A Level English Literature

English Literature

If you love reading, debating and communicating ideas, this course will enable you to explore what some of the most creative, thoughtful people in history have written about love, sex, relationships, happiness, madness, pain, despair, God, evil, nature and the meaning of life. Plenty of food for thought!

Why St Mary’s

Expand your knowledge of this fascinating subject, supported by dedicated teachers, who are passionate about literature – from the classics to cutting-edge contemporary work.

Our enriched learning opportunities can include:

  • Theatre trips
  • Lectures on key set texts
  • Author visits and workshops (most recently Julia Golding, Alexander Gordon Smith, Louisa Reid and Robin Stevens)
  • Essay and writing competitions
  • Online lectures from experts in literature
  • Teacher surgeries to support your progress

Enabling your transition from GCSE

We offer close support for students moving from GCSE to A-Level. Small classes, advice and guidance from specialist teachers and an introduction to the course in Year 12 are in place to help you adjust to A Level study.

Course overview

A Level content

You will study a minimum of eight texts including:

  • at least three texts published before 1900, including at least one text by Shakespeare
  • at least one work first published or performed after 2000
  • at least one unseen text

The course will develop your knowledge and understanding of:

  • the ways in which writers shape meaning in texts
  • the ways in which texts are interpreted by different readers, including over time
  • the ways in which texts relate to one another and to literary traditions, movements and genres
  • the significance of cultural and contextual influences on readers and writers

Component 1 covers Shakespeare and pre-1900 drama and poetry.

Component 2 is topic-based. The school will choose one of the following set topics and you will answer one question on an unseen passage, related to the topic, and also an essay focusing on two texts linked with the topic. The topics set for the first examinations are:

  • American Literature 1880-1940
  • The Gothic
  • Dystopia
  • Women in Literature
  • The Immigrant Experience

Component 3 is coursework, with two essays, one requiring close study of a passage through either a critical or a recreative response; the other being a comparative essay. The texts for Component 3 are post-1900 and at least one must be post-2000.


A Level assessment

  • Component 1: Shakespeare and pre-1900 drama and poetry. A closed-text examination of 2 hours 30 minutes. (40% of the A Level)
  • Component 2: You will answer one question on an unseen passage, related to the topic, and also an essay focusing on two texts linked with the topic. A closed-text examination of 2 hours 30 minutes. (40% of the A Level)
  • Component 3: Two coursework essays (20% of the A Level)

Visit our Sixth Form

At a glance
  • Syllabus: OCR (H472)
  • 8+ core texts
  • 2 exams (80% of total marks)
  • 2 coursework essays (20% of total marks)
  • Themes: Shakespeare, pre 1900 drama and poetry, American Literature, The Gothic, Dystopia, Women in Literature and the Immigrant Experience
  • Small class sizes

Entry requirements

GCSE grades (or equivalent)

  • Subject 1: English Literature: 6+
  • Subject 2: English Language: 6+ (CEFR B2.2)
You will enjoy this course if you...
  • Are an avid reader
  • Are keen to explore new perspectives on the world
  • Enjoy discussing texts and ideas
  • Like expressing your thoughts in writing

What our teachers say...

“English was always the subject I enjoyed the most. I was lucky to have an incredible English teacher who fired up my enthusiasm … his energy and enjoyment were infectious.

It was brilliant and taught me very early on that literature and the arts could be exciting, strange, provocative, beautiful and utterly absorbing.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch, 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

Empathy is at the heart of this subject. Literature invites you to explore how others might feel, to walk in someone else's shoes.

By exploring human behaviour, different cultures, worlds and events you can begin to understand our complex world – to become a more informed, respectful, curious citizen.

In recent years, our leavers have secured places to study English at Cambridge, King's College London, Nottingham and a range of other top universities. Studying English Literature also supports a wide range of career paths including: law, journalism, marketing, advertising, the charity sector, the arts, film and business management.

Leaver destinations

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Our results

Achieve the results you need to fulfil your dreams.

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