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English Literature at Lancaster Royal Grammar School

Course description

Cambridge Pre-U is an exciting and challenging qualification, particularly for those pupils who want to go to university. It will equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to make a success of their undergraduate studies. The course offers breadth as well as depth of teaching and learning, providing scope to cover key areas of the canon while also following areas of individual interest. It encourages learners to think laterally, critically and creatively and helps them acquire excellent problem solving skills.

Pre-U is a recent qualification, but it has quickly acquired an excellent reputation. It has different grades to A-level, but universities are very happy to offer places on the strength of a Pre-U – so much so that the UCAS tariff is geared in favour of Pre-U against traditional A-levels.

English Literature is widely respected for its intellectual rigour, and so it complements almost any other A-level, whether a humanity or a science. Students at LRGS have combined their studies of Literature with Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Music and Philosophy as well as the more traditional humanities combinations. It is a useful training for any career in which one has to make choices and defend them in a reasoned manner, either orally or in writing. The syllabus for Cambridge Pre-U encourages debate and discussion and it raises questions which elicit students’ independent, supported views, judgements and comparisons.

An English Literature candidate must enjoy reading books – both those on the syllabus and others of his own choice. He must enjoy sharing his views about them with others, and he must be able to put his ideas down well on paper. Grade A passes in both English Language and English Literature GCSE are desirable if the candidate is to be successful in what is a very demanding and exciting subject.

Course content

The Pre-U course is a two year course of four modules; all of these are taken in the Upper Sixth year, which means that students have a good stretch of time to come to terms with their texts and ample time to revise their thinking about them. Three of the modules are studied by examination – all closed book – and the final module is done by coursework. The exam modules are respectively: Paper 1 - Poetry and Prose Set Texts; Paper 2 – Drama Set Texts; Paper 3 – Comment and Analysis (unseen). The coursework module is marked externally and candidates liaise, with their teachers’ help, directly with the exam board to arrange a suitable title for their coursework essay. All four modules are worth 25% of the final mark.

In Papers 1 and 2, candidates have to answer two questions on different texts – so a minimum of four texts will be taught. There are no texts as such for the unseen paper – but a methodology will be studied from books of criticism, and a wide range of examples studied.

The personal investigation, which forms the coursework essay, will require the candidates to read a range of texts appropriate to their chosen topic; this will mean a minimum of four authors. Students are encouraged to pursue a topic which engages their interest and imagination. This may range from gothic literature to dystopian fiction, war poetry to the modern novel. The choice is very much that of the student, although the expectation is that his selection will be appropriately rigorous and academic.

There may be practice at writing essays in some lessons, but the vast majority will involve students and staff exchanging ideas about the texts which are being studied. The format is very much like a university seminar and it is rare that a teacher will simply give notes which are to be taken down.

It is common for the students to give presentations themselves, explaining to their peers an aspect which they have previously prepared. As well as the set texts, we will study other works which add a new perspective to those being examined.

Entry requirements

The entry requirement for Year 12 (Lower Sixth) is at least seven Bs or better in the GCSE examinations, including a minimum of a B grade in any subject to be taken. An A grade is required for A-level Mathematics. All applicants need a minimum of a C grade in both English and Mathematics, regardless of the subjects they wish to take.  

Please note that at the end of the Lower Sixth, at least three grades at D or above are normally required to ensure progression into the Upper Sixth (Year 13).

Overseas applicants

We will accept an equivalent level of performance in your country’s exams and will require verification of results by your school. A report supporting your application from your current school will also be very important.  Please note that we can only accept overseas students who are UK passport holders.

Future opportunities

This course is a prerequisite for students who wish to read English at university. However, the skills and discipline that it involves are applicable to any subject. It will be a useful focus for individual life-long reading for pleasure. It would be suitable for careers as diverse as the law, the civil service, education, marketing, theatre, engineering, journalism, radio, television and management.

The English Department has a thriving Literature Society. Internal and external speakers have given talks on a wide range of topics: famous authors, obscure poets, the graphic novel, Literature and the Cinema, Frankenstein versus Dracula. Closely connected to the department is the School’s senior debating society which dates back to the start of the twentieth century. The Whewell Society has been against the idea of a channel tunnel, opposed to giving women the vote and in grave doubt as to whether humanity would ever set foot on the moon; thankfully, they have also got one or two things right.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Lancaster Royal Grammar School directly.

Last updated date: 25 August 2016
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