The English Literature A Level helps students to engage with a wide variety of texts while applying literary analysis and evaluation critically and creatively to prose, poetry, and drama. In-depth critical and contextual exploration of literature develops transferable skills essential for further academic study and employment.

Key Facts

Start Dates:

  • 5 September 2022
  • 3 January 2023


  • Brighton

Entry level:

  • Academic: Completed 10 years of schooling (GCSE or equivalent)
  • English: IELTS 5.5 or equivalent

Minimum age:

  • 16


  • 2 Academic Years (3 terms)
  • We also offer entry from Year 12


  • Average 7 hours per week for each A-level subject (plus homework and private study)

Class size:

  • 4-10

Learning outcomes

  • Gain UK national university entrance qualification
  • Raise English to university level
  • Develop study skills required at degree level
  • Develop specialist subject expertise

Course content and structure

The following content outline is based on the Edexcel exam board. Please note that exam boards may vary from college to college.


Component 1: Drama

  • 30% of the total qualification
  • Students will study aspects of the form of drama via two plays, including one by Shakespeare and a second drama text. 
  • WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE — A choice of one text from the following: Tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello Comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night 
  • OTHER DRAMA — A choice of one text from the following: Tragedy (Pre-1900) Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster (Post-1900) The Home Place, Brian Friel A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams Comedy (Pre-1900) The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, The Rover, Aphra Behn (Post-1900) The Pitmen Painters, Lee Hall, Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett 

Component 2: Prose

  • 20% of the total qualification
  • Students will study aspects of prose via two thematically linked texts, at least one of which must be pre-1900. 
  • Literary study of both texts selected for this component should incorporate the links and connections between them, and the contexts in which they were written and received.
  • Texts are listed below. 

Component 3: Poetry

  • 30% of the total qualification 
  • Students study aspects of a range of poetry, from the established literary canon through to the present day. 
  • Students are required to study two selections of poetry; one specified post-2000 poetry text and either one specified selection of poems from one pre- or post-1900 text. This will be either a single named poet or a literary movement. 
  • Post-2000 poetry specified text: Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry 2002–2011 
  • Specified Poetry Pre- or Post-1900: Choice of either selected poems from the named text or the single named poet from the following periods:
  • Pre-1900 choices: The Medieval Period (Medieval Poetic Drama OR Medieval Poet: Geoffrey Chaucer), Metaphysical Poetry: (The Metaphysical Poets OR Metaphysical Poet: John Donne), The Romantic Period (The Romantics OR Romantic Poet: John Keats), The Victorian Period (The Victorians OR Victorian Poet: Christina Rossetti)
  • Post-1900 choices :The Modernist Period (Modernism OR Modernist Poet: T S Eliot)


  • Childhood (Pre-1900) What Maisie Knew, Henry James/Hard Times, Charles Dickens (Post-1900) Atonement, Ian McEwan/ The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  • Colonisation and its Aftermath (Pre-1900) Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad /The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (ost-1900) A Passage to India, E M Forster/ The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon 
  • Crime and Detection (Pre-1900) Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon /The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (Post-1900) In Cold Blood, Truman Capote/ The Murder Room, P D James 
  • Science and Society (Pre-1900) Frankenstein, Mary Shelley /The War of the Worlds, H G Wells (Post-1900) Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro /The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood 
  • The Supernatural (Pre-1900) The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde /Dracula, Bram Stoker (Post-1900) The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters /Beloved, Toni Morrison 
  • Women and Society (Pre-1900) Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë /Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy (Post-1900) Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf /A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini \

Non-examination assessment

  • Students will apply their literary reading skills to two chosen texts, which must be different from those studied in Components 1, 2 and 3, and complete texts (they may be linked by theme, movement, author or period)
  • They may be selected from poetry, drama, prose or literary non-fiction.
  • One extended comparative essay referring to two texts. Total advisory word count: 2500–3000.
  • Example 1 – Conflict Texts: Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks and The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini 
  • Example 2 – Relationships Texts: The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan and Brick Lane, Monica Ali 

Typical A-level subject combinations with English Literature

  • English Literature, History, Politics and Government
  • English Literature, Geography and Art
  • English Literature, Politics or Economics and Maths
  • English Literature, Economics and History

Sample enrichment activities

  • Houses of Parliament trip
  • Bletchley Park visit
  • History Film Club
  • Trinity Arts Awards
  • Current Affairs and News Club
  • Debating Society

Sample academic calendar (2021-2022)

Year 1


  • 6th: term starts
  • Student induction


  • 18 – 22th: half term
  • Progress tests


  • University fairs and talks


  • 10th: term ends
  • End of term exams


  • 3rd: term starts


  • 10th – 11th: half term
  • Progress tests
  • University fairs


  • End of term exams
  • 18th: term ends


  • 4th: term starts


  • Progress tests


  • Exams
  • 10th: term ends

Year 2


  • 5th Sept: term starts


  • 17th – 21st: half term
  • 15th October: UCAS deadline (Medicine)
  • Progress tests


  • University fairs and talks


  • 9h: term ends
  • End of term exams


  • 2nd: term starts
  • 15th January: UCAS deadline (other subjects)


  • 9 – 10th: half term
  • Progress tests


  • 17th: term ends
  • Mock exams


  • 3rd: term starts
  • Progress tests


  • Final exams


  • 9th June: term ends

Degree progression

It is widely recognised by universities that the skills developed through the study of English Literature are among the most transferable, with English graduates going on to develop the widest range of careers — among the most popular are publishing, broadcasting, marketing and PR, journalism, law, teaching and politics.

English Literature A-level is an essential subject for an English degree. Some drama, media studies, American studies and law degree courses will also ask for an English literature or language A-level. The Russell Group Informed Choices guide also recommends English Literature A-level for those who want to take degree courses in classics, French and other modern languages, teacher training, history, history of art, politics and religious studies.

Sample alumni progression

Dan Huy

  • English Literature with Creative Writing
  • University of East Anglia


  • English Literature
  • University of Sheffield

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The Kings Admissions Team