A-Level English Explained

If you are looking at facing studies this year, and exams next year, you should do everything you can to get as prepared as possible. The more prepared you are, the easier you will find it to face those exams, and to learn what you need to learn, and the more likely it is that you will succeed in them. Everyone has the ability to do well in their studies if they work hard and know what to expect.


In this article, we are going to take you through some of the essentials you need to know about A-level English, including what topics you are likely to cover, what new changes there are, how the exam is structured, and more.

A-level English Literature: Structure & Topics

When you start studying for your English A-level, you can expect certain topics to come up, and it is wise to prepare for these as much as possible if you want to do well. Generally, A-level English is structured with a total of six modules which are split across two years. You will expect to have coursework and exams for assessment throughout this period. However, some schools are following a new four-module style of English, so you will have to check with your institution to see which is applicable in your case.


There is a typical modular structure that you can expect for A-level English however, and generally it consists of the following:


  • A modern novel.
  • Shakespeare.
  • Texts in context - such as Victorian poetry.
  • Texts in time.
  • Literary connections.
  • Reading for meaning.


Beyond this, your institution is generally free to pick and choose whatever texts and themes they like, so you should again check with your teachers to see what they might be choosing. Hopefully, they will be able to give you some idea of the kind of texts you can look forward to reading, which would enable you to get a head-start on some of those books. The examining body will recommend some books in list-form, from which your school will choose a few to study.

A-level English Language: Structure & Topics

As you are probably already aware, English A-level is actually divided into two separate subjects: literature, which we have just looked into, and language, which studies the actual language of English rather than interpreting texts and comparing them with each other. Actually, you will find that the structure of English Language is pretty similar to Literature, but it is worth looking into in some detail so that you feel fully prepared.


Again, you can expect six modules over the two years to comprise the A-level, and with both coursework and examinations for assessment. The idea behind Language is that you develop a range of specific language skills which you can use in your own writing and speaking, and it is therefore an important part of learning English on the whole. It is often an enjoyable course to study, and it is one of the most popular A-levels in the country for that reason.


You will be studying six modules, which will generally include the following topics:


  • Discovering language.
  • Representation and language.
  • Language explorations.
  • Language investigations and interventions.


Again, there can be some variance between institutions, so you should seek all the information you are curious about from your teachers when and where possible.

A-level English Exams

Of course, one of the main things that you are going to need to be aware of is what you can expect in the exams. If you are keen to get a good A-level mark, you need to know about this, so that you can prepare for it as well as possible. Let’s take a look now at how A-level English is generally assessed, so you can start thinking about it and preparing for it.


As with most A-level subjects, you will be doing a combination of coursework and examinations. The coursework is to be submitted at a few points throughout the year, and generally accounts for around half of the mark for the module, except on modules where the coursework is the only assessment and therefore counts for 100% of it.


On top of that, you will have exams, which will generally be at the end of each year. For these, you will be told what you need to prepare for, and you should then start doing that as soon as possible. In particular, you should spend most of your time after handing in your last piece of coursework ensuring that you are preparing for the final exams. Your institution may well ask you to carry out mock exams, so that you can see where you stand first and foremost. That can be helpful for you and others, and as you have seen this year it can sometimes have other important functions too.


As long as you prepare, and you speak to your teachers, there is every possibility that you will do well in your exams and coursework. It’s important to remember that there are also differences between different exam boards, and that these are changing all the time. You should find out which exam board your school uses, so that you can get more clued up about this in good time for your assessments. That alone can mean that you are much more likely to succeed in your A-level English courses.



Whether you are studying English Language, English Literature or both, you can be sure that it is one of those subjects which will stay with you forever. It is, in truth, a very important subject, and you should make sure that you make the most of it. As well as providing you with more opportunities for a bright future, it also equips you with many skills and abilities, and helps to open your eyes to many other ways of thinking. English is one of the best things you can learn, so do your best and you should find that it does a lot for you.


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