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English Literature A Level at The Downs School

Course description

English Literature is a very popular and high performing A level course at The Downs. Students engage with challenging texts, develop varied skills, and go on each year to attain outstanding results. It is also popular as a degree choice, and in recent years students have been supported to gain entry to top universities, such as Bristol, Durham, Oxford and Cambridge to read English Literature.

English Literature helps to develop skills for university and life beyond – such as discussion skills (the „engine‟ of the subject), study skills (using sources, effective note making), independent learning skills, and essay writing skills. It naturally complements other „essay‟ subjects.

As well as offering consistently „red hot‟ results, the study of English Literature provides real variety for students, incorporating as it does issues of history, sociology, psychology, ethics, philosophy – and much else besides. In lessons, therefore, we routinely relate the texts to the nature of society at different times, to Freudian views of the personality, or to philosophical questions about the potential gap between a character‟s view of the world in a text – and how it really is. When you study English, you study life itself, in every lesson.

Course content

The course will allow students to enter an AS after one year, and to take the A Level after two. The final choice of texts may well include these texts, (though these are indicative only at this stage)

Year 12

Drama (one play not by Shakespeare) Webster‟s „The Duchess of Maalfi‟ or Beckett‟s „Waiting for Godot‟

Prose texts (two novels, at least one pre-1900) Emily Bronte‟s „Wuthering Heights‟ or Ian McEwan‟s „Atonement‟

Poetry A selection of post-1900 poetry This component will include an unseen element, along with an essay question

Year 13

Drama (play by Shakespeare) „Othello‟ or „Twelfth Night‟ (among a range of other possibilities), along with critical readings

Prose texts Continuing study of the prose texts from year 12 for final exam (to a higher level)

Poetry Continuing study of the poetry texts from year 13 for final exam (to a higher level)

Coursework Free choice of texts, for an independent critical study (3,000 words)

Entry requirements

Students should enjoy reading, and achieve at least GRADE BB at GCSE in English Language and Literature.


See course content.

Future opportunities

Students who take English Literature at A Level can use it as a basis for study in the Arts and Humanities at degree level, leading to careers in journalism, public relations, advertising, libraries, teaching and many others.

The A Level is highly regarded academically. It develops in students the ability to work independently, to research, analyse, read widely, organise their thoughts into a coherent and wellstructured argument, and write coherently. These skills are useful in a wide variety of work related contexts beyond school life.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact The Downs School directly.

Last updated date: 26 June 2015

Key information

  • Start date: Next September
  • Duration: 1 - 2 Years