A Level English Literature


What is it about at sixth form level?

Primarily, the study of English Literature at A Level can offer you a rich and very rewarding reading experience. You will have the opportunity to study all three major literary forms: prose, poetry and drama, and to read a range of texts, from the ‘classics’ to more modern texts written in the 21st century. You will be encouraged to read widely, to learn about the contexts in which the texts were written and to consider how those texts have been received by different readers over time.

Studying literature is not a factual process designed to find the ‘truth’. There are many different ways in which texts can be interpreted and you will be able to discuss and develop your own ideas, informed by the views of others. English Literature is for those who love to read and re-read, to unpick layers of meaning and who enjoy discussion and debate.

Lower sixth

In your AS year, you will study one of two broad genres: tragedy or comedy. Both have a long tradition in literature with their origins in the ancient world and a specific emphasis on drama. Your study will include one Shakespeare play, one further drama text, one poetry text and one prose text. Having learned about tragic or comedic conventions, you will be asked to explore to what extent you can find elements or aspects of the genre in your chosen texts.

Upper sixth

The second year of the course continues its focus on genre study but also begins to explore other ways in which texts can be connected and how the reading experience can be enhanced by the study of critical theory. Here, you will be revisiting aspects of the genre you studied at AS, but will also be offered the opportunity to study a further genre: either crime writing or political and social protest writing. You will also complete a non-examined unit in which you study an anthology of different critical perspectives such as feminism or Marxism and apply the theory to two texts of your own choice.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

English Literature will introduce you to new authors and reading experiences and help you to become a more confident, autonomous reader. It will develop your thinking skills, powers of analysis and creativity. You will also become a more fluent user of the language with a wider vocabulary and an ability to write accurately and coherently in order to argue a point of view. In addition, you will acquire a deeper understanding of historical, social and cultural developments through your study of literature. In discussion and in writing, you will develop more confidence in your own judgements.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

A good GCSE grade in English and English Literature is needed. You should be aware that the course requires a lot of reading, both in class and independently. Most of the assessment is based on the ability to write good essays.

How is the course assessed?

Lower sixth

The AS course is assessed by two written exams: For the drama paper, you will answer one passage based question on your chosen Shakespeare play and one essay question on your other drama set text. For the second paper, you will complete two essay questions – one question on poetry, and one question on prose.

Upper sixth

The A Level is assessed by two written exams and one non-exam assessment: Paper 1 is divided into three sections with two questions on Shakespeare and one essay question linking two other texts. To test your knowledge and understanding of crime or social and political protest writing, Paper 2 requires a response to an unseen passage and two essays. For the non-exam assessment, you will produce two responses of 1,250 – 1,500 words, each relating to a different text and linking to a different aspect of the critical anthology.


AQA English Literature B A Level and AS
Edited by A. Beard
Published by Oxford, ISBN 978-0198337485

Comedy: A Very short Introduction
By M. Bevis
Published by Oxford , ISBN 978-0199601714

Tragedy: A Very Short Introduction
By A. Poole
Published by Oxford, ISBN 978-0192802354

AS Reading List (Tragedy)
Othello By W. Shakespeare
Death of a Salesman By A. Miller Tess of the d’Urbervilles By T. Hardy AQA Anthology of Poetry

A Level Reading (protest writing or crime)
The Kite Runner By K. Hosseini
Songs of Innocence and Experience By W. Blake
Selected Poems By T. Harrison
When Will There Be Good News By K. Atkinson
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd By A. Christie

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA B 7716, A2: AQA B 7717


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Economics) 

“Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined MPW that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
King's College London (International Relations)

 “The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University of York (Law) 

“Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Economics)

“My subject teachers and Personal Tutor have been very patient and helpful in supporting my studies and university application.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

“International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but MPW surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most MPW Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college.”