English Literature A Level

English Literature A Level develops skills of critical thinking, analysis and comparison.

Students will consider three core areas of literature: drama, poetry and prose. Although each component is distinct, all areas of the course build students’ ability to critique the literary style and impact of texts and encourage originality of thought; a good student of English Literature is full of ideas and can justify them! The course encourages debate and discussion and students must be willing to share their opinions in a small group setting.

As well as developing their own personalised responses to texts, students will need to be able to assert these ideas in a scholarly fashion through their essay writing.  Sustaining an argument for the duration of a piece of writing and drawing on a wide range of evidence for  support it is crucial and is best achieved through frequent practice and by reading critical material consistently.

No literary text exists in isolation from its social, literary and historical context. A fundamental question at the heart of literary study is the extent to which the writer is a product of their environment and whether texts exist as a reflection of the cultural expectations of the time or in opposition to them.  Students will be encouraged to make links between what they know about the writer’s context and the texts they are studying.  They will also consider how different readerships over time might react differently to the ideas in the novels, poetry and drama we study. Wider reading is crucial and students will be encouraged to develop research skills that will serve them well at undergraduate level.

Below is a selection of possible texts students may study on the Edexcel exam specification to provide a flavour of the qualification and its requirements.


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 Bronte




Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello



A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew,

Twelfth Night

Modern Drama

  • A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
  • Sweat, Lynn Nottage
  • Waiting for Godot, Samuel Becket


The Romantic Poets

The Metaphysical poets

Poems of the Decade Anthology

The Movement: Phillip Larkin


80% Examination (Paper 1: Drama, Paper 2: Prose, Paper 3: Poetry)

20% Coursework

Course requirements

6 or above in English Literature GCSE

Edexcel AS & A level English Literature 2015 | Pearson qualifications