystopian novel, read others in that genre.  Look for other poems by your set poet, or other plays by the playwright of your drama text.
  • Extend your understanding of audience reaction: Look for reviews from the time when your text was first published or, in the case of a play, first performed.
  • Research context: consider which historical events may have influenced the author. Be original in your response to literary texts. Try to avoid basic and obvious observations by thinking critically.



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