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English Literature A-Level at Burnham Grammar School

Course description

English Literature is challenging, flexible and wide-ranging. On the OCR course, you have the opportunity to discover a wealth of literature. You will be able to deepen your knowledge of Shakespeare, revel in more modern texts, and unpack the Victorians. In addition, you will be introduced to literary criticism, applying Marxism, Feminism and Post-colonial theories to your written work. You will explore poetry, prose and drama from across a well-structured yet stimulating course, travelling through various literary periods, genres, authors and ideas.

Much of A Level Literature is assessed on your ability to construct a strong, cohesive argument. The OCR course is specifically tailored to encourage students to develop their interest in, and enjoyment of, literature and literary studies. Students will read widely and independently; engage creatively with a range of texts; as well as explore the contexts and contextual significance of the texts they are reading, and others‟ interpretations of them.

Course content

At AS, the course is thought-provoking; students begin by studying coursework texts like The Great Gatsby and A Streetcar Named Desire which are hugely popular A Level choices. Following this, students move onto studying the examination texts including, The Picture of Dorian Gray, a controversial but engaging text with fascinating contextual history. Students also discover the poetry of Edward Thomas, whose melancholy poetry does indeed make a refreshing change from more publicised works.

At A2, students are given the opportunity to construct a lengthy critical piece comparing three texts, currently: The Taming of the Shrew, The Bloody Chamber and The World’s Wife. This is where students will hone their essay writing and analytical skills through a range of critical reading that they can apply to other subjects. Delving into Shakespeare‟s King Lear, Webster‟s The White Devil and Blake‟s Songs of Innocence and Experience, to complete the examination side of the course, serves as a highly rewarding challenge.

Entry requirements

You must achieve at least 368 GCSE capped points (i.e. your best 8 subjects) for entry to the Sixth form. You must also achieve a C grade in English Language GCSE and Mathematics GCSE alongside meeting the entry criteria for each individual subject. Option 4 is conditional upon achieving 400+ GCSE capped points. 

GCSE points: A*= 58, A= 52, B= 46, C= 40, D= 34

Subject Specific

A grade in English Literature at GCSE and a B grade in English Language. Please note that consideration will be given to students who achieve a B grade in English Literature and an A grade in English Language however.


AS Unit F661: Poetry and Prose 1800-1945 (Closed text – Exam: 30% of A2, 60 marks)

  • Section A: Poetry 1800-1945 (Edward Thomas)
  • Section B: Prose 1800-1945 (The Picture of Dorian Gray)

AS Unit F662: Literature post-1900 (Coursework: 20% of A2, 40 marks)

  • Task 1: Close reading OR re-creative commentary (Jazz) 27
  • Task 2: An essay on linked texts (The Great Gatsby and A Streetcar Named Desire)

A2 Unit F663: Drama and Poetry pre-1800 (Closed text – Exam: 30% of A2, 60 marks)

  • Section A: Shakespeare (King Lear)
  • Section B: Drama and Poetry pre-1800 (The White Devil and Songs of Innocence and Experience)

A2 Unit F664: Texts in Time (Coursework: 20% of A2, 40 marks)

An extended individual essay of a maximum of 3000 words on three texts: The Taming of the Shrew, The Bloody Chamber and The World’s Wife.

Future opportunities

Choosing English Literature at BGS means working with like-minded individuals and teachers who are passionate about their subject and how they teach it. We encourage our students to love all aspects of literature – from participating in school productions (The Crucible; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Animal Farm), to going on trips. In 2015, a number of A Level English Literature students are going to New York City to explore American Literature in even more detail.

English Literature can be studied at university level as either a single or joint honours degree with another subject. English Literature is also highly rated by Russell Group Universities as being a "facilitating subject‟, preferred by them as a solid A Level, regardless of degree choice. Programmes of study at some universities also offer students the opportunity to study and teach abroad as part of the degree programme. Previous English Literature students have successfully undertaken degrees and entered careers in a wide range of areas including law, journalism, publishing, education, psychology, sociology and business. Ultimately, English is a main language in all industries, and knowing how to convey your ideas effectively can set you apart in any career.

How to apply

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

Last updated date: 28 April 2015

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