Curriculum – English Literature

Why study A Level English Literature?

At its heart, the study of English Literature is the literary analysis of life and human behaviour. Through close readings of English and American texts ranging from Shakespeare in the 16th Century, via poets of the 19th Century right through to contemporary 21st Century novelists, we will develop your ability to explore, discuss and evaluate the ideas and concepts that writers have attempted to communicate, as well as the literary methods through which they have achieved this. Drawing on an informed understanding of writers’ social and historical contexts, we will attempt to answer such challenging questions as: ‘Is war an inevitable facet of society?’, ‘Can poetry instigate political revolution?’ and ‘How far is our perception of the world around us linked to its reality?’

An A Level qualification in English Literature demonstrates the ability to communicate important ideas and arguments articulately in writing. As such, it is recognised as a core academic A Level by Oxbridge and Russell Group Universities as essential or useful for Law, Political and Social Science and Arts degrees. The skills and knowledge developed in English Literature are directly transferable to a variety of career paths including Law, Journalism, Management, Advertising and Marketing, Media and Education.


A Level OCR Course Content

Component 1: Drama & poetry pre-1900 (40% of total A level)

Section A: Shakespeare

‘Hamlet’ – 2 part question

–  part a: close analysis of an extract from the play

–  part b: essay on the play as a whole

Section B: Drama & poetry pre-1900

‘A Doll’s House’ & Rossetti

1 question in which you write about both texts studied.

Written paper; closed text; 60 marks; 2 hours 30 minutes



Component 2: Comparative & contextual study (40% of total A level)

Section A: Close reading of an unseen piece of American Literature.

Section B: Comparative & contextual study based on ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and other examples of American Literature from your own reading.

Written paper; closed text; 60 marks; 2 hours 30 minutes



Component 3: Coursework (20% of total A level)

  • Close reading of up to 45 lines of verse (Carol Ann Duffy)

1000 words maximum; 15 marks.

  • Comparative essay based on ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ & a novel: ‘Purple Hibiscus’.

2000 words maximum; 25 marks.


Students will sit two examinations for the A Level Qualification, each representing 40% of the total mark and covering 5 set exam texts. Exams are closed book with each lasting 2 hrs 30 mins. There are two coursework tasks representing 20% of the total mark, covering an additional 3 texts. The papers and set texts are:


NCS English Literature Enrichment

Lectures from University Literature Professors, Theatre Groups and outside speakers.
Trips to attend Theatre performances and relevant study-day conferences.

The opportunity to develop analysis and discussion skills through entry to debate and creative-writing competitions.

Visits to NCS by reputable authors


Further reading

‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti, ‘Selected Poems’, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams, ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald, Peter Ack Patricia Waugh and Philip Rice, ‘Modern Literary Theory: A Reader’, ‘A Penguin History of the USA’ by Hugh Brogan.

Examination Board: OCR

Disclaimer: The information on this page is to be used as guidance only. The course availability and content is subject to change based on demand and time-tabling.

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