Exam board: aqa


General qualifications for your chosen pathway (see What to study/LaSWAP pathways)

6 or above in English lang

6 or above in English literature


Students study a prose text (either The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley); the study of a selection of poetry by either John Donne or Seamus Heaney and the study of the AQA Anthology: Paris, a collection of non-fiction, non-literary and literary texts. Students will also start their own investigation for the non-examination assessed component (NEA).



Paper 1: Telling Stories (3 hours written exam / 40% of A Level)

Students will explore how and why stories of different kinds are told. The term ‘telling’ in the title is deliberately chosen to reflect the twin aspects of how stories are told, and why stories are ‘telling’, or valuable, within societies. Section A is based on the AQA Anthology: Paris and is closed book (students are not allowed a copy of the anthology in the exam). Section B is based on the study of either The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Section C is based on the study of a collection of poetry by either John Donne or Seamus Heaney.


Paper 2: Exploring Conflict (2 hours and 30 minutes written exam / 40% of A Level)

Students focus on how language choices help to construct ideas of conflict between people, and between people and their societies. Students will study one prose text (either Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer or The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald or The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini) and one drama text (either Shakespeare’s Othello orA Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams). Clean copies of these texts are allowed in the exam.


Non-Examined Assessment: Making Connections (coursework / 20% of A Level)

This part of the subject content focuses on language use in different types of text. It requires students to make active connections between a literary text and some non-literary material. The connections must be based either on a chosen theme or on the idea that particular linguistic strategies and features may occur in the different types of material. This area of the course provides an individualised experience for students, enabling them to demonstrate their ability to initiate and sustain independent enquiry.



The nature of the non-literary material to be collected depends entirely on the focus of the task. A wide range of everyday texts and discourses in different genres and modes is possible. The non-literary material needs to qualify on the basis of forming a good source of data for students to use in their investigations.



  • Read poetry, prose and drama closely and confidently, drawing on a range of literary and linguistic frameworks to support your analyses
  • Consider how contextual factors related to the production and reception of the novels influence and shape meaningsList of skills to be learnt/developed in the course.
  • Build up a richly detailed understanding of how different aspects of texts are stylistically created
  • Explore, through analysis and re-creative writing, how writers present narrative point of view, characters, events, themes and genre through specific uses of language and through the conscious shaping of narratives
  • Construct analytical commentaries reflecting on your re-creative writing, demonstrating analysis and understanding of the ways in which meanings are shaped and communicated in texts.



Please note that the A level paper 2 will be based on the learning from year 12.

Units Type of Assessment Duration Weighting
1 Telling stories Essays 3 hours 40%
2 Exploring conflict

Compulsory question

Re-creative and commentary 


2 hours and 30 minutes 40%
3 Making connections


Coursework 20%




This subject is very well respected by universities and employers because after studying the course you will become expert at analysing, interpreting and creating a variety of written and spoken texts, including many different kinds of media. In today’s world we are saturated with such texts; the skills that you will learn, therefore, such as those of powerful and effective communication, are highly valued by employers. Your word-power will be hugely increased and so will your ability to function in the world of communication.


You can apply to do a degree in a wide range of subjects such as English, journalism, media and communication studies, law and sociology.


Please note that to study pure English literature at degree level, universities do not usually accept just English language and literature A level.