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English Language A Level at PETROC

Course description

Interested in exploring how language works and how people use language? In this interesting A Level, you will study a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts, including transcripts, adverts and speeches and learn how to analyse them. You will also investigate and evaluate English using current research and linguistic theories to discuss and explore wider issues like gender, age or stereotypes.

All of your lessons will be taught in classrooms which have been recently modernised and include interactive whiteboards. You will have access to computer rooms when required and trolleys of laptops. At Petroc we have an intranet called Moodle – on that there are a great many resources that you can tap into including articles on relevant topics, useful PowerPoints and aide memoires to refresh your memory. We also have a subscription to E magazine, an on line resource purely for English students with interviews and articles and students can log on to get a monthly magazine sent direct to their own in box.

Our library has recently been updated with some brand new titles just for English Language students including ‘You Say Potato’ and ‘The History of the English Language in 100 words’; so you can enhance your understanding by reading these great titles.

Course content

During the two years, you will study language in a wide range of texts, fiction and non-fiction, old and new; learning how to analyse and comment on them and to create texts of your own to match an audience. You also consider the many variations and diversity (historical and social) found within the language and how children learn and develop language.

At AS level, during your first year, you will study interesting language topics such as language and gender, language and occupation, and language and age. You will be looking initially at idiolects, sociolects, dialects and accents and how the search for an identity can shape the way we speak. Then you will begin to consider other factors like how society, work and prejudice can all play a part to shape language.

At A2 level, in your second year, you will study texts across time and how the English Language has developed and in addition how children acquire language. You will also do your own language investigation where you will analyse a chosen topic in detail and create an original piece of writing.

Students enjoy the variety of this course and the opportunity to explore their own writing interests. This is a course which appeals to students who are interested in contemporary ideas about how our language works. English Language is a subject which complements many other A Level subjects as it will improve your skills in analysing texts, communicating ideas and expressing your point of view, and we have had consistently excellent exam results over the years.

Entry requirements

To be accepted onto a two-year A Level programme, all entrants must hold at least a grade 5 in GCSE Maths and a grade 5 in GCSE English Language, as well as at least 3 other GCSEs at grade C or above. Certain subjects require a minimum of GCSE grade B; these are detailed in this prospectus and on the Petroc website.
Continuation onto Year 2 of the A2 programme will be dependent on achieving at least a grade D at AS in the subjects being continued to A2.


At Petroc, you will be assessed on your progress at regular intervals throughout both academic years by a variety of methods: giving presentations, tests, essays, creative pieces and text analysis. We also hold mock exams each year and try to make them as realistic and as close to the actual exams as possible.

The Exam Board Details:
The AS level is currently assessed wholly through exams taken in the summer term. Paper one is entitled 'Language and the Individual' and is a text analysis paper with two unseen texts on a common theme. Paper two is entitled 'Language Varieties' and consists of an essay on a language topic and a directed writing piece again based on a language topic. Both papers are worth 50% of the overall grade and each exam is one and a half hours long.

The A2 Level is assessed by two exams in the summer term and a piece of coursework. Paper One is entitled 'Language the Individual and Society' and consists of text analysis and a choice of essay question on child language acquisition. Paper Two is entitled 'Language Diversity and Change' and consists of an essay on either diversity or change followed by a text analysis and a directed creative task. The non-exam assessment is entitled 'Language in Action' and you will both carry out your own investigation, a piece of original writing and a commentary.

Future opportunities

Petroc students have gone on to higher level study of linguistics, speech therapy and English Language. An A Level in English Language is invaluable if you are considering teaching, the media or journalism, and it gives you all kinds of excellent transferable skills to take to higher education courses and the workplace, for example, careers in the Civil Service, the Police, the diplomatic corps or central government. It can also be the stepping stone to a career in writing of all different genres. 

Many of our students go on to study other disciplines at University level that depend upon a good grasp of the English Language like Law and they have found their time at Petroc invaluable to their ultimate studies as it has helped them organise and shape their essays and dissertations with confidence and direction.

Further information

Q. Should I do English Language or English Literature? 
A. It depends on your interests and whether you wish to study English at university. English Literature is best for those who enjoy reading and discussing poetry, Shakespeare and novels, and who wish to study Literature at HE level. English Language is looking at how language works and why people use language in the way they do rather than set literary texts. For those who have a keen interest in doing English at a higher level, or simply enjoy both analysing literature and language in society, maybe you should consider doing both Language and Literature A Levels as two full subjects.English language is preferred by universities if you are considering a career in teaching but studying both literature and language enhances your general understanding of the language and of the texts themselves.

Q. What is the difference between English Language and English Literature?
A. Literature focuses on particular set texts their form, language, narration, characterisation and the context surrounding those texts whereas language focuses on wider concepts and ideas that can affect all literature and speech that can be applied to any unseen texts.

Q. What is the difference between English language at GCSE and English Language at A Level?
A. The A level builds upon the GCSE but you will learn a lot of new terms and deal with aspects of language not considered at GCSE level in any depth like accents and dialects, so that you can analyse in depth. As one student put it ' The level of knowledge is very different. Do not think you can wing it!'

Q. What other subjects sit best with English Language?
A. In the past, students were often studying law, history, classics or English literature, and this is still true, but now many students find that it also sits well with sociology or psychology too as there is some overlap in topics concerning the pressures of society on the way we speak and write and the theories behind them. However, because English Language can help every student with writing and analytical skills, it can - and often does- sit with science subjects or creative ones just as well.

Q. Do we get to do our own writing of creative pieces?
A. Yes you do, but it is not a creative writing course. There are elements of creativity in the first year exam where you are required to create an article for example as a directed task on a set theme, so some time will be given to this and you will be asked to create and present presentations in groups or pairs certain topics for example a famous speech or a dialect that you have studied in depth. But the emphasis is on learning how and why we speak and write as we do. There is a little more scope for creativity in the second year where you can select a topic to investigate in depth.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact PETROC directly.

Last updated date: 17 February 2017

Key information