• A-Level English Language

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A-Level English Language

Background information about studying English Language

English Language is studying the language. Specifically, it's focussed on how we use language in everyday situations, from telephone calls to political speeches, how language has changed over time, how gender affects language and how children acquire language, amongst other things.

How will it differ from GCSE?

It is only very loosely related to English Language at GCSE. A lot of people justify taking it because 'they like writing', and creative writing is quite minimal. Any creative writing you do, you then have to analyse in terms of linguistics. The course is far more about linguistics than GCSE, and I would struggle to list any actual similarity with GCSE English Language, and consequently, it is quite a lot harder than GCSE.


It's an essay style subject, but some science people take it as it's quite a scientific essay subject. Difficulty is very subjective, some people take to it like a duck to water and instantly grasp the style and structure required, others it takes a lot of work before the structure just clicks.


As with most essay subjects, it has a very much on/off workload, you might have a big essay question one week and nothing the next. The workload is not as tough as other essay subjects like History or English Literature, purely because you don't have to do a lot of research around topics. Teachers advise you to read around the subject though, same as everything else.

Required Individual Study

Is entirely up to you. Some people find it fascinating enough to read 300 page books on it for background knowledge, some will just trudge through the homework. It doesn't require a lot of reading around, sometimes it's helpful to read any articles on language you come across. It's also the only subject where reading urbandictionary.com is actually a useful thing to do.

How is it assessed?

AQA B: 60% Exam, 40% Coursework. One exam, three pieces of coursework at AS level. One further exam and a long, in depth coursework study at A2.


AQA B AS has one two hour exam comprised of two parts. In section A you are given several texts and told to group them linguistically. You can choose how to group them, they might be aimed at a similar audience, or have a similar purpose, or maybe they use similar words. It's a very free question, but can be difficult to get it done in the time, as AQA have just combined two exams into one after 2008. Section B shows three more texts and you have a choice of which you use, and the question will ask how does technology, gender or power influence the text. Most people find Section B a lot more enjoyable.

AQA A (AS) has two sections, based on language and mode, where you analyse two different texts, which could be transcripts of real speech, creative writing, non-fiction, advertisements, or various electronic pieces, according to a specific question asked. The second half is based on children's language, both spoken and written. You choose either spoken or written and answer questions in response to a source and an essay question, where you are expected to apply your knowledge of theories on the subject.


Coursework is everybody's favourite bit. On AQA B, it is not about creative writing. You do three pieces and what you do depends on the school. We do a website with the aim of persuading people, a magazine article to advise aimed at a specific gender and then a free choice piece. However, it's not just that. You also need to find 'models' and analyse the linguistics of them and then analyse your own piece linguistically. Although the coursework is the most enjoyable part, English Language A Level should not be taken purely because you get to do creative writing! This is worth 40% of AS overall. At A2 level, there is no creative writing at all. The coursework involves picking a subject and then writing extensively about the language used. For example, 'how does language change within 'The Godfather' movies?' is a topic I have seen used.

AQA A (AS) three pieces of coursework, one which analyses a group of texts that you choose yourself, showing a representation of a group or individual. Then a creative piece showing a representation, accompanied by a commentary which analyses your creative writing speech, showing how you created the representation. A2 - two pieces of coursework, an "investigation" in which you must do an original piece of language research, focusing on spoken language. The "intervention" is a piece of writing that contributes to a language debate in a particular form for a non-specific audience.


Field trips and excursions

Unfortunately, English Language doesn't have a lot of trip opportunities. I've heard rumours of a conference in Winchester that we might go to, which is hardly visiting New York with the art department really.

Where can I go with an English Language A-Level

Linguistics. English Language. Journalism. English Literature, in conjunction with a Literature A Level (some universities do not specify which English is needed to study English there, but some do). Good one for modern foreign languages. Law likes it quite a lot. Most essay subjects, like history and classics, like it. In terms of 'respectability', it's on Trinity College, Cambridge's list in the B section, so it's not their favourite, but it's still a worthwhile subject. The skills acquired will put you in good stead for most degrees, I have some science applicants in my class who wanted to show some balance, but still have an analytical subject, but most people are applying for English or Law or things like that. On a more scientific basis, Speech and Language Therapy. English Language willl prepare you with the analytical skills needed in such a job, although it is advisable to take a science subject also, preferably biology along with psychology.

User Opinions

Username: Lorypop

What I like about studying this subject: I like the coursework, and have yet to find anyone who doesn't. I love the freedom in both the coursework and the exam, particularly in choosing between language and technology, gender or power. I find examining how gender and power affect language fascinating. It ties in well with a lot of my other subjects, language and power specifically ties in very nicely with Classics and Latin. It ties in nicely with literature, but at the same time is so different from literature that I don't study the same things in both classes. For an essay subject, it has quite a scientific, analytical approach which requires a very different writing style to my other essay subjects, so it's nice to have a change sometimes. The homework is often quite free, just analyse three things you find linguistically interesting, which keeps the subject engaging.

What I dislike about studying this subject: Language and technology is the most boring thing I have ever studied. The grouping texts linguistically does get quite annoying after three consecutive lessons on just doing timed tests on that. The fact I have a lot of classmates who 'took it because it's easy' and who are a constant distraction. However, these are just minor gripes, overall I do quite like English Language, and initially it was awful, but it's getting a lot better.


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