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English Literature

Course Name: English Literature A Level
Exam Board: Pearson Edexcel

Course Specification 

What will you study?


Students will study one Shakespeare play and one other drama, and engage with critical essays related to their reading. 

Teachers will choose two texts from the following for students to read closely: Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello (all Shakespeare), Doctor Faustus (Marlowe), The Duchess of Malfi (Webster), The Home Place (Friel) and A Streetcar Named Desire (Williams).


Students will study prose texts from one of the following themes. Staff will choose which theme students will follow and will teach 2 texts, including one written before 1900: 

  • Childhood Pre-1900: Hard Times, Charles Dickens; What Maisie Knew, Henry James Post-1900: Atonement, Ian McEwan; The Color Purple, Alice Walker 
  • Colonisation and its Aftermath Pre-1900: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain; Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad Post-1900: Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie; The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon; A Passage to India, E M Forster
  • Crime and Detection Pre-1900: Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon; The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins Post-1900: The Cutting Room, Attica Locke; In Cold Blood, Truman Capote; The Murder Room, P D James 
  • Science and Society Pre-1900: Frankenstein, Mary Shelley; The War of the Worlds, H G Wells Post-1900: The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood; Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro 
  • The Supernatural Pre-1900: Dracula, Bram Stoker; The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde Post-1900: Beloved, Toni Morrison; The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters 
  • Women and Society Pre-1900: Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy; Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë Post-1900: Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf; A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini  

Students will study EDEXCEL’s own anthology of poetry, ‘ Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry 2002–2011’. They will also study works from across the canon, ranging from Chaucer and Donne to Eliot and Larkin. 

What skills will you develop?

By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • Read widely and independently set texts and others that they have selected for themselves
  • Engage critically and creatively with a substantial body of texts and ways of responding to them
  • Develop and effectively apply their knowledge of literary analysis and evaluation
  • Explore the contexts of the texts they are reading and others’ interpretations of them
  • Undertake independent and sustained studies to deepen their appreciation and understanding of English literature, including its changing traditions.

English Literature encourages students to explore the relationships that exist between texts and the contexts within which they are written, received and understood. Studying texts within a shared context enables students to investigate and connect them, drawing out patterns of similarity and difference using a variety of reading strategies and perspectives. English Literature privileges the process of making autonomous meaning, encouraging students to debate and challenge the interpretations of other readers as they develop their own informed personal responses.

How will you be assessed?


Students sit 3 exams at the end of Year 13. Each exam focuses on a different literary form. These exams will take the form of externally assessed written papers.

Paper 1 – Drama: 2 hours 15 minutes (60 marks)

Open book – clean copies of the drama texts can be taken into the examination. 

Two sections: students answer one question from a choice of two on their studied text for both Section A and Section B.

  • Section A – Shakespeare: one essay question, incorporating ideas from wider critical reading
  • Section B – Other Drama: one essay question
Paper 2 – Prose: 1 hour 15 minutes (40 marks)

Open book – clean copies of the prose texts can be taken into the examination.

  • Students answer one comparative essay question from a choice of two on their studied theme
Paper 3 - Poetry: 2 hours 15 minutes (60 marks)

Open book – clean copies of the poetry texts can be taken into the examination.

Two sections: students answer one question from a choice of two, comparing an unseen poem with a named poem from their studied contemporary text and one question from a choice of two on their studied movement/poet.

  • Section A – Post-2000 Specified Poetry: one comparative essay question on an unseen modern poem written post-2000 and one named poem from the studied contemporary text 
  • Section B – Specified Poetry Pre- or Post-1900: one essay question
Non Examined Assessment (Coursework)

Students have a free choice of two texts to study.

Chosen texts:

  • Must be different from those studied in Components 1, 2 and 3
  • Must be complete texts and may be linked by theme, movement, author or period
  • May be selected from poetry, drama, prose or literary non-fiction

Students will work independently to produce an extended comparative essay, 2500–3000 words in length.