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How different are these A Level subjects to their GCSE counterparts? Watch

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    Hi, I'm in Year 11 and I am having a lot of trouble deciding on what subject to choose as my third A Level. The three I am considering are English Literature, English Language and Psychology. However, I want to know more about these before I blindly choose one and end up regretting my decision. I'm curious as to how big the jump is from English Literature GCSE to English Lit A Level and if it is a LOT tougher, I have the same question for English Language. For GCSE English Language, I enjoy the writing part of the course but I hate the reading questions. Is A Level English Language a lot more about writing or a lot more on interpreting texts and reading longer articles and such.
    Lastly, I wanted to ask if A Level Psychology is interesting. I have always wanted to do Psychology A Level but a lot of people I know have said that their older siblings hated it because it was not the way they thought it would be. If you are doing A Level Psychology could you tell me how you find it and if it has lived up to your expectations on it? Thank you
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    (Original post by taz_yoongi)
    Hi, I'm in Year 11 and I am having a lot of trouble deciding on what subject to choose as my third A Level. The three I am considering are English Literature, English Language and Psychology. However, I want to know more about these before I blindly choose one and end up regretting my decision. I'm curious as to how big the jump is from English Literature GCSE to English Lit A Level and if it is a LOT tougher, I have the same question for English Language. For GCSE English Language, I enjoy the writing part of the course but I hate the reading questions. Is A Level English Language a lot more about writing or a lot more on interpreting texts and reading longer articles and such.
    Lastly, I wanted to ask if A Level Psychology is interesting. I have always wanted to do Psychology A Level but a lot of people I know have said that their older siblings hated it because it was not the way they thought it would be. If you are doing A Level Psychology could you tell me how you find it and if it has lived up to your expectations on it? Thank you
    Out of those three I've only studied lit at A-level.

    The step up is quite massive, and a lot more is required of you. I'd say that it's one of the hardest A-levels out there actually, but don't let this put you off if you enjoy it/you need it for whatever you want to study/do in the future.


    With lit you really have to go into a lot more detail than you do at GCSE, know a lot about different techniques, themes and how you write them, use a bigger vocabulary and be able to compare things really well. Timing is also a skill that you need - in the exam, I was running out of time! The coursework is something that you shouldn't leave until the last minute either - it can cause a lot of stress, otherwise
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    (Original post by taz_yoongi)
    Hi, I'm in Year 11 and I am having a lot of trouble deciding on what subject to choose as my third A Level. The three I am considering are English Literature, English Language and Psychology. However, I want to know more about these before I blindly choose one and end up regretting my decision. I'm curious as to how big the jump is from English Literature GCSE to English Lit A Level and if it is a LOT tougher, I have the same question for English Language. For GCSE English Language, I enjoy the writing part of the course but I hate the reading questions. Is A Level English Language a lot more about writing or a lot more on interpreting texts and reading longer articles and such.
    Lastly, I wanted to ask if A Level Psychology is interesting. I have always wanted to do Psychology A Level but a lot of people I know have said that their older siblings hated it because it was not the way they thought it would be. If you are doing A Level Psychology could you tell me how you find it and if it has lived up to your expectations on it? Thank you
    I did both lit and lang separately for AS and then continued lang for A2. I have to say first that lang is NOT creative writing like it is at gcse - it is much closer to Linguistics than that, especially (as I understand from my teacher/the new textbook) on the new spec. This involves analysis, not writing; we did do a creative writing piece for our coursework both years but it was contrived and I think they may have gotten rid of that regardless. I love lang and think it's fascinating, particularly at A2 (on the current spec we do Language Change and Language Acquisition), but I am someone going on to do Linguistics at university so I'm not unbiased. It is nothing like GCSE. I really would advise you to carefully look at the specification before you choose it; I had no idea what it entailed but I was lucky because I loved it - some people, however, do not.

    Lit, on the other hand, is very similar, just harder. You have to use critics and you have to memorise the books (we got them in the exam at GCSE) and that's pretty much the difference. A lot of people find Lit very hard but personally I just found it dead boring (I hate the way it's taught at schools it saps all the fun and makes it contrived and very focused on ticking boxes). I got full UMS on my coursework last year without actually reading one of the books it was on and, ironically enough, I actually got to write more creatively for that coursework than my lang coursework. I didn't find it hard, but it is dull and sluggish - however, I know many people feel the opposite of that.

    I don't do psychology (didn't pick it because of a teacher situation) but from my mates that do it, it's a whole lot of memorising stuff but if you can do that, it is very interesting and not that hard. I have one friend going to university abroad to major in it because of how much she loved it at a level!
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    I did Lit, and I'd have to agree that it is similar, just more content and more intense, and obviously with deeper knowledge. Essay structures and revision techniques etc. are actually pretty similar to GCSE as far as A Levels go, but still remember it is generally a step up as a qualification. If you have a genuine passion for the subject then it honestly helps so much. A lot of people at my sixth form dropped Lit at AS because they simply lacked passion for it and so didn't have the drive for it. But if you truly love reading and analysing then it's definitely worth doing. I know people say it's hard but genuinely you just need passion and consistent revision, I don't think it's that difficult of a subject but I might be biased
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    (Original post by rhensis)
    I did both lit and lang separately for AS and then continued lang for A2. I have to say first that lang is NOT creative writing like it is at gcse - it is much closer to Linguistics than that, especially (as I understand from my teacher/the new textbook) on the new spec. This involves analysis, not writing; we did do a creative writing piece for our coursework both years but it was contrived and I think they may have gotten rid of that regardless. I love lang and think it's fascinating, particularly at A2 (on the current spec we do Language Change and Language Acquisition), but I am someone going on to do Linguistics at university so I'm not unbiased. It is nothing like GCSE. I really would advise you to carefully look at the specification before you choose it; I had no idea what it entailed but I was lucky because I loved it - some people, however, do not.

    Lit, on the other hand, is very similar, just harder. You have to use critics and you have to memorise the books (we got them in the exam at GCSE) and that's pretty much the difference. A lot of people find Lit very hard but personally I just found it dead boring (I hate the way it's taught at schools it saps all the fun and makes it contrived and very focused on ticking boxes). I got full UMS on my coursework last year without actually reading one of the books it was on and, ironically enough, I actually got to write more creatively for that coursework than my lang coursework. I didn't find it hard, but it is dull and sluggish - however, I know many people feel the opposite of that.

    I don't do psychology (didn't pick it because of a teacher situation) but from my mates that do it, it's a whole lot of memorising stuff but if you can do that, it is very interesting and not that hard. I have one friend going to university abroad to major in it because of how much she loved it at a level!
    Thanks for the detailed advice! That's really helped me. I know now that I won't be choosing English Lang most probably but I'll give the spec a look to really help me decide.
    For my GCSE Lit exams I have just done, we didn't have the book and it really added to the pressure because anything could come up in the exam and we were expected to know the quotes for it. It was okay, though. Although I love English Lit, I find it repetitive and really boring sometimes. I totally agree with you when you said that you hate the way it's taught at schools. I'll take that into account and I'll check the spec for which texts I would be doing in college.
    The only problem is that from next year, A Levels will be linear so it's going to be 100% exam at the end of the second year and no AS Levels for most subjects. I did feel like giving English Lit a try as an AS but since I can't do that and wouldn't want to drop it, I'm rethinking things.
    I'm glad for you that you enjoyed English Language A Level and hope you like doing Linguistics at university. May I ask what career you are planning to go into? Is it speech therapy? The reason I wanted to do English Language was to do English Language and Linguistics and Korean (that's just one degree) in university as I either want to be a nurse - the Biology and Chemistry A Levels would support this - or a Teacher of English as a foreign language in South Korea.
    Thank you again for your reply, it was brilliant and has really helped me
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    (Original post by SeanFM)
    Out of those three I've only studied lit at A-level.

    The step up is quite massive, and a lot more is required of you. I'd say that it's one of the hardest A-levels out there actually, but don't let this put you off if you enjoy it/you need it for whatever you want to study/do in the future.


    With lit you really have to go into a lot more detail than you do at GCSE, know a lot about different techniques, themes and how you write them, use a bigger vocabulary and be able to compare things really well. Timing is also a skill that you need - in the exam, I was running out of time! The coursework is something that you shouldn't leave until the last minute either - it can cause a lot of stress, otherwise
    Thanks for your reply! I'm still considering it and thankfully the exams have become linear so it's 100% exam based and all the exams are in the second year. If coursework had still been a part of the course, I would never even think about it. I always leave coursework to the last minute.
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    (Original post by elizahughes)
    I did Lit, and I'd have to agree that it is similar, just more content and more intense, and obviously with deeper knowledge. Essay structures and revision techniques etc. are actually pretty similar to GCSE as far as A Levels go, but still remember it is generally a step up as a qualification. If you have a genuine passion for the subject then it honestly helps so much. A lot of people at my sixth form dropped Lit at AS because they simply lacked passion for it and so didn't have the drive for it. But if you truly love reading and analysing then it's definitely worth doing. I know people say it's hard but genuinely you just need passion and consistent revision, I don't think it's that difficult of a subject but I might be biased
    Thanks for replying with awesome advice! I'm taking it into account and you're definitely right about having the passion.
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    (Original post by taz_yoongi)
    Thanks for the detailed advice! That's really helped me. I know now that I won't be choosing English Lang most probably but I'll give the spec a look to really help me decide.
    For my GCSE Lit exams I have just done, we didn't have the book and it really added to the pressure because anything could come up in the exam and we were expected to know the quotes for it. It was okay, though. Although I love English Lit, I find it repetitive and really boring sometimes. I totally agree with you when you said that you hate the way it's taught at schools. I'll take that into account and I'll check the spec for which texts I would be doing in college.
    The only problem is that from next year, A Levels will be linear so it's going to be 100% exam at the end of the second year and no AS Levels for most subjects. I did feel like giving English Lit a try as an AS but since I can't do that and wouldn't want to drop it, I'm rethinking things.
    I'm glad for you that you enjoyed English Language A Level and hope you like doing Linguistics at university. May I ask what career you are planning to go into? Is it speech therapy? The reason I wanted to do English Language was to do English Language and Linguistics and Korean (that's just one degree) in university as I either want to be a nurse - the Biology and Chemistry A Levels would support this - or a Teacher of English as a foreign language in South Korea.
    Thank you again for your reply, it was brilliant and has really helped me
    If you've already done a lit exam without a book, then that's probably good preparation - that was the one thing that caught me out at AS! And depending on your books, I know it can be interesting, so see what you'd be doing and see what you think of it Due to a level reforms I feel it will be harder than it used to be - but that's the same for every a level, so don't let that hinder you too much; if you try it in your first couple of weeks at sixth form and hate it you *should* be able to change (I was going to change to psychology but our teacher was really poor so I figured it was better to take a good grade in lit).

    I'm actually planning on going to do my postgrad in the US and then into research, but I may stay here and do that if finances don't permit me studying in the states (and my backup plan would probably be speech and lang therapy, but I really would like to stay in academia). If you want to do any kind of Linguistics + ____ degree, then some (check your choices!) unis will accept a science background (or a lit background). A lot of linguistics degrees will accept you without english if you have one of maths/psychology/a modern or classical language/compsci because all of those feed into linguistics degrees, so as I say, check your choices for your degree and see what they want. At the same time, do have a closer look at lang because it is interesting, it's just very different from GCSE!
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    (Original post by taz_yoongi)
    Hi, I'm in Year 11 and I am having a lot of trouble deciding on what subject to choose as my third A Level. The three I am considering are English Literature, English Language and Psychology. However, I want to know more about these before I blindly choose one and end up regretting my decision. I'm curious as to how big the jump is from English Literature GCSE to English Lit A Level and if it is a LOT tougher, I have the same question for English Language. For GCSE English Language, I enjoy the writing part of the course but I hate the reading questions. Is A Level English Language a lot more about writing or a lot more on interpreting texts and reading longer articles and such.
    Lastly, I wanted to ask if A Level Psychology is interesting. I have always wanted to do Psychology A Level but a lot of people I know have said that their older siblings hated it because it was not the way they thought it would be. If you are doing A Level Psychology could you tell me how you find it and if it has lived up to your expectations on it? Thank you
    I can't speak for any other subjects but English Language is worlds away from the GCSE. As far as I remember GCSE was a lot of creative writing assessments with a little bit of textual analysis in the final exam. At AS level your first coursework unit is half creative writing half an analysis/commentary on those pieces. After that you can say goodbye to your creativity. The first year exam has two sections: for the first you are given I think 6-8 texts and asked to put them into groups according to lingustic features. For the second you are given three questions: Langauge and Power, Language and Gender or Language and Technology and a text or transcript to accompany them and you have to write an in depth analysis (I think we were told to spend 1 hour on the first question and 50 mins on the second.)

    Then in second year for coursework you have to conduct a 3000 word investigation into an aspect of language, for example I chose to compare the language of a child who had been neglected for the first two years of his life to a child who had not. They don't have to be quite so complex as that though, some people in my class focused on Language in TV shows e.g. Language of Geeks in TV Featuring the Big Bang Theory or one girl even did an investigation into the way Bruce Jenner's language changed during and after his transition to Caitlyn. The exam is really tough though, again in two sections. For the first you are given transcripts of children and asked to discuss their language acquisition and for the second you are given an older text and asked to explore how language has changed over time.

    I know it all sounds quite daunting but once you understand the terminology it's really very interesting, but if you're looking for something that allows you to be creative in the way in which you are used to at GCSE, A Level English Language might not be your best bet
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    I did both at A-level.

    I think I'd just repeat what people have already said.

    Language is fun but more analytical to word-base level such as different types of morphemes, there's about 100 million different adjectives and nouns and etc. So it's all about applying linguistic elements such as grammar, lexis, pragmatics, morphology, etc to texts that you get in the exam and discuss why what the effects of those elements make on the reader.

    You will also get the opportunity to study History of the English Language such as how the Germanic tribes developed our language, how many translations of the Bible also helped Language. You also learn about Grammarians (yes I too, didn't think there was such a thing), and the influence of electronic language from social media and the history of the dictionary.

    Another topic you'll learn is Children's Language Acquisition. Most student learn children's spoken language such as the development of their spoken language from the effects of babies cooing and babbling to the effects of adult-turn-taking with them. Others study children's written language acquisition which deals with the development of written language such as handwriting and hand-motor skills. How literature and stories help children's writing and spelling and things like the problem with dyslexia and handwriting too. If you're lucky you'll study both and then you can pick which one you want to focus on for exam. Some exam boards make students study both spoken and written development.

    NEA part is good. You get to pick any topic in the English Language to focus on if you do A2 of course. I did mine on how swearing is presented through male and female genders. Was so interesting. Used Celeb Big Brother as my evidence.

    If this sounds of interest to you, then I suggest you go for it.

    Lit is more harder in terms of you'll have to study a lot more pre-19th century texts, including Shakespeare. But this is done separately to that rule. The rule means you have to study anything as early as Medieval poetry like Chaucer all the way up to Jane Austen. So a huge gap in between which is intriguing and very intimidating to a lot of students.
    You have to study a 19th Century prose which is good. The basic themes are women, Gothic, Crime/Detection, Society and Post-Colonization/The Foreigner. Which is great. This has a lot to do with context so if you like the 19th century that was all to do with the the collapse of the British Empire, the rise of feminism, hedonism and the corrupt individual, sexuality and sexual liberation, scientific discovery vs faith and religion. Things you may already know when studied this at GCSE.

    Also the NEA is good. Usually there's a core text the whole class has to do then you pick another to compare it with. You will either do two parts or one. Two is where you have to focus on one text and the other will be a comparative essay. The latter is just on most Specs. When I did coursework, I did corruption of the individual and its consequences!

    So if these things sound of interest, yeah, these subjects are for you. But definitely ask your teachers what they study and even ask if you could sit in on one of their lessons as AS students will be back from study leave and be partaking in their A2 studies now.

    They're both great subjects. I loved AS Language, but hated A2. And vice versa for Literature aha!
 
 
 
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