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English Literature A Level at Coulsdon Sixth Form College

Course description

English Literature is a subject that develops students’ enjoyment and understanding of literary texts and their contexts.  It develops important skills such as analysing and evaluating, developing and considering arguments and communicating effectively.  It is a good base for any university course and is well regarded by employers.


Students have progressed to a wide range of courses and careers with this qualification, including English at Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group universities. It is a subject particularly well-suited to those who like to explore both big ideas and the smaller details that are so important in literary writing.  Above all, it suits students who enjoy reading, both independently and as part of a group. 


This course will involve the detailed analysis of a range of prose, poetry and drama texts; students will be studying the texts in more detail than at GCSE and will look specifically at the craft of the writer and the various contexts of the work.   Students will be given many opportunities to express their own views, and discuss those of others in both discussion and writing.


In the first year students can expect to study a play, two novels – one a literary “classic”, the other written within their own lifetime – and a selection of poetry.  In the second year students will build upon this learning further with a piece of coursework based on two texts, that will allow them to follow a theme, movement, author or period in detail.  Students will also study a Shakespeare play in detail alongside an anthology of the best literary criticism about this. They will also study a range of poetry from a particular period in depth.


What goes well with this course?

English Literature complements a broad range of subjects.

  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • History
  • Modern Foreign Languages
  • Governement & Politics
  • Geography
  • Sciences

Course content

The Course is divided into four Components:


  • 1. Drama: Students will study the play by Tennessee Williams, 'A Streetcar Named Desire' in year one.  This will be re-visited in year two.  They will then study the tragedy by Shakespeare, 'Hamlet' in year 2, together with a “Critical Anthology” that will include some of the best literary criticism about that text.
  • 2. Prose: Students will study two prose texts - Wildes, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and Toni Morrissons 'Beloved'. One is a well-known literary “classic” written before 1900, the other a well-regarded modern novel written during their own lifetime.  Both will be studied in year one and re-visited, with a sharper critical eye in year two.
  • 3. Poetry: In year one, students will study a range of poetry from an anthology, Poems of the Decade exploring poetic form, meaning, language, style and conventions.  This will be revisited in year two, when these poems will be compared to an unseen contemporary poem.  They will also undertake the detailed study of Chaucer's 'The Wife of Bath' and 'Prologue and Tale'.
  • 4. Coursework: Students will study two texts that will allow them to follow a theme, movement, author or period.  The final essay comparing two texts will be between 2,500 and 3000 words long. For example, students can choose two well regarded novels.

Entry requirements

Students wishing to include A Levels in their programme need to have (or expect to achieve) at least five GCSE passes, with at least two at Grade 5 or above (and a satisfactory school reference) in order to be accepted on an A Level/BTEC Level 3 Programme. 

Students should meet the following minimum GCSE requirement:

  • Grade 5 in English Language or English Literature

In addition, technical accuracy in spelling, punctuation and grammar is essential for achieving a good grade at A Level.

Students will enjoy this course if they:

  • like reading, analysing and discussing novels, short stories, plays, poetry and works of criticism
  • are prepared to express their own views clearly and accurately in response to questions and tasks set
  • enjoy writing essays


The five assessment objectives for English Literature can be summarised as testing students’ ability to:

  • AO1: Articulate informed, personal and creative responses to literary texts, using associated concepts and terminology, and coherent, accurate written expression.
  • AO2: Analyse ways in which meanings are shaped in literary texts.
  • AO3: Demonstrate understanding of the significance and influence of the contexts in which literary texts are written and received.
  • AO4: Explore connections across literary texts.
  • AO5: Explore literary texts informed by different interpretations. 

The  second year begin with coursework that represents 20% of the final grade.  The course will culminate in three final examinations based upon the texts studied and the analytical skills developed during the course.  All the examinations are 'open book', allowing students to take a copy of the texts into the examination.

Future opportunities

Many English A Level students choose to continue their studies at university. Those who choose to follow other disciplines, benefit from the essay writing and analytical training, as well as the cultural insights that come from literary study.  They will build strong communication skills as they learn to articulate a clear, well-informed point of view.

Russell Group universities particularly look for A Level English as part of their preferred qualifications profile.  English A Level is highly regarded by all universities and employers.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Coulsdon Sixth Form College directly.

Last updated date: 12 October 2017
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