Peter Symonds College

Study at PSC

A Level English Literature is an inspiring and rewarding subject, which enables you to study a range of novels, plays and poetry, from the 14th to the 21st century. As well as reading with a forensic eye to understand how writers create meanings, you will consider the contexts in which our texts were written, and look at various critical approaches to understand how they can be interpreted in different ways. You will read widely around the texts, discussing and writing about the ideas and concepts they raise.

During the course, we aim to provide a wide variety of extension activities, including theatre trips, lecture and study days, visiting speakers, museum visits and theatre workshops.

Course Content

Prose - we learn the skills of analysis at A Level by studying a range of texts and contexts within our chosen topic area; we also analyse and interpret two core novels: 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath and 'Sense and Sensibility' by Jane Austen. You will also read more widely within the genre, choosing from our extensive wider reading list, to enhance your understanding and knowledge of the genre. In our prose study, which continues across the two years, we develop skills of comparative analysis, as well as an understanding of literary theory and the contexts in which the genre has developed.

Pre-1900 Poetry and Drama - we study Books 9 and 10 of John Milton's 17th C epic poem 'Paradise Lost' in comparison with Ibsen's 19th C play 'A Doll's House'. In this component we also consider different interpretations and compare the contexts in which the texts were written.

Shakespeare - we look in detail at Shakespeare's dark comedy 'Measure for Measure', considering how the play has been interpreted in performance as well as the critical approaches over time.

Non-examined assessment - during the course, you will complete two pieces of coursework: one is a close analysis of a poem from a 21st C collection; for the other, you will compare a post-1900 play and novel.

Methods of Teaching

Lessons are varied and use a range of media. There are always opportunities to share and discuss ideas, as well as to develop your own thinking through independent writing tasks. As well as exploring our texts in detail, we focus on refining your writing skills and critical faculties.  We value independent reading around the subject, and have excellent resources, including an extensive intranet site.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

80% of the mark will be assessed through final exams. 

20% of the mark will be assessed through internal coursework.

Where Could It Take Me?

English Literature develops a high degree of literacy, strong analytical skills and emotional intelligence. All of these complement any career or programme of study, including non-arts industries such as Engineering and Medicine. Indeed, English Literature students go on to study for all kinds of degrees, including the Sciences, Law, Business and Journalism. Moreover, the subject is highly regarded by admissions tutors, and our students leave us for a wide range of universities, including Oxbridge and the Russell Group. At degree level, English Literature - by itself, or in combination with a subject such as History, a Social Science or Language - provides a useful entry qualification for careers in advertising, writing, the media, journalism, drama, education, social and administrative services, librarianship, business management, and any number of professions. English Literature A Level can take you anywhere.

Financial Implications

Students will need to purchase their texts, so there is an annual cost of around £70.  We ask for students to buy their texts early in the academic year so there is no delay in obtaining books later in the course. The college has a Student Support Fund for those students who have difficulty meeting these costs.

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including Mathematics and English.

Most Recent Results

Below is a summary of the most recent set of results for this subject:

Grade: A* A B C D E U Total
Total: 17 30 62 32 14 2 1 158
Percentage 10.8 19.0 39.2 20.3 8.9 1.3 0.6