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    English Literature and Language are compulsory at GCSE, but read below to see what to expect and whether you might like to take them at A Level!

    What's the difference between the two?
    English Literature: More to do with analysis of other people's work, including prose, poetry and drama. You'll have to read texts and analyse what meaning there is behind it through language techniques. This is more or less the same sort of things you'll do at A Level too.

    English Language: At GCSE, English Language has creative writing elements, as well as looking at how articles and persuasive texts are written. At A Level you look more at the theory behind language - for example grammar, language acquisition and language development. There are still creative writing elements.

    What skills are required?
    The skills required for English Literature and Language are more or less the same - an ability to read below the surface of a text; identify language techniques; and use the same techniques in your own writing. If you look at the mark schemes for your essays, you'll notice that a lot of it is box ticking, and you just need to create plausible meanings for things - there's no right or wrong answer as long as you explain the reasoning behind it.

    At A Level, it helps if you have a strong interest in reading, especially for Literature, as there will be a lot more wider reading.

    What is the workload like?
    The workload at GCSE is quite light, as it's a compulsory subject. You will only be studying a few texts over the whole year so you'll have plenty of time to read them as you go along, and you will most likely be told when to read each chapter so you don't need to manage it yourself. For Language there isn't much to do outside of the lessons, although for the spoken language element you may want to rehearse at home.

    What topics will be studied?
    In Literature, the texts you'll study will vary on the exam board so you should check online. English Language will mainly consist of creative writing and reading, as well as looking at non-fiction texts and the perspective of the author.

    How will it be assessed?
    English Language and Literature will both have exams - for literature you will need to answer questions on the texts you've studied and these will be closed book for new specifications (meaning you can't take the book into the exam, and any quotes you want to use, you'll have to memorise).

    What is it useful for post-GCSE?
    Passing your English (Language) GCSE is generally a requirement for post-GCSE options (such as sixth form, college and apprenticeships). It is also often a requirement for applying to university.

    At A Level, you don't have to take English however you may choose to take one or both of them. They're quite different at A Level so we'll look at them separately.
    English Literature
    What is the workload like?
    There is a lot more wider reading at A Level than at GCSE, and you'll be expected to plan your own reading and research - these are extra to the set texts. This is a lot of extra work, so you need to be a quick reader (however you can make it easier for yourself by reading text guides online for a few of the texts).

    What topics will be studied?
    Again this varies on the exam board, but you'll be studying texts from throughout history in poetry, prose and drama form. You will most likely study Shakespeare as a set text, and popular specifications are focused around Love, Gothic genres and Victorian literature.

    How will it be examined?
    Like GCSE, your exams will be closed book. Your essays will be comparing different texts and you'll have to comment a lot more about the historical and social context of the writing. There will be lots of quotes to remember, so it will take a lot of revision.

    What is it useful for post-A Level?
    English Lit is a very good, traditional A Level that universities like. You can use it for any essay based degree, and it is generally a requirement for English degrees.

    English Language
    What is the workload like?
    The workload is less than Literature as there isn't any wider reading - only extra research for your investigation coursework. You can do as much or as little extra research on language theories as you like, however you'll be taught the main ones in class.

    What topics will be studied?
    You will study the theory behind language (with slight variations over each exam board), and also a language investigation on a topic of your choice, and a piece of creative writing with a commentary (for AQA specifically). There will be a large focus on grammar and the structure of language, along with how it's developed throughout the ages and child language acquisition.

    How will it be examined?
    Along with the coursework mentioned above, there will be exam elements. You'll have to refer to theories that you've learnt, but you'll be analysing unseen texts on the exam paper as opposed to texts studied throughout the year like in Literature.

    What is it useful for post-A Level?
    Similar to Literature, it is a good traditional subject which can be used for all essay based subjects. Particularly useful if you want to go into Marketing or Journalism.

    I take English Lit and lang as a combined course if anyone has any questions

    But to anyone considering taking it rather than just one English course, don't worry about it not being 'respected' many if not most -including Cambridge- accepts Lit/Lang as an A level if you want to take an essay based degree.
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Updated: January 4, 2018


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