English Literature – A Level


Exam Board: AQA


Welcome to A-level English Literature!

This A-level is all about literature: reading books, analysing books, investigating and considering the contexts of books, comparing books and interpreting books.

A love of literature and a willingness to read beyond your usual preferences are essential.

At post-16 in our dynamic and successful English department, you will meet friendly students and be taught by enthusiastic and committed experts, who are always on hand to share their love of literature and to support you in your A-level studies.

The course

We follow the AQA English Literature A syllabus at A-level, which is assessed through two final examinations, each worth 40% of your overall grade, and a non-examined assessment element, worth 20%.

The AQA English Literature A course is academically challenging, highly rewarding and extremely popular here at Tudor Grange Academy Kingshurst. Students follow a lively and varied programme of study, with opportunities to read and discuss a range of texts, issues and authors.

Paper 1 allows you to study an exciting assortment of poetry, prose and drama texts linked by the theme of ‘Love through the ages’.

Paper 2 brings with it a variety of texts based on ‘World War I and its aftermath’.

What you read for pleasure is also part of what you study – and it will fuel you as a reader and as a person for the rest of your life. The non-examined assessment element of the AQA A Level course allows students the opportunities to explore their own literary loves in new lights.

Course overview:

Paper 1: Love through the ages
Study of three texts:

  • a selection of pre-1900 love poetry;
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald;
  • Othello by William Shakespeare.

The examination will include two unseen poems.


  • written exam: 3 hours
  • open book in Section C only
  • 75 marks
  • 40% of A-level

Section A: Othello: one passage-based question with linked essay (25 marks)

Section B: Unseen poetry: compulsory essay question on two unseen poems (25 marks)

Section C: Comparing texts: one essay question linking pre-1900 love poetry and The Great Gatsby (25 marks)

Paper 2: Texts in shared contexts
Option 2A: WW1 and its aftermath

Study of three texts to include poetry, prose and drama.

The examination will include an unseen prose extract.


  • written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • open book
  • 75 marks
  • 40% of A-level

Section A: Set texts – one essay question on the core World War 1 text (25 marks)

Section B: Contextual linking

  • one compulsory question on an unseen extract (25 marks)
  • one essay question linking two World War 1 texts (25 marks)
Non-exam assessment: Independent critical study: texts across time
Comparative critical study of two texts, at least one of which must have been written pre-1900

One extended essay (2500 words) and a bibliography


  • 50 marks
  • 20% of A-level
  • assessed by teachers
  • moderated by AQA

What can I do to help prepare me for the A-level English Literature course?

A-level English Literature is a course for people who already love reading and who want to read much more widely. Therefore, you can prepare for A-level English Literature by reading as much good quality literature as you can. Aim to familiarise yourself with a variety of writing from all three genres: prose (novels, short stories, biographies and autobiographies) poetry and drama, covering a range of historical periods.

Reading other works by the authors of the set texts (or other authors like them) is very useful, so why not read some tragedies, World War I novels, love poetry or dip into the exciting world of Shakespeare by watching dramatisations or going to the theatre?

Make notes about the texts you read and the ways in which authors present characters and themes. Begin making links between texts and considering connections between writers’ styles.

Join your local library, if you are not already a member, and see what it has to offer. Talk to friends and relatives about books they like.

Immerse yourself in literature as much as you can before you start the course.

Useful links

UCAS – options with English

The UCAS site offers useful advice on career option and further study.

English at Southampton University – support for A-level students

This site has downloadable podcasts on several popular set texts, in a specially-designed series where staff and students from the English Department discuss texts, approaches and study tips to support learning at A-level.

Reading University – taster

Staff from the English faculty at Reading University have created a series of short videos on some of the A-level set texts to give you an idea of what teaching will be like.

English at Royal Holloway University – A-level initiative

This site has a range of resources to support A-level students with their set texts.

You can also explore the campus and get a virtual taster of university life.

Philip Seargeant – videos

This site has a selection of interesting films and animations about language and communication, created by Philip Seargeant of The Open University.

Why Study English?

This site is for people considering studying English at degree level.

Great Writers Inspire

The Oxford English faculty has a great series of podcasts in the Great Writers Inspire series, which will give you a very good sense of what university lectures have to offer.