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English Literature



English Literature A Level

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs grades 9-5


It is essential to have gained Grade 5 or above in GCSE English Language and 5 in GCSE English Literature.


Exam Board


(AQA A Level English Literature B 7717)

Content relating to the subject qualification

Students who do best in this subject enjoy reading, the close study of text and language, critical discussion and appreciation as well as researching the contextual influences on texts and how these illuminate our understanding of them.  Students are expected to read challenging texts independently, participate in, and often lead, seminar type sessions and enjoy the challenge of developing the necessarily critical written style that English Literature responses demand.


Paper 1 - Literary Genres

Aspects of Tragedy

Students will study three texts in preparation for this externally examined unit: Shakespeare, drama and one other text within the genre of Tragedy.  The texts currently studied are: ‘Othello’, Death of a Salesman’ and a selection of poetry by John Keats


Paper 2 - Texts and Genres

Elements of Crime Writing

Students will study three texts: one post 2000 prose text, one poetry and one further text (one must be pre-1900) within the genre of crime writing. The texts currently studied are: ‘Brighton Rock’, ‘Atonement’ and the poetry of Browning, Crabbe, and Wilde.

Theory and Independence

This unit requires students to study two texts: one poetry and one prose, informed by study of the Critical Anthology provided by the exam board. The AQA critical anthology has accessible extracts on a range of theoretical ideas. The six sections in the critical anthology encourage students to think about how literature might reflect and be affected by ideas about:

  • narrative construction and how the texts work (Narrative theory)
  • gender (Feminist theory)
  • economics and social organisation (Marxist theory)
  • nature and the survival of the planet (Eco-critical theory)
  • nationality, identity and power (Post-colonial theory)
  • aesthetics and value (Literary value and the Canon)



Assessment of the qualification

Paper 1 - Literary Genres

One 2-hour 30-minute exam worth 40% of the qualification. The exam is closed book meaning students will not be allowed to take copies of the text into the exam.

Paper 2 - Texts and Genres

This will be assessed in a 3-hour examination worth 40% of the qualification. This paper has a requirement for a response to an unseen text and three other set texts. This is an open text exam meaning students are able to take un-annotated copies of the text into the exam with them.

Theory and Independence

The assessment comprises of two essays of 1250-1500 words. The work is assessed by the teacher and moderated by AQA. The essays are worth 20% of the final qualification.

Career Pathways

Although a subject of great versatility, students interested in a career in all aspects of media (television, radio and print), teaching, librarianship, law, advertising, public relations among many other careers, should consider choosing English Literature for A Level study.