Key Stage 5 Course Overview
Our passion and dedication for all things English is particularly evident at A Level. We offer popular courses in English Language and English Literature, and the expectation is that students complete a two year A Level programme of study as opposed to completing an AS qualification at the end of Year 12, and an A2 in Year 13.
Students follow AQA’s English Language A Level syllabus. This is a two year, linear course that tests students’ ability to analyse how texts have been written to suit their purpose and audience, and to use those techniques in their own professional writing. It also tests their understanding of contextual factors, namely language and gender, social groups, power and technology. In year 2, students look more closely at how children acquire written and spoken language, and at how language continues to change over time.
Assessment takes place at the end of year 2. The students will sit two 2 ½ hour examinations:
- Paper 1 – Language, the individual and society (40%)
- Paper 2 – Language diversity and change (40%)
The Non-Examination Assessment (coursework) unit is called Language in Action (20%). Students have to complete a language investigation into a topic of their choice, and produce a piece of original writing with commentary. The coursework requires considerable independent learning skills, resilience and research strategies.
A level English Literature students follow AQA Specification B (7717). Students are expected to read at least 8 texts in detail during the two-year course. You will also be expected to read widely around the texts, exploring contexts, theories and different interpretations.
At the time of writing, texts offered include (this is subject to change at any time):
Year 1: King Lear / Death of A Salesman / Tess of the D’Urbervilles / Tragic poetry (anthology)
Year 2: as above, plus: The Kite Runner / Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience / Harrison’s Selected Poems (political and social protest writing)
The course starts with an introduction to the genre of tragedy (of course, this could change at any time. ‘Comedy’ is an alternative genre). Using classical theories, poetry and play texts, the genre is carefully examined and studied. Students move on to the study of Shakespearean tragedy, through King Lear. Close analysis of the text, the contexts influencing the writing and reception of the play and different interpretations of the play are all covered. Shakespeare plays a big part in the final exams, so is revised in depth during year 2. Staying with tragedy, Miller’s Death of A Salesman is also studied, along with an anthology of tragic poetry. Thomas Hardy’s tragic novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles is also studied.
Poetry of social and political protest starts year 2. William Blake’s visionary Songs of Innocence and Experience is studied in depth, with a selection of Tony Harrison’s poetry offering a more contemporary political viewpoint. The ‘voice’ of protest is given a global hearing through the study of Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Initial study of all of the set texts will be completed early in the year, and the course will then focus on revision of all of the set texts. Students also start coursework (20%) in year 2, where two essays of 1500 words (one on poetry, one on prose) are written, each informed by a specific literary theory (via study of the AQA ‘Critical Anthology’). Students must read widely and independently for this component to be successful. One essay can be re-creative. The re-creative piece will be accompanied by a commentary.
There are two exams: paper 1 (closed book—Literary Genres) which is worth 40% and lasts 2hrs 30 minutes. Paper will cover one passage-based question on Shakespeare, one essay based question on Shakespeare and one essay linking two texts (three questions, each 25 marks). Paper 2 is an open book exam called Texts and Genres. It is worth 40% of the final grade and lasts 3 hours. Candidates have three questions: one compulsory unseen passage; one essay question on a set text and one essay connecting texts.
Coursework (called ‘NEA Independent Reading’) is worth 20% of your final mark. For this task, you will be expected to write two 1500 word essays on texts of your choice (one poetry and one prose). Your essays will be informed by study of critical theories such as feminism, Marxism and eco-critical approaches.
Legacy qualifications for 2016-2017 in the English and Media faculty include: Creative Writing A Level, Film Studies AS Level, and Media Studies A Level.