Considering English Literature/Language GCSE or A Level? Read our FAQ here!

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Gingerbread101
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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.

GCSE
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.

A LEVEL
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.
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CinnamonSmol
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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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Jezzikarr
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(Original post by CinnamonSmol)
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.

I have a question! Until recently I haven’t really enjoyed English lit (GCSE) but I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it. I’ve always enjoyed reading and I did analysis pretty interesting. I prefer language to lit though; I love creative writing and think the ideas explored, in terms of language acquisition and development, would be fascinating.

I have an empty slot for a fourth A-Level which I may or may not drop at some point; do you think this is something I should go for?
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CinnamonSmol
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(Original post by Jezzikarr)
I have a question! Until recently I haven’t really enjoyed English lit (GCSE) but I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it. I’ve always enjoyed reading and I did analysis pretty interesting. I prefer language to lit though; I love creative writing and think the ideas explored, in terms of language acquisition and development, would be fascinating.

I have an empty slot for a fourth A-Level which I may or may not drop at some point; do you think this is something I should go for?
I think you should definitely attend any taster days that potential colleges may be offering but from the sounds of it you have a lean towards language. Whilst we don't learn about language acquisition and how children develop speech, etc, etc, we still learn theories surrounding conversatiions, such as face-threatening acts, positive/negative politeness and how certain linguistic features can imply certain meanings. For me, (I'm doing AQA) I love this because I used to pride myself on creative writing and Lit/lang is great because you find a technique, and you sometimes have to be creative in talking about how it impacts a text, etc.

what are your other subjects? I must confess that I personaly find the AQA English Lit/Lang AS is somewhat difficult as you have to learn different skills quickly to do well (whilst the full alevel is great as the skills you learn in year 12 really help you for year 13)
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J3niee
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thanks this is so useful! I’ve been considering english lit as an A level, but it puts me off with the fact that there’s no wrong and right answers and that it’s all perspective, so many that could damage my mark, vs maths when you know you’re doing it completely right. As much as I enjoy lit, that’s the main thing that puts me off- any advice?
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Jezzikarr
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Ok, thank you! This is really helpful, particularly as the exam board I will/would be doing is also AQA. Other subjects I'm taking would be Chemistry, Biology, and French (I'm hoping to do medicine at uni). My first choice for fourth subject was German, but this particular sixth form doesn't do German, and although maths seemed like to obvious second choice, I reeaaally don't want to do that! This school encourages taking four A-Levels for people with predicted grades totalling more than 54, but I'm unsure about doing four full A-Levels as it seems like an awful lot of work and some school actively discourage it (hence why I may or may not drop the subject). I actually first decided on medicine when I was about 8, because I really wanted to be an author, and my dad told me I'd make a lot of money from being a doctor. I'm a bit more realistic now so more focused on medicine, but still really enjoy creative writing so that part of the course sounds great!Thanks very much for your advice; I've decided to give it a go and save maths for an absolute emergency!
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Tolgash
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(Original post by Jezzikarr)
I have a question! Until recently I haven’t really enjoyed English lit (GCSE) but I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it. I’ve always enjoyed reading and I did analysis pretty interesting. I prefer language to lit though; I love creative writing and think the ideas explored, in terms of language acquisition and development, would be fascinating.

I have an empty slot for a fourth A-Level which I may or may not drop at some point; do you think this is something I should go for?
You must think it through carefully. I took GCSE English language, but its A-level counterpart is like a completely different beast. The ability to write creatively is almost rendered useless in the presence of the A-level syllabus. You should also like psychology to a reasonable extent, as there is quite a bit that seems to overlap (or so I heard) with child language acquisition.
Last edited by Tolgash; 1 year ago
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deekshita24
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Is there an oral exam for GCSE English? If so,what is going to be asked or what should we prepare about. Also do it count into my final grade of GCSE
English. I actually have stage fear and I do English very well but when the thing comes to reading out or speaking in front of the class I get scared, I
literally start shivering (but with my friends I cannot stop talking )so, if its going add its going to be bad
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CinnamonSmol
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(Original post by deekshita24)
Is there an oral exam for GCSE English? If so,what is going to be asked or what should we prepare about. Also do it count into my final grade of GCSE
English. I actually have stage fear and I do English very well but when the thing comes to reading out or speaking in front of the class I get scared, I
literally start shivering (but with my friends I cannot stop talking )so, if its going add its going to be bad
hii, for me we had to do a speech on a topic we wanted to talk about. a lot of people had really bad anxiety but explained their situation to my teacher who let them do it in private. im sure if you spoke to your teacher and made somw of you friends tag along it wont be too bad
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deekshita24
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(Original post by CinnamonSmol)
hii, for me we had to do a speech on a topic we wanted to talk about. a lot of people had really bad anxiety but explained their situation to my teacher who let them do it in private. im sure if you spoke to your teacher and made somw of you friends tag along it wont be too bad
thanks a lot i would definitely ask my teacher also if i could do it in private. this helped me a lot
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CinnamonSmol
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(Original post by deekshita24)
thanks a lot i would definitely ask my teacher also if i could do it in private. this helped me a lot
hope it goes well!
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