English Literature A Level


The lifeblood of this course is reading and discussion, building a critical interpretation of a text in the light of interpretations of others, considering the context in which it was written.

What is tragedy? How do you define poetry? Is a writer’s life important when studying their writing? These and many other questions will be part of your study in the first year of the course.


You will follow three main strands:

  • How writers tell stories, particularly in novels
  • How writers craft poems, through a study of modern poetry
  • How playwrights use dramatic forms and genres, explored via a Shakespeare play and a modern drama text.


You will learn about the contexts of your texts and we will encourage you to develop your own opinions about how and why writers write.


In the second year, you will develop your understanding of genre and narrative further, honing the skill of comparing texts through an extended coursework essay and learning how to apply critical theory to literary texts. You will also study some classic poetry, such as Chaucer or the Romantic Poets.


We are great believers in learning beyond the classroom, whether this is in form of watching live theatre, coming to a workshop with a leading writer or attending a poetry conference with five modern poets. We support your work on the texts with a range of our own study guides and online resources, including our own set of video tutorials, and a well-stocked English Literature section in the college library.

Course details

What are the entry requirements?

Required: Grade 5 in English Literature GCSE, plus a minimum of five GCSE subjects at grade 4 or above.

Preferable: a grade 6 or higher in English Literature GCSE.

How will I be assessed?

Component Topic %
Drama (examined) You will answer questions on a modern tragedy and a play by Shakespeare (supported by a set of critical essays). Examined components combined - 80%
Prose (examined) You will  compare two novels (one pre-1900) under the theme of Science and Society. Examined components combined - 80%
Poetry (examined) You will compare an unseen modern poem with a poem from an antology and also answer a question on the work of a poet (or poets) writing before 1900. Examined components combined - 80%
Coursework You will write a 2,500 word essay linking two further texts linked by one of the following: theme, movement, author or period. 20%

What extra work can I do?

We encourage you to read widely to support your study of English Literature at Godalming College. We will issue you with a reading list in the summer before you join us, and we give you a range of texts to read between year one and year two, to prepare for coursework study in the second year.

We also encourage you to write an essay every week, to develop your skills as a writer and critic. We have a Higher English group, designed specifically for those with aspirations to study English at university and encourage students to do an EPQ in English, where students produce a fully-researched dissertation on any aspect of English Literature.

What skills will I learn?

You will be reading ahead and preparing your texts before the lesson, using materials to support your reading (such as critical essays), some of which we will provide for you. You can expect to be quizzed each lesson on your textual knowledge. You will be involved in lots of classroom discussion, and a range of activities based around discussion of mini-texts, visual images, film clips) designed to build your understanding of how texts are written and why. We ask you to write an essay every week while you are here, some of which will be done at home and some in lesson time.

Coursework is an important element at A Level. We aim to encourage and help you to develop self-discipline and eventually to take responsibility for organising your own studies so that you are prepared for life beyond A level.

What is the department like?

We are an enthusiastic team of teachers, keen to share our enjoyment of literature with you. Our aim on the English Literature course is to guide you to become independent critical readers, able to demonstrate your skills in well-written essays. We try to provide a variety of learning experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, and continually update our subject knowledge so that you are developing the skills you need in order to do well. We meet regularly and select and share resources that we hope will challenge and stimulate you. We aim to give careful and constructive feedback on your work. From you, meanwhile, we need intellectual and creative involvement.

A love of reading is the best place to start, but we also need a keenness to prepare for class and to work to the best of your ability on all assignments. This kind of engagement will lead to a high grade and for many, we hope, the decision to study English at university. Whatever you achieve, we hope that you will want to pick up challenging and enjoyable books long after you leave college.

Future Careers and Progression

What are the progression routes for this qualification?

A level English courses are taken by students doing a wide variety of other subjects, in Arts, Humanities and Sciences. They go on to many different courses and careers. English is often a component in degree courses in Humanities, as well as being a very popular choice as a single-subject degree.

The skills that you learn are a useful starting point for careers in the arts and the media, law and business, and in other professions where creativity, critical awareness and the ability to communicate clearly are needed.

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Isabel Hardman ~ studied English Literature at Godalming and is now an Associate Editor at The Spectator, and political journalist working for the BBC and other outlets.

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