A Level in English Literature (Full AS+A2)
By the time you have completed this course, your knowledge and awareness of literary techniques and traditions should be significantly improved and you should have gained a sophisticated understanding of the relationship between literary texts and their contexts in the wider world. It is intended that you will develop the ability to analyse literary texts and communicate complex literary arguments using appropriate technical terminology.
English Literature is a fast-moving and far-reaching subject which both requires and fosters a close understanding of historical and political theory, as well as a keen awareness of artistic and creative techniques and traditions. In fact, examination questions for A Level English Literature will specifically ask students to discuss contextual issues in some detail, commenting on the relevance or typicality of literary texts written at a particular time or in a particular situation. It is a substantial advantage to have a strong and enthusiastic interest in reading and writing.
However, reading will not rest solely on the literary texts under study (e.g. novels, plays, poetry). Students will also find it important to pay close attention to critical writing and understand the ways in which the reader, too, shapes a large part of the meaning in any text. Students will be actively encouraged to engage in wider reading, as well as reading the texts directly specified on the A Level course. Wider reading can cover a vast number of genres and subjects, and will enable students to develop an independently inspired reaction to the topics dealt with within the course.
It is essential that you are prepared to read a considerable number of texts in order to succeed in examinations and assessed coursework. The wider your reading, the more likely you are to be able to provide parallels and comparisons between texts. It is always useful to be able to impress an examiner with the extent of your knowledge. For this reason, the ideal A Level student is a person who enjoys reading and is able to respond to themes and issues handled by authors.
Format of Course
The format of the English Literature A Level course has been revised: the six units of study which previously formed an A Level have been reduced to four, beginning in 2009 and will be reviewed in 2014. These units are specified as follows:
(A Level = AS + A2)
AS - Unit 1 Texts in Context (Exam)
(60% of AS; 30% of A Level)
AS - Unit 2 Creative Study (Coursework portfolio - 2 essays)
(40% of AS; 20% of A Level)
A2 - Unit 3 Reading for Meaning (Exam)
(60% of A2; 30% of A Level)
A2 - Unit 4 Extended Essay and Shakespeare Study (Coursework)
(40% of A2; 20% of A Level)
Each of the four units is presented independently, with detailed course notes designed to guide participating students through to a successful conclusion, assessed either by coursework or examination. Course guides engage directly with the specified 'core' and wider reading texts, as well as providing suggestions for relevant internet resources, films and recommended further reading. The course guide also provides individual exercises, many of which are informal, but some of which are tutor-marked assessments. Students are encouraged to discuss important literary themes with their tutors via email.
All of the information contained in the course guides is designed to meet the specifications of the AQA English Literature 'A' syllabus, while practice exercises are given to provide preparation for examinations and independent written work. Twelve individual tutorials address points of importance in each of the four units, whether thematically or according to author or text. Students are advised to complete each of the exercises and preparation for each tutorial is specified in advance. Some tutorials may vary in length, but it is expected that students should spend between two and three hours on each one, or as they are advised by their personal tutor. Because each unit begins with an 'overview', before addressing specific themes and texts in detail, tutorials should be studied according to the given sequence.
The course has a broad range, from Shakespearean drama to contemporary literature. The AS Level is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of a particular literary context. A close focus on the literature of World War One during units 1 and 2 encourages participants to assess and compare texts which bear a close thematic relation to one another. This provides students with a thorough grounding in contextual analysis - an essential skill for further study at A2 Level and, should they choose to continue their study of English literature, in Higher Education. Units 3 and 4 (A2) give students a greater independence in their studies, focusing on thematic relationships between texts. In Unit 4, an extended essay of 3,000 words gives students the opportunity to synthesise all of their skills in an in-depth and personal response to a Shakespearean text.
As with any other academic area of study, English Literature has its own distinct language and terminology. Candidates are expected to be able both to understand and use literary terms with accuracy and relevance, demonstrating this in coursework and in the examinations. It is advisable to take separate notes on specific literary terms and, if necessary, build a file which can be referred to for revision.
Unit 1 - Texts in Context: World War One Literature
Assessment: 2 hour examination
Unit 1 provides a thorough introduction to the contextual study of literature. The focus on World War One literature allows candidates to explore the different ways in which key themes have been handled by different authors. Analysis depends on a firm understanding of historical issues and requires students to demonstrate an ability to synthesise close reading of texts with their wider contextual knowledge. This unit is closely bound with the poetry of the period, but demands that students are able to draw parallels and make critical comparisons across genres, genders and time. As well as the 'core' poetry text, candidates study a dramatic text and a novel.
In a 2 hour exam, candidates will answer two questions, spending an equal amount of time on both. The first question asks candidates to respond to an unprepared extract, analysing it in the light of their wider reading. In the second question, candidates will be asked to write a short essay, responding to a given viewpoint of the 'core' poetry text with a balanced argument.
Marks are weighted evenly across the two questions (45 marks each), so it is necessary that candidates allot an equal amount of time to both. It is always advisable in examinations that students spend some time planning their answer and allow themselves time for re-reading their response at the end of the exam. Approximately 45 minutes should be given to writing the response to each question: this averages at 1 mark per minute.
Unit 2 - Creative Study: World War One Literature
Assessment: coursework portfolio (2 essays - approx. 1000-1250 words each).
Following the contextual study of Unit 1, candidates are required to study one novel and one drama text, each handling the same period, in depth. Candidates will be assessed according to two pieces of work, forming a coursework portfolio. Candidates will be asked to read actively, providing a creative response to each of the texts. The focus of this unit is on the individual's interpretation, designed to encourage an awareness of the creative aspects of literary criticism.
Both pieces of written work will be allocated 30 marks, giving the coursework portfolio a maximum score of 60 marks. The portfolio will account for 20% of the full A Level.
Unit 3 - Reading for Meaning ('Love Through the Ages')
Assessment: 2½ hour examination
Unit 3 requires candidates to approach three different texts (one poetry, one prose and one drama text) according to the ways in which the authors have handled the central theme of 'Love Through the Ages'. As the theme title suggests, reading will cover a range of periods from Chaucer (fourteenth century) to the present day. The theme of love is not restricted to romantic love, but will also invite comparison with courtly, platonic and familial love. This will allow candidates to demonstrate their comparative critical skills, examining the contrasts and similarities between a broad range of texts.
As with Unit 1, candidates are required to answer two compulsory questions, but this time in a 150 minute examination. 40 marks are allocated to each answer, so equal attention should be given to either. Four unprepared extracts are contained in the examination paper. The first question demands that candidates compare two of unprepared extracts (of the same genre), providing a close reading and commenting on the ways in which the theme of love is handled. The second question will ask candidates to compare the remaining two extracts and examine the presentation of the theme of love with a contextual awareness founded upon their wider reading.
Unit 4 - Extended Essay and Shakespeare Study
Assessment: extended coursework essay (3000 words)
The final unit of the AQA English Literature A Level gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their critical skills in a piece of extended writing (3000 words). With a focus on one Shakespearean text, candidates are invited to provide a comparative study against two other texts, exploring theme, form, style and possible literary interpretations. This unit demands that candidates demonstrate their research abilities, in contextual terms and in terms of their understanding of critical history and alternative interpretations. The process of preparing writing an extended piece of analytical criticism is an essential skill and can be translated to further academic work in any of the humanities. The essay is the culmination of two years' work at A Level and presents candidates with an outlet for all of the skills they have acquired over the course.
A maximum of 70 marks will be given to the extended essay. Candidates' work is scored according to the ways in which it has met the relevant Assessment Objectives determined by the examining board (outlined below).
AS + A2 Assessment Objectives
Candidates are required to meet certain critical standards in their coursework for AS and A2 Level. These Assessment Objectives (AOs) are specified as follows:
AO1: Candidates are required to articulate creative, informed and relevant responses to literary texts, using appropriate terminology and concepts, and coherent, accurate written expression. (30%)
AO2: Candidates must demonstrate detailed critical understanding in analysing the ways in which structure, form and language shape meanings in literary texts. (20%)
AO3: Candidates should explore connections and comparisons between different literary texts, informed by interpretations of other readers. (30%)
AO4: Candidates are required to demonstrate understanding of the significance and influence of the contexts in which literary texts are written and received. (20%)
Unit 1 �LTA1
•Barker, Pat, Regeneration (Penguin, 2008 )
•Curtis, Richard and Elton, Ben, Blackadder Goes Forth (Penguin, 1989)
•Gardner, Brian (ed.), Up the Line to Death � The War Poets 1914-1918 (Methuen, 2007 )
•Reilly, Catherine (ed.), Scars Upon My Heart � Women�s Poetry and Verse of the First World War (Virago, 1981)
Unit 2 � LITA2
•Faulks, Sebastian, Birdsong (Vintage, 1994)
•Sherriff, R.C., Journey�s End (Penguin Classics, 2000 )
Unit 3 � LITA3
•Barnes, Julian, Talking it Over, (Picador, 1991)
•Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales, trans. Nigel Coghill (Penguin, 2003 )
•Shakespeare, William, Twelfth Night, or, What You Will (ca. 1601)
The AQA syllabus does not prescribe particular texts for wider reading for this unit. Students are encouraged to determine their own private study texts, relarted to the topis of �Love through the Ages�. Because the AQA A2 focuses strongly on individual interpretation, the choice of wider reading will not be restricted to a list.
It is advisable for students to be familiar with selected sonnets by Shakespeare, for instance, which will be invaluable for the two earlier texts by Chaucer and Shakespeare. It is also recommended that students read at least one modern novel which handles the theme of love in some way. More specific guidance may be provided in the course literature and, of course, students will benefit from consultation with their allocated tutor.
It is generally recommended that candidates have attained grade C or higher in English Language and Literature at GCSE level. However, as full tutor support is provided by Oxford College (ODL), the minimum entry requirements are an ability to read and write in English with some fluency.
It is recommended that students spend 2-3 hours working on each tutorial (twelve per unit), although timings may vary. Reading time is not included and will necessarily entail some extra hours of study.
AS and A2 in English Literature. On successful completion of both the AS and A2 courses, students will receive a full A Level qualification in English Literature.
(Specification: AQA GCE, AS and A Level English Literature A.)
For candidates based outside the UK, it may be possible to sit your examination in your country. Candidates are advised to contact the AQA examination board to determine whether provisions for overseas examinations have been made.
Candidates will receive full tutor support for two years and access to the online course guides.
Candidates are required to pay for and make their own arrangements regarding examinations. Dates of examinations and enrolment deadlines may be found on the examination board's official website.
Your course is delivered online via the Oxford Learning On Campus website.
Please note that included in your course fee is your registration to the On Campus student community, and a licence to print your study materials. Please note that the licence is for one print only, so please ensure that you have enough paper and ink to print the full course materials if required.
You will require having one of the following packages to access your On Campus area:
Windows: Windows 98, 2000, XP, Vista - Acrobat Reader 4.0 and above
Macintosh: Mac OS X, Mac OS 9.2 - Acrobat Reader 4.0 and above
In the student 'On Campus' you are also able to take part in the student chat room and forums as part of our online student community.
After enrolling online you will receive your username and password to access the On Campus area within 5 working days. You will also receive your personal Oxford Learning student number via email.
Students are required to arrange and pay for their examinations and manage the course work element if the subject requires this. Students must check the relevant examination board website for further information and final examination sitting dates for the specification.