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English literature for as level?! What's it like, workload, "reading around" ?!! Watch

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    Hi this is the account holders younger brother. I'm 16 years old and currently in the summer to go onto sixthform. So im thinking of doing english literature for as level as my fourth subject. I've definitely chosen my other 3 subjects which are maths, chemistry and biology (which I all aim to carry on with in A2). I'm thinking of studying medicine (seriously - a main ambition) and I'm completely in two minds as to whether I take English Literature or Hisotry for As level (which i would drop for year 13)

    I have a really big interest for english literature as I believe during GCSES it was quite a creative outlet and I did well in it as in my first exam I recieved an A* and am yet to recieve my full GCSE grade this August. However, I'm really concerned about whether english in AS is a complete shock and is really different. If I am to take english then the two poetry books i would study is "Mean Time" - Carol Anne Duffy, "The Whitsun Weddings" - Phillip Larkin. The novel and drama I will study is Jane Eyre and Dr Faustus. I've heard that the trabsition between GCSE and Alevel is very shocking and the work in AS changed a lot - but thats the case with all Alevels. I was really convinced I was going to take english but I read somewhere that there is a lot of reading. The books and poetry texts to me dont seem like a huge amount of reading, but I ve heard that there's a lot of "READING AROUND" using a "reading list". I dont really understand how this works and this seems really worrying to me as the whole reading around aspect gives me the feeling that there will be a lot of independant research involved and generally a lot of reading (someone once told me they end up reading like 40+ books (?????). Also whats the general workload like

    If anyone happens to do sciences with english, or history and english lit then please do let me know how the combination is going. I know both history and english literature are essay based but to me history seems as though it would be less challenging as we would receive a solid set of notes, whereas in English there is no wrong or right? Which subject would be easier? (in all honesty I really want to go for the 'easier' one in regard to being more flexible with my other AS level subjects and being more compatible with medicine)

    If it makes any difference I do the WJEC board, which in my opinion is an extremely pedantic examining board and doesnt give much time fore students to form solid essays (which i guess effects for history and english lit)

    Thank you so so much if you reply with a genuine helpful answer as I am truly worried and concerned about this :LLL
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    We were given the entire works of Shakespeare for my English Shakespeare unit (reading list) last year!
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    I am in the same situation trying to decide between English and history as I am concerned I won't be good enough. I'm leaning towards English tbh, having already decided on either media or sociology and religious studies. I'm also with the wjec who are an awful exam board in my opinion.
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    ToLiveInADream you did english with the same other 3 subjects, any advice?
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    I did both History and English Lit, I've just finished Year 12.

    I personally find History a lot harder due to the hugeeee amount of content you're expected to remember. The workload for English wasn't that much at all, I just didn't like the subject so made it a lot harder to work for I would recommend English out of the two, especially if you enjoyed it at GCSE! It's not that much different (in my experience).

    My friend plans to study Medicine and takes the same 3 subjects you want to do and History, she admits it's a lot of hard work but she really does enjoy History. I think it really comes down to which subject you enjoy the most and it will make life a lot easier
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    (Original post by mass_)
    I dont really understand how this works and this seems really worrying to me as the whole reading around aspect gives me the feeling that there will be a lot of independant research involved and generally a lot of reading (someone once told me they end up reading like 40+ books (?????). Also whats the general workload like
    There's absolutely no way you'll be reading 40 books. That's insane.

    I did AS English Lit this year. I'll tell you what I read (or what I was supposed to read):

    Great Gatsby - Scott Fitzgerald
    4 John Keats Poems
    Othello - Shakespeare
    Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

    And you know, I didn't even read all of it. Even now I don't really remember the structure of Othello, or Gatsby for that matter. Yet I'm still expecting a good grade.

    History is more work, definitely.
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    (Original post by Babs Posh)
    I did both History and English Lit, I've just finished Year 12.

    I personally find History a lot harder due to the hugeeee amount of content you're expected to remember. The workload for English wasn't that much at all, I just didn't like the subject so made it a lot harder to work for I would recommend English out of the two, especially if you enjoyed it at GCSE! It's not that much different (in my experience).

    My friend plans to study Medicine and takes the same 3 subjects you want to do and History, she admits it's a lot of hard work but she really does enjoy History. I think it really comes down to which subject you enjoy the most and it will make life a lot easier
    Thank you so much, and that seems like it worked out well for your friend! I'm just still really concerned about the whole independent aspect of English lit as it seems you have to do a lot of research around it? I'm not sure how that would mix with my choices of Chem, Biology and Maths (all which are notoriously difficult)
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    (Original post by Abstract_Prism)
    There's absolutely no way you'll be reading 40 books. That's insane.

    I did AS English Lit this year. I'll tell you what I read (or what I was supposed to read):

    Great Gatsby - Scott Fitzgerald
    4 John Keats Poems
    Othello - Shakespeare
    Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

    And you know, I didn't even read all of it. Even now I don't really remember the structure of Othello, or Gatsby for that matter. Yet I'm still expecting a good grade.

    History is more work, definitely.
    Really? History seems like it would include a full set of solid notes whilst English would require a lot of independent research?:L
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    (Original post by john2054)
    We were given the entire works of Shakespeare for my English Shakespeare unit (reading list) last year!
    I'm guessing that's a lot then?
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    (Original post by Eleri26)
    I am in the same situation trying to decide between English and history as I am concerned I won't be good enough. I'm leaning towards English tbh, having already decided on either media or sociology and religious studies. I'm also with the wjec who are an awful exam board in my opinion.
    Ah I see, the thing is though all of your subjects are quite essay based so if you choose either I still think all of your subjects will be compatible and wont be too contrasting which is really good! I just think the whole contrast with my very science based subjects with something like English Lit would be a bit tooo contrasting.
    WJEC is such a bad board -.- A lot of people just think that edexcel is a really bad board but having done all of my gcses using wjec its just a really bad board which is really pedantic and particular !!
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    I just finished A2 doing Biology, Chemistry, Maths and English Literature and for me personally, doing English was the best choice I made. While I don't know what history is like, a lot of my friends who did the subject (and still do it) would always say how tight the exams are for time and the amount you have to learn.

    I'm from NI so I did the CCEA exam and our spec is probably a lot different from yours. But for AS, we had two pieces of coursework to do which we did at the start of the year, so it eased us into it and as long as you stayed on top of your drafts it was fine
    For the exam we did The Great Gatsby, and the workload for that depends on how your teacher teaches you. We did questions and research on each chapter which was a great help and meant that you could organise your time well.
    The other part of our exam was a comparative poetry essay between 2 of 24 poems, one from each poet. Honestly I adored that part of the course and it was my favourite it was all about doing essays/essay plans to get the structure/analytical ability up to standard and once you did it was great!

    In a nut shell, as long as you do essays when required, and if you're not getting the technique right or whatever it is, you speak to your teacher and work hard at rectifying it. In AS I never really struggled for time management/workload management between all of my subjects and English was a break from the rest so I really recommend it
    From personal experience, it's A2 when time management etc gets quite difficult, so if you're considering keeping it on, really think about it

    Sorry this was so long!

    EDIT: I also did Carol Ann Duffy poems for my exams (probably all won't be the exact same) so if you need a hand I'll be more than happy to help

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    I HATE ENGLISH LITERATURE.

    On results day I found out that I got 100% UMS in my English Literature GCSE so decided to take it for AS. T'was the biggest mistake of my life. Be prepared for your first essay to come back marked as a D. As my teacher once said "even if you wrote me the most thoroughly analytical and beautifully written essay in the world I could only ever give you an E if it didn't match up to the AOs".

    I seriously advise anyone who wants to take it to not. Take history instead-by far my easiest A-level and if you get to do the Tudors then it'll be REALLY interesting.
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    (Original post by mass_)
    I'm guessing that's a lot then?

    I probably read some of them. Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Henry the second and third and Julius Caesar, maybe some more (one of the comedies) i think. We also had to take notes, and do internet discussions and write ups, and go on trips and attend lectures, and watch plays as well. And this for a subject i hadn't studied since gcse secondary school. I don't think i have ever been prouder of the 55% i got for that unit!
    (Original post by Abstract_Prism)
    There's absolutely no way you'll be reading 40 books. That's insane.

    I did AS English Lit this year. I'll tell you what I read (or what I was supposed to read):

    Great Gatsby - Scott Fitzgerald
    4 John Keats Poems
    Othello - Shakespeare
    Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

    And you know, I didn't even read all of it. Even now I don't really remember the structure of Othello, or Gatsby for that matter. Yet I'm still expecting a good grade.

    History is more work, definitely.
    For a degree, 40 books is a minimum. And you also have to read blogs and journals as well, i'm afraid to say. And I only scraped a 2.1, with all of this work!
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    Eng lit isn't too bad as long as you keep on top of the notes that you should make at the end of each lesson and keep a bank of quotes you can use in essays along with all the annotations!

    The most time consuming thing is probs essays given as homework, i was given 2/3 per week and at first each one took 2/3 hours as I was getting used to the new, more advanced way of essay writing which is expected in yr 12, but it does get easier as you keep doing them!

    In terms of reading we only had 4 books to read (for our emasz), which for the most part we did in class and any extra reading was mainly critical analysis of the texts.

    For me, eng lit was challenging as you say in that there is no right or wrong answer and it takes some time to develop you analysis and writing style. I do bio, politics and history as well and found eng lit to be the most frustrating, but if you love the subject then its worth it
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    (Original post by mass_)
    Really? History seems like it would include a full set of solid notes whilst English would require a lot of independent research?:L
    English requires more independent research than History, but this was only in the form of looking at cliffsnotes or something similar.
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    Right, it seems like there's a lot of misinformation being spread in this thread so imma step in and give you my experience with English Lit. For context, I studied Measure for Measure (Shakespeare, play), Paradise Lost (Milton, poem), A Streetcar named Desire (Williams, play) and Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald, book).

    The idea that you have to do upwards of 40 books is an absolute joke, and whoever suggested that is either in the most intense school I've ever heard of or is just spreading things to make people worried. It's totally unnecessary.

    Now, the bare minimum of reading will be the 4 set texts which you've described. With these texts, 9 times out of 10 you'll be asked to go away and read some of them but then you'll go over them time and time again in lessons. We spent our lessons reading through the texts (so we didn't have to read them independently and so the teachers knew we knew them) meaning we didn't have to do as much work. On top of that, we spent so much time before the exams making lists and lists of quotes, going over the themes and sections of the play etc that even if we'd never read those texts, we still would have gone into the exams knowing what we're doing!

    On the topic of 'reading around', the answer is basically: if you want to do the bare minimum, you are allowed to do the bare minimum. Granted, your grade will suffer, but there is honestly no pressure for you to read 10 heavy books on Lit Crit if you don't want to! The only reason for reading around is that it often gives you ideas that you hadn't previously thought about, and might help your arguments be more thought through and full. There will be research tasks where you'll go away and have to read some stuff about tragedy, or themes of revenge, or romanticism, or modernism, or feminism, but that would usually be a couple of pages on some website which basically spells it out for you. AS English Literature doesn't have to be hard if you don't want it to be.

    I've got As in every single piece this year barring 1 essay at the beginning of the first term, and here's how: every time we were set an essay (eg. Discuss the way decadence and pleasure seeking are presented in Gatsby) I'd go home and type the question into Google. No, not to plagiarise, but with A Level lit there is a 90% chance that someone else will have looked into the exact thing you're looking into now. Now, you can do this if you want to, or you can trust me with this. Forget about sparknotes or cliffsnotes - they may be good for GCSE but if you use them as your only study guide for AS, you won't get above a C I can promise you. Now you're at AS, you need to be looking at Google Scholar. Type in 'Google Scholar' and look for the words 'decadence great gatsby'. I did it just now and found hundreds of extracts from books about Gatsby which contain things like analyses of the 1920s and decadence there, Tom Buchanon and decandence, "style as politics", Marxist interpretations of decandence in the Eggs, and much more. All you need to do is read a couple of pages from the few books which catch your eye, write down any ideas they bring up, and let those ideas shape or complement your own opinion on the topic of the essay set. You're not copying word for word here, but if you see a nice idea like "Owl Eyes referring to Gatsby as a 'berlasco' shows XYZ about Gatsby and the decadence of the times...", note that down and put it into your own words: "the use of the word 'berlasco' has connotations of XYZ and Fitzgerald narrates this through Owl Eyes because he represents XYZ...". By the end of AS, you won't have to read 40+ books because you'll get into the habit of reading maybe 5 books/essays per essay you do, but only skim reading a few pages from each. Your essays will be A/B standard, you won't have to read any hefty books, and your teachers will praise you for your individual efforts to seek out other interpretations. Telling them you got XYZ idea by reading an MIT research paper will impress them much more than you saying "idk, I guess I just thought of it?"

    Right, there's my 2 cents on Literature. Too much reading will never be a problem for you, as long as you're reading the right things. Top tip: press ctrl+F/cmd+F and type in the word you're searching for (eg "decadence") and on an online source you can go straight to the section which mentions that topic/idea.

    If you have any questions feel free to ask me about it!
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    English literature is great! I can't really speak for every exam board, or school, but we had 2 short plays and a book to read for AS. Reading around isn't necessary to get a good grade, it just helps. As long as you understand what happens in the books you are studying, memorise quotes and can write an essay, you should be okay. I didn't find the jump too bad at all. I got an A at GCSE and I am getting c's and b's at AS, hoping for an A in the exam though! (Will find out soon!) I think you will get essays quite a bit, but for saying you got A*'s, I think you should be absolutely fine!
    And medicine is a really great career! Good luck with it! ☺️Xx
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    (Original post by mass_)
    Hi this is the account holders younger brother. I'm 16 years old and currently in the summer to go onto sixthform. So im thinking of doing english literature for as level as my fourth subject. I've definitely chosen my other 3 subjects which are maths, chemistry and biology (which I all aim to carry on with in A2). I'm thinking of studying medicine (seriously - a main ambition) and I'm completely in two minds as to whether I take English Literature or Hisotry for As level (which i would drop for year 13)

    I have a really big interest for english literature as I believe during GCSES it was quite a creative outlet and I did well in it as in my first exam I recieved an A* and am yet to recieve my full GCSE grade this August. However, I'm really concerned about whether english in AS is a complete shock and is really different. If I am to take english then the two poetry books i would study is "Mean Time" - Carol Anne Duffy, "The Whitsun Weddings" - Phillip Larkin. The novel and drama I will study is Jane Eyre and Dr Faustus. I've heard that the trabsition between GCSE and Alevel is very shocking and the work in AS changed a lot - but thats the case with all Alevels. I was really convinced I was going to take english but I read somewhere that there is a lot of reading. The books and poetry texts to me dont seem like a huge amount of reading, but I ve heard that there's a lot of "READING AROUND" using a "reading list". I dont really understand how this works and this seems really worrying to me as the whole reading around aspect gives me the feeling that there will be a lot of independant research involved and generally a lot of reading (someone once told me they end up reading like 40+ books (?????). Also whats the general workload like

    If anyone happens to do sciences with english, or history and english lit then please do let me know how the combination is going. I know both history and english literature are essay based but to me history seems as though it would be less challenging as we would receive a solid set of notes, whereas in English there is no wrong or right? Which subject would be easier? (in all honesty I really want to go for the 'easier' one in regard to being more flexible with my other AS level subjects and being more compatible with medicine)

    If it makes any difference I do the WJEC board, which in my opinion is an extremely pedantic examining board and doesnt give much time fore students to form solid essays (which i guess effects for history and english lit)

    Thank you so so much if you reply with a genuine helpful answer as I am truly worried and concerned about this :LLL
    Have you decided yet?

    I honestly don't know why you're so worried and concerned. You need to chill out, especially if it's your 4th A-level and has no effect on your subject you wish to study at university. You're being a little bit melodramatic.

    They are both essay subjects and require a lot of planning, reading and writing.

    Literature is all about looking at the ways literature and writing has shaped our understanding of the world around us. Whilst History is all about investigating the world that has past us by through analysis of sources. Literature is critics the world by words and literary fiction. History critics the world by using different sources like archaeology/architecture, literature, pictures, graphs etc etc.

    You will be studying 4 texts in AS. Duffy and Larkin, you'll probably have 24 poems in total to analyse and then you will have 17th Century drama and 19th Century Victorian novel. It's not that much if you really think about it. For those poems, that's analysing a poem per lesson with one teacher throughout the whole year. Then you'll have 12 weeks to study Faustus (not a long play at all, but there are complicated themes) and another 12 weeks to study Jane Eyre (really long, heavy text). So if you break it up like that, it's not that much.

    History will depend on what you learn, but you will have to study 100 years at AS anyway and it's very subjective. There's no point in taking History and your school teaches the French Revolution in 17th Century if you have not a clue or like to Early Modern French history. So see what you'll be taught.

    I would personally go for Literature. I don't know where you got studying 40 books from but you must of been told a lie, or someone must've been referring to Literature at degree level. Literature is less time consuming because you'll either be told to read whatever in class or be told to read at home and you'll analyse the texts in class. Literature at A-level mainly involves improving your literary analysis skills in writing and reading for meaning. History is all about knowledge and context. Which is far more work. I found this when I studied them both at A-level.

    For less work, go for Literature. I would say History was harder with the workload, but I think both are very similar in essay writing - both exams need you to write in a particular style in order to achieve top marks.

    Good luck and calm down! :flutter:
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    Personally, I didn't find the jump from GCSE to AS English lit that large, and there is certainly not as much reading as you may think. It really depends how much you want to do, but I'd say for each theme you will probably have to read a few critical essays and look at the historical context of the text (depending on your course) but apart from the texts themselves, that's pretty much it!
    I've just finished Year 12 studying English lit,History, Biology, Chemistry and Critical thinking, so I can relate in terms of the science/humanities mix. I'd say that History is probably 'easier' if you prefer more 'fact based' and analytical subjects. Personally I didn't really enjoy the modern history AS, despite loving history it at GCSE, but if you have a genuine interest, I would recommend it. Oh, and I want to add that I really enjoyed English Literature this year and it provides a nice break from studying science and gives you a wider skill set, which is very useful for studying medicine as communication is so important. I'd recommend English .
 
 
 
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