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St Colman's High & Sixth Form College, Ballynahinch


Examination Board: CCEA


Why study English Literature? 

This course will deepen your interest, understanding and enjoyment of literature and encourage you to become an accomplished, discerning reader. This course builds on skills developed in GCSE English Literature and English Language. Enjoyment of reading and discussing literature, along with a willingness to study independently, are essential for success in this subject.

Students who study English Literature at A Level will develop skills in written and spoken communication, working independently and thinking critically, which are highly valued by employers. The students will develop the ability to articulate creative, informed and relevant responses to questions on literary texts using the appropriate terminology.

What will I learn about?

You will study prose, poetry and drama ranging from the eighteenth century to the present day. Students who have a keen interest in reading and a curiosity about the individual in society over the course of history will reap real enjoyment from the study of this subject at this level.

AS students will study nineteenth century prose and twentieth century poetry and drama. At A2 level, pupils will have the opportunity to study and explore a Shakespearean play and then study nineteenth century poetry. Controlled Assessment provides the opportunity for students to explore themes in comparative works of twentieth century and contemporary  fiction. This module provides the opportunity for independent research and writing which will help prepare pupils for study at third level education.

AS 1: The Study of Poetry 1900-Present and Drama 1900-Present

Section A: The Study of Poetry 1900- Present:

Students will respond to a range of poetry by two poets they have studied. Students will study one pair from a list of prescribed poets including Robert Frost/ Seamus Heaney or Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath or Elizabeth Jennings and Philip Larkin or Eavan Boland and Jean Bleakney.

Section B: The Study of Drama 1900-Present

Students will communicate their understanding of a play by a modern dramatist, choosing from Brian Friel (‘Translations’), Samuel Beckett (‘Waiting for Godot’), Tennessee Williams (‘A Streetcar named Desire’), Arthur Miller (‘The Crucible’), Ena Lamont Stewart (‘Men Should Weep’) or Robert Bolt (‘A Man for All Seasons’). 

Course Content for Unit AS 2

In this unit, students communicate their knowledge and understanding of a novel. They can choose from a choice of six texts including Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.

Unit A2 1: Shakespearean Genres (Written Examination)

In this unit, students will analyse a single play from a chosen Shakespearean genre (for example, Tragedy, Comedy, Problem Plays or Last Plays). Each question will offer an extract as a basis for answering the question on the play as a whole.

Unit A2 2:  The Study of Poetry Pre 1900 and Unseen Poetry (Written Examination)

Section A: Students will respond to a range of poetry by a poet they have studied, drawing on the skills developed in their AS study of poetry. Students can choose from a prescribed list of poets including Geoffrey Chaucer, John Donne, William Blake, John Keats, Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth Barret Browning.

Section B: Students will demonstrate critical skill and personal engagement in response to an unseen poem, examining how poets shape meaning. Students will experience poems from different time periods and poems with various themes, forms and poetic styles. 

Unit A2 3: Internal Assessment

Students will engage in a detailed study of two novels, one of which must be a 21st century novel. They will explore theme and analyse how authors shape meaning. They also explore the contexts in which each novel was written and analyse connections across the texts. Possible themes could include Irish Life, Family, Dystopia and African Culture.


How is it taught? 

There is a major focus on the development of discursive skills in the A level English classroom. The ability to form a coherent and persuasive argument is a key component of many of the written papers so these skills are first nurtured in group and class discussions. Students are given the opportunity to contribute to discussion in a meaningful way in order to promote a dynamic and invigorating learning environment. Students are given very clear guidance and support in learning the skills necessary to answer examination style questions and write essays on a regular basis to practise and hone the required techniques. 

A level pupils participate is the National Poetry Aloud Competition, Christopher Tower Poetry Writing Competition and the Stranmillis University College Essay Writing Competition. 

How will I be assessed?

The AS1 module will be examined in a two hour examination in May/June. Section A will be open book and Section B will be a closed book examination.

The A2 course will be examined through two closed book examinations of two and two and half hours respectively. In addition there is a controlled assessment module which will be examined through a final essay of 2,000 words.

Pathways to future careers/courses

English Literature is very versatile in complementing the study of subjects such as History, Religion, Languages, Politics or Theatre Studies at A Level and at third level education.

  • It can help to lead you to a degree in Law, the Arts, Education, Humanities, Business, Media and Communication.
  • If you are interested in a career in Journalism and the Media, a qualification in GCE English Literature is a good basis for further training in these areas.
  • Many English graduates go into law, general management, human resources, research and marketing, and the public services. 

Entry requirements:

Students must have attained at least grade B in English Literature and grade B in English Language.