English Literature Pre-U at King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon
It is expected that students will achieve an A* or A grade in GCSE English Literature in order to take this subject in the Sixth Form. A B grade is an absolute minimum. An enthusiasm for reading is also essential.
Literature in English
We follow the Cambridge Pre-U course which is equivalent to an AS and A2 Level qualification combined. It is structured very like the old A Level system where students take exams at the end of two years. There will be no external exams at the end of Year 12 so students must commit to follow the course through to its conclusion. However, the advantages include gaining greater maturity, understanding and insight before they take their exams and generally do all the better for it. Our results are recurrently very good and last year our students achieved 100% A*-B grade.
The Pre-U course is radical and challenging and provides opportunities for a real depth and breadth of study. Universities value the qualification for offering greater preparation for higher education and recognise its merits over the ‘re-take culture’ that so often dominates other qualifications. The Pre-U also affords more precise ranking of students at the top end as there is a mark above A* available to the best students, the ‘D1’. Students are expected to remain on the course for the full two years.
As Pre-U is not a modular course, no interim awards will be made. Instead, students will gain the opportunity to develop their reading, writing and critical thinking skills over the duration of two years. It is vital, therefore, that students understand the level of commitment essential for success in Pre-U.
The course is assessed through four components, three examination papers and one coursework submission, each being of equal value, all assessed at the end of Year 13, with no opportunity to take any modules at the end of Year 12.
PAPER 1: Poetry and Prose
Candidates study two set texts for this paper: one poetry, one prose; one pre- 1900 and one post-1900. The poetry set text will normally comprise a selection of poems by a single poet; the prose set text will be a novel. Authors studied in the past have included, for the poetry paper, John Donne, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Derek Walcott, and for the prose paper, Evelyn Waugh, Daniel Defoe, George Eliot and J.M. Coetzee.
The paper is assessed by means of a two-hour closed text examination (candidates may not take texts in with them).
PAPER 2: Drama
Candidates will study two plays, one by Shakespeare and another by one of the following dramatists: John Webster, William Wycherley, Harold Pinter or Brian Friel.
This paper will be assessed by means of a two-hour closed text examination.
PAPER 3: Comment and Analysis
Candidates will sit a two and a quarter hour examination in which they will write a comparative essay on two texts, and another essay on a choice of texts (poetry, prose or drama). All texts on this paper will be unseen; in other words, the candidates will not have seen or studied them before the examination. This paper is designed to test the wider skills and appreciation of literature that the candidates will have developed over the course.
PAPER 4: Personal Investigation
Candidates, under the direction of their teacher, will write an essay of between 3,000 and 3,500 words, exploring, by way of comparison of two authors, a genre or topic in literature. The essay will be sent to the Examination Board for external marking.
Success in this examination will be recorded at Pass, Merit or Distinction, each of which will be divided into three levels. The lowest level of Distinction will be equivalent to an A grade pass in current A-Levels, with two higher levels to allow universities to identify clearly the higher achievements of the most able candidates.
This course is significantly less crowded than the AS/A2 courses, allowing candidates to develop knowledge and understanding of texts and their contexts in depth, and to develop their personal approaches. Papers 3 and 4 particularly will reward those who are independent readers; indeed, the basis of the whole course will be the encouragement of an active engagement in reading and responding to literature. An enthusiasm for reading is therefore crucial: the development of such an enthusiasm is a sound basis for success in this course.
This syllabus has received certification by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), and all the major universities (the Russell Group and others) have accepted its validity with alacrity. Our contacts at Warwick and Oxford Universities, for example, have been strongly supportive of our move to this examination.
How to apply
If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon directly.