A Level English is a springboard to any number of higher education and career options. With its combination of critical thinking, independent study, close analysis and argumentative writing, it is welcomed as a qualification for subjects as diverse as Law, the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Why take an A-level in English Literature?
Well, it’s something to do with language...
Without a form of language, we are not human. Without meaning, language becomes random sounds or confusing marks on a page. The pupil studying English Literature looks into the meanings that language conveys.
Through studying a literary text, he or she explores ideas, emotions and possibilities – and not just those put there by the author; his or her own thoughts and feelings are important, too. The English Literature pupil develops intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and an ability to render arguments in clear, sustained prose.
The OCR specification is followed and this involves three components, two assessed by external, closed book, examinations, and one assessed by a folder of coursework.
Component 1 is examined and contains two sections. The first is based on a work by Shakespeare while the second calls for comparison of a pre-1900 play with a poetry text from the same broad era.
Component 2 is more broad-ranging, organising its material thematically (examples of themes being ‘American Literature’ and ‘Dystopia’); pupils again have to compare and contrast two linked texts, as well as perform a practical criticism exercise on a relevant unseen extract. Again, this is examined by an externally set and marked paper.
Component 3, however, is a coursework unit that is internally set. For this, candidates study three texts, again linked by theme, and produce two pieces of writing; the first is a close reading of a textual extract and the second is a comparative essay. All of these tasks are designed to encourage wider reading of contextual material and other critics - indeed, the assessment objectives require both.
So: to be an English pupil or not to be an English pupil? That is the question.