GCSE English Explained
GCSE English examinations have undergone various changes over the years. This relates to the content of the courses, the way the exams are set up, and how the students are graded. Typically, GCSE English is split into two main topics; language and literature.
The Department for Education announced plans to reform GCSE English language and literature in 2013. These changes came into effect in 2015 as the new teachings began, and the first exams were held in 2017.
The English language GCSE focuses more on developing students reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. By comparison, the English literature GCSE is more focused on developing knowledge and understanding of prose, poetry and drama texts.
GCSE English - both kinds - is held in extremely high-regard throughout the UK. A lot of Universities will ask for this GCSE as part of the degree qualifications.
Exam Boards & Topics
As of right now, three exam boards offer papers for both English Language and English Literature:
- Pearson Edexcel
Unlike GCSE Maths, there is no foundation or higher paper for either GCSE English exams. All students will sit the same papers and be graded based on the results. While the content across the exam boards may differ slightly, the structure of the courses and the topics covered are the same.
For English Lit, the topics look like this:
- Shakespear plays
- 19th-Century texts
- Modern texts
- Modern drama texts
Obviously, the exact texts and plays that pupils will look at and analyse are going to vary ever so slightly from board to board.
With the English language GCSE, some of content and topics will be:
- Creative reading
- Creative writing
- Fictional texts
- Descriptive/narrative writing
- Extended writing
- Non-fiction texts
- Literary non-fiction texts
- Use of standard English
- Responding to questions & feedback
What are the exams like?
The content for the English GCSE is taught across the two different focus points. In total, there are four different exams that need to be sat in the exam hall - two for English Language and two for English Literature.
English Literature Exam Structure
The typical English Literature exam structure has changed over the years. The previous GCSE allowed for three exams that totalled around 3-hours. Now, the exams are split across two exams with a total of 4-hours between them.
Now, here’s where things get slightly complicated as the different exam boards prepare these exams differently:
- AQA: The AQA exams consist of one paper on Shakespear and the 19th-Century Novel, and one on Modern Texts & Poetry. The first exam lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and has a total of 64 marks, making up 40% of the GCSE. The second exam is 2 hours and 15 minutes long, with 96 marks and a 60% weight towards the GCSE.
- OCR: The OCR exam includes one paper on Modern & Literary Heritage Texts and one on Poetry & Shakespeare. Both papers have a total of 80 marks available and are split evenly at 50% of the overall grade. They’re also equally split at 2 hours each.
- Pearson Edexcel: The Edexcel exam has one paper on Shakespeare and Post-1914 Literature and one on 19th-Century Novel and Poetry since 1789. Both papers are worth 50% of the overall GCSE, though they are of different lengths. Paper one is 1 hour and 45 minutes long, while paper two is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
All three exam boards have two papers for the English Language GCSE, and they also all have a Spoken Language Endorsement. Interestingly, the spoken language part of the qualifications doesn’t actually count towards anything at all. It makes up 0% and is seen as a separate grade to the English Language GCSE. Pupils will get either a pass, merit, or distinction for their performance.
The individual exam boards set up the Language exams as follows:
- AQA: One paper on Exploration in Creative Reading & Writing that’s worth a total of 80 marks and 50% of the GCSE. The second paper is on Writer’s Viewpoints and Perspectives, which is also worth 80 marks and 50% of the GCSE. Both papers will last 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- OCR: One paper on Non-fiction texts and one paper on Literary texts. Both are 50% of the GCSE and will last for 2 hours with a total of 80 marks available on both.
- Pearson Edexcel: One paper on Fiction & Imaginative Writing worth 40% of the GCSE and a maximum of 64 marks available. One paper on Non-Fiction & Transactional Writing worth 60% of the GCSE and a maximum of 96 marks available. The first paper lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes, the second lasts 2 hours and 5 minutes.
All of these exams will include reading and writing elements across the papers. They will typically each have two texts to analyse, with one section focusing on reading and the other on writing.
GCSE English Grades Explained
As you should be aware, the current GCSE system uses the 9-1 grading system. This replaced letters and means that 9 is the highest grade a GCSE English student can achieve.
The top three grades of 9, 8, and 7 are supposed to correlate to the old grades of A* to A.
6, 5, and 4 equate to B and C grades of old, with 5 seen as a strong pass and 4 as a standard pass.
3, 2, and 1 are the equivalents of D E F and G grades under the old system. There is also a U grade that means ‘ungraded’, and it is technically the lowest grade you can get when sitting a GCSE English exam.
All in all, GCSE English can be one of the most challenging GCSEs out there. This is largely because there are two different elements of the study that need to be covered. It’s conceivable to pass the Language section and fail the Literature - or vice versa.
However, with the right support systems and teachings in place, pupils have a much greater chance of passing. The choice of exam boards also matters as they cover slightly different texts and topics. Having a GCSE in English Language and Literature is seen as essential for your further education and career.
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GCSE English and English Literature
Why is english important.
GCSE English Language is an important foundation for many of the courses you may take in employment or further education, and a requirement for many university courses. It is a core subject, which helps you to develop your powers of self-expression and improve your reading and writing. It is a qualification essential for your future school and university studies, but it is also a skill you will make use of in all aspects of your life. GCSE English Language is designed to develop and enhance personal skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and to encourage learners to be inspired, moved and changed by following a broad, coherent, satisfying and worthwhile course of study. It will prepare you to make informed decisions about further learning opportunities and career choices and to use language to participate effectively in society and employment.
What is involved in the English course?
GCSE English Language covers a wide range of basic language knowledge and skills. It will allow you to develop a good understanding of a wide range of texts from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, including literature and literary non-fiction as well as other writing such as reviews and journalism. You will have the opportunity to read and evaluate these texts critically and make comparisons between them, as well as summarising and synthesising information or ideas. You will use knowledge gained from wide reading to inform and improve your writing, being able to write effectively and coherently using Standard English appropriately. You will develop your use of grammar and punctuation as well as acquiring and applying a wide vocabulary, grammatical terminology, and linguistic conventions for reading, writing, and spoken language.
How will you be assessed?
The course requires you to sit two exam papers. The first is a Creative Writing and Reading exam. Paper 2 explores the Writer’s viewpoints and perspectives. You will also sit a Spoken Language Component which involves an independent presentation which is videoed and submitted to the exam board.
What can you do with English in the future?
Almost all jobs and careers require you to have GCSE English Language. The skills and knowledge that you will learn through the qualification will ensure that you are prepared for life. There are several careers that would directly lead from studying this course, which include law, teaching, lexicography, journalism, Public Relations, marketing, and job roles within the media.
What do you need to do to prepare for the course?
You will need to be able to engage with the complex language of 19th and 20th Century non-fiction. Reading non-fiction such as blogs, diaries, articles now will help this. You will need to also understand a range of structural features; reading fiction will support this. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=aqa+english+language+revision&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
How do I find out more?
You can visit the AQA GCSE English Language specification, which can be found here: https://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/english/gcse/english-language-8700 Other useful websites include: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/examspecs/zcbchv4
Need to know
Reading, reading, reading! Please do not under-estimate the power of this. It broadens your vocabulary; it enables you to create powerful imagery; it gives you an insight into emotion, tone, and mood. This is key to your success in this paper.
Student/Staff/Famous Person quote about the subject
“ The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people. ” –Maria Montessori
Why is English Literature important?
GCSE English Literature is important in everyday life because it connects individuals with larger truths and ideas in a society. Literature creates a way for people to record their thoughts and experiences in a way that is accessible to others, through fictionalized accounts of the experience.
What is involved in the English Literature course?
This is a core subject which all students are expected to study at GCSE level. As part of this course, you will read the following core texts:
- An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- Power and conflict poetry anthology (provided by AQA)
This course allows you to access and develop a wide range of basic language knowledge and skills. These include understanding a word, phrase or sentence in context, exploring aspects of plot, characterisation, events and settings, and distinguishing between what is stated explicitly and what is implied. You will be able to identify the theme of a text, as well as being able to support a point of view by referring to evidence in it. You will be expected to understand writers’ social, historical, and cultural contexts and use this to make informed personalised responses that derives from analysis and evaluation of the text. You will be able to analyse and evaluate how language, structure, form and presentation contribute to quality and impact, as well as using linguistic and literary terminology for such evaluation. You will compare and contrast texts, writing effectively about literature for a range of purposes.
You will sit two exam papers. Paper 1 focuses on Macbeth and A Christmas Carol. You will receive an extract and will need to make links to the wider text. Paper 2 involves you writing an essay response to An Inspector Calls, as well as writing a response to two of the conflict poems and two unseen poetry questions.
What can you do with English Literature in the future?
Almost all jobs and careers require you to have GCSE English Literature. The skills and knowledge that you will learn through the qualification will ensure that you are prepared for life. There are several careers that would directly lead from studying this course, which include law, teaching, lexicography, journalism, Public Relations, marketing and job roles within the media.
It is useful to purchase your own copies of the texts for annotating purposes. Pre-reading these texts or researching them would also be of benefit. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=aqa+english+literature+revision&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
You can visit the AQA GCSE English Literature specification, which can be found here: https://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/english/gcse/english-literature-8702 Other useful website include: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zgq3dmn https://revisionworld.com/a2-level-level-revision/english-literature-gcse-level/christmas-carol-charles-dickens http://thebicesterschool.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Poetry-Support-Booklet.pdf Mr Bruff YouTube videos Spark Notes
Literature teaches us how to live. Literature makes the reader visit places, experience events, meet people, listen to them, feel their joys and sufferings. It takes years to acquire so much wisdom that a single book of literary merit instils in a reader. Literature mirrors the society and its mannerisms.
“ The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose. ” –Margaret Atwood
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GCSE English language: 9 tips for creative writing
On paper creative writing should be one of the easiest parts of the English language GCSE but you're not alone if you're finding it tricky.
Creative Writing in GCSE exams can take various forms: You may just have to tell an entire short story or you could be asked to write a description of a picture.
Here's some top tips when it comes to dealing with your creative writing headaches...
Actually read the question
Let's start at the very beginning: The question. Read it VERY carefully because your answer will only be marked in the context of what was actually asked in the first place, regardless of how well written your piece may have been. Pay special attention to the type of creative writing you're asked to come up with and it's audience (see more below).
Make a plan
This goes for any bit of writing but when it's something you're creating yourself from scratch it's even more important to think before you put pen to paper. Make sure you have a rough outline of your work before you even write your first word.
Don't leave the ending to the, well, end
Some pieces will lend themselves to a nice, easy ending - and in some questions, the ending may even be provided for you - but other times it's not so simple to stop. When it comes to fictional stories, it may well be easier to plan your ending first and work backwards, you don't want to end on a whimper, in a rush or with leftover loose ends from the plot.
Keep it relatively simple
You should spend about 40 minutes writing and that's not enough time to create a complex plot with lots of characters and pull it off. Keep things manageable with a focused narrative.
Write from real life
Write more convincingly by taking inspiration from your real life experiences and feelings, embellishing where necessary.
Take things out of this world
If you're given a prompt to write the opening story involving a storm, it doesn't need to be a storm on earth. Going out of this world allows you to be really descriptive (see below) in your language and paint a picture of a completely unique world or species.
Use plenty of adjectives to help the reader build a picture in their mind. Consider the senses such as what you might hear, smell, feel or taste.
Be inventive and imaginative with your vocabulary and use a range of techniques to bring your writing to life, such as metaphors, alliteration and personification.
Show, don't tell
For example, rather than simply telling the reader a character is tall, show them that in your writing: "He towered above me like a skyscraper."
It should really go without saying but check your work throughout. There's the obvious: That's your spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but also make sure that your piece actually makes sense, flows properly and has plenty of relevant content - refer back to the question if in doubt!
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Creative writing in english in exams and in the classroom.
Hints and Tips - 7 minute read
Isobel Woodger, OCR English Subject Advisor
Reading as a writer, writing as a reader
Our approach tries to marry students’ experiences as readers and writers. This is why the creative component for Language and Literature is called “Reading as a writer, writing as a reader”, to emphasise that students should see elements they’ve explored in their texts not just as inspiration, but as a set of tools they can use in their work.
Equally, as I saw during a recent English and Media Centre (EMC) course on teaching The Bloody Chamber , creative writing can create powerful, conceptual responses to texts as well as deepen understanding of the author’s process.
What is our approach to creative writing tasks?
Crucial to our approach, at all levels, is the dual focus on narrative and choice. We believe in offering students a choice in which narrative they are asked to create to enable better, more authentic responses. It’s important that students feel they are involved in the assessment as opposed to simply sitting it.
Additionally, we focus on narrative over pure descriptive writing as we think this helps generate truly creative, imaginative work. In Component 2 of our GCSE English Language course , students are asked to write a creative response to one of two prompts, like those below from the 2018 June series .
One is narrative based, e.g. giving a title as a prompt for a story; the other is more of a personal, reflective response, giving a scenario to develop.
From June 2018, GCSE English Language Component 2:
This links neatly to the tasks we set in A Level Language & Literature course which we co-developed with EMC. In the second part of Component 3, students choose one of two narrative prompts like these from the 2018 June series:
Students should write approximately 500 words of an opening to a narrative, clearly using some of the bullet points provided. They are, in the next question, asked to write a commentary on their work.
What are our examiners saying?
Our examiners are aware that writing creatively on demand is a complex brief to fulfil. We also know that what we respond to as readers is often the author’s control: how they guide our responses to places, people and topics, as well as play with our assumptions and expectations.
At GCSE, the mark scheme talks about Level 6 students adapting the form of their writing “to position the reader” as a way to demonstrate “sophisticated control of purpose and effect” alongside “skilfully control[ing] overall structure.” Ultimately, whatever their level, students should aim to write a piece that demonstrates a sense of narrative control over its style and is structured to direct their reader’s response.
Without taking the time to plan a response, it can be hard to demonstrate this control. As the June 2018 GCSE Examiners’ Report says, “The best work has been carefully planned and builds to a clear and effective conclusion.” Knowing what and how they want to write offers students more control over their work and gives them greater scope for inventiveness.
A crucial way to approach students’ ability to plan is to build their understanding of structural choices. Being able to choose what narrative voice they wish to use, where the story should open and close, how the story ought to progress – these are structural decisions that can enable students to write more imaginatively, without a dependence solely on vocabulary extension. Naturally, exposing students to a wide range of texts of different kinds is what aids this understanding.
Some consideration of time can be a great way for students to be more formally and structurally inventive, as outlined in the same report: “The use of flashback, flash forward, starting at the linear conclusion and working back to the beginning […] can all bring a great deal of creative originality to straightforward or even rather mundane content.”
Creative writing strategies for the classroom and the exam:
Use analogies both as instructions and models. For example, ask students to think of perspective as being like directing a film scene, where your decisions about where the camera should be and who it should focus on can change how the audience feels.
Don’t be afraid to use creative writing as tool for understanding other texts or ideas. Teaching students to write creatively only in response to examination prompts isn’t the way to broaden their ideas. Instead, use creative writing as a way for them to respond to a Literature text; use it as a way for them to express their thoughts about a concept like inequality, or relationships.
Using style models is underrated. Get students to write in the style of a range of authors, so they can learn from the inside out how voice is constructed in different ways depending on the writer.
Exploratory writing could form part of the planning process. Often students think planning means coming up with a list straight away. It’s worth asking students to write in an exploratory way about a text or a task before getting them to consider which of those ideas might form a road map for their own writing.
Effective description moves beyond modifiers. Adjectives and adverbs are important but should be used with judgement. Having a wider range of descriptive, precise verbs will give students more control over their work.
Plan to write something ‘real’. This isn’t a plea for realist fiction, but rather, responses that have a sense of emotional reality. This can help ground writing, giving it depth and direction. This can be easy to miss when trying to plan for something dramatic or surprising.
In short, we want students to write pieces that demonstrate control and consideration, which show they can choose words with care to craft a planned narrative. We think the more students are aware that their experiences as readers can be used or adapted for themselves in their own work, the wider range of tools students have at their fingertips.
Have you got any creative writing strategies you’d like to share? Or perhaps there’s a particular area of the subject you’d like us to talk about. In either case, do submit your comments below or email us at [email protected] . You can also sign up to receive email updates or follow us on Twitter at @OCR_English .
About the author
Isobel joined OCR as a member of the English subject team, with particular responsibility for A and AS Level English Literature and A and AS Level English Language and Literature (EMC).
She previously worked as a classroom teacher in a co-educational state secondary school, with three years as second-in-charge in English with responsibility for Key Stage 5. In addition to teaching all age groups from Key Stage 3 to 5, Isobel worked with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education as a mentor to PGCE trainees. Prior to this, she studied for an MA in film, television and screen media with Birkbeck College, University of London while working as a learning support assistant at a large state comprehensive school.
By the same author
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What’s Most Important: GCSE English Language or Literature?
In GCSE by Think Student Editor January 14, 2021 1 Comment
The dissimilarities between GCSE English Language and Literature may not seem very large. However, these two subjects are actually quite different. This means that some students may be good at English Language but terrible at English Literature and vice versa. This begs the question, which subject is more important? There are mixed opinions about this, as each subject offers different skills and opportunities.
Both GCSE English Language and Literature are very important subjects. They both allow students to think deeply and creatively and gain skills essential in life. However, from a practical perspective, GCSE English Language could be seen as more important. After all, you need to pass this GCSE to study most qualifications! It is not compulsory to pass GCSE English Literature.
However, we want to hear from you which GCSE you think is the most important. Answer this poll if you wish to share your opinion!
- GCSE English Language
- GCSE English Literature
- Equally as important
If you want to discover why these subjects are both valuable and how they may differ in their importance, carry on reading!
Disclaimer: This article reflects the viewpoint of the student writer. English Language and Literature are equally important subjects. This article just compares their different merits and the conclusion may not reflect your own opinions.
Table of Contents
Why is GCSE English Language important?
One of the greatest skills GCSE English Language will provide you with is the development of the quality of your communication. GCSE English Language teaches you how to articulate your sentences well and communicate your ideas effectively.
This skill will be invaluable in the future, as many jobs require employees to be well practised with this characteristic. GCSE English Language is also important in developing your written communication.
In modern society, you may not need to write letters. However, sending emails is essential in most jobs. Being able to send grammatically correct emails which successfully get information across is another great skill you need for a good career .
GCSE English Language also has a creative element. Therefore, if you are interested in a career in writing such as journalism, or you want to become an author, this is a compulsory subject. If you want to discover why else this subject is important, check out this article from 121 Home Tutors.
If you want to find out more about what the GCSE English Language subject actually entails, check out this article from Think Student.
Why is GCSE English Literature important?
Whereas GCSE English Language focuses more on learning about how to communicate in the future and understanding people in the present, GCSE English Literature focuses on the past.
This is just as important as it allows you to learn about cultural changes and how authors really felt as they lived through times of change. GCSE English Literature allows you to develop critical thinking skills and analytical skills.
It can be difficult to write an English Literature essay due to the skills this task requires. Check out this article from Think Student to discover tips on how to do this.
GCSE English Literature can help with other subjects too. For example, GCSE History is a popular choice to take alongside GCSE English Literature. This is because GCSE English Literature provides you with the critical and analytical thinking skills which are essential in GCSE History.
GCSE English Literature also offers you the chance to be creative. However, it does this through criticising and exploring other people’s work. This is an important skill, especially if you want to pursue a career which involves needing to understand people.
If you want to discover more reasons why GCSE English Literature is important, check out this article from Stonebridge College. Also, if you want to find out more about GCSE English Literature as a whole, check out this article from Think Student.
Is GCSE English Language or GCSE English Literature more important for other subjects?
Overall, GCSE English Language can be seen as more important for all subjects. This is because it provides you with the written and communication skills needed in day to day life.
Therefore, it can even be useful in GCSE Maths, as you still have to be able to articulate yourself to the teacher, even when dealing with numbers! However, GCSE English Literature can be seen as essential for specific types of subjects.
As previously stated, GCSE English Literature is a great subject to study next to History, as it can help you develop skills to make perceptive comments. This is vital for GCSE History.
Similarly, GCSE English Literature can be useful for Philosophy and Ethics or religious studies. Looking at the past and how people used to think make up a lot of the content you will learn. Therefore, the skills you learn in GCSE English Literature would definitely be transferrable.
Finally, GCSE English Literature can be beneficial for A-Level subjects, such as A-Level Politics. As you can see, both English subjects are important . However, GCSE English Literature may be more important for certain subjects in comparison to GCSE English Language.
Do you need to pass GCSE English Language and Literature?
Truthfully, you only really need to pass GCSE English Language in order to get a job and to study in the future. You do not need to pass GCSE English Literature.
Consequently, GCSE English Language can be seen as more important. Therefore, you may want to spend more time preparing for this, as most jobs expect you to have passed GCSE English Language. It is often a compulsory requirement for most jobs and is vital for you to study A-Levels.
This is because GCSE English language prepares you to communicate with people in the future. It can also help you to understand people, which is essential if you want to follow a career such as a social care worker.
If you want to find out how to become a social worker, check out this article from Think Student. GCSE English Literature is also important, as it can help improve your written skills.
However, the skills it offers are not seen as important to employers as the skills that GCSE English Language provides. Therefore, you do not need to pass GCSE English Literature.
What happens if you fail GCSE English Literature but pass GCSE English Language?
Whenever you fail a GCSE, you do have the option to re-sit it if you think that it is compulsory for you to pass it . Therefore, if you do fail GCSE English Literature, you could potentially ask to do the exam again during a different year.
For more information on re-sitting your GCSEs check out this Think Student article.
However, as already stated, it is not compulsory for you to pass GCSE English Literature. This means that if you do fail GCSE English Literature but pass GCSE English Language, you don’t have to do anything at all!
As long as you have your GCSE English Language and GCSE Maths, then your doors are open for a range of jobs! You might only have to re-sit GCSE English Literature if this is a subject you want to pursue in the future, for example at university.
Do you have to re-sit GCSE English Language if you have passed GCSE English Literature?
Unfortunately, if you have failed GCSE English Language, you do have to re-sit it. This is regardless of whether you have passed GCSE English Literature or not!
It is compulsory for you to re-take GCSE English Language if you did not get a grade 4 or above and are still under 18. More information about re-sitting exams can be found on this article from the National Careers Service if you click here .
There are two GCSE English Language exams for the AQA exam board. However, different exam boards may offer different amounts of exam papers. Regardless, this is not a lot of exams!
Therefore, don’t worry if you have failed. You can easily ask for a re-sit and as long as you will revise, you will smash the exams! If you want to find out how to get a grade nine in GCSE English Language, check out this article from Think Student.
In comparison, if you passed GCSE English Language but failed GCSE English Literature, you wouldn’t have to re-sit the exams for English Literature.
What are the requirements for studying English at A-Level?
For studying any A-Level, you need to have achieved five GCSEs between grades four to nine. One of these GCSEs must be GCSE English Language.
However, for specific subjects that you want to study at A-Level, a grade four may not be enough. This is because a grade four is just a pass.
Teachers do not want you to fail the subjects you pick for A-Level! Therefore, most teachers prefer it if you have at least a GCSE grade six in all of the subjects that you want to study.
This would show that you are quite good at your subject, meaning they will be happier to take you on. Therefore, to study GCSE English Language or Literature at A-Level, you will most probably need a grade six in these subjects at GCSE to study them.
Some exam boards offer an A-Level which combines English Language and Literature. A grade six at GCSE in both English subjects is most likely needed in order to study this. Check out this article from Study in the UK to find out more.
GCSE English Language vs English Literature: Which is hardest?
This question is very subjective. Most students are either good at both English subjects or not very good at either. However, each English subject requires different skills.
Both English subjects require students to be perceptive, know word class names and be able to think of interesting links between texts. However, GCSE English Language allows more creativity and the opportunity to perceive texts in any way you wish .
In comparison, GCSE English Literature is slightly more rigid. This is because the books, plays and poems you will study have certain interpretations which are seen as factually correct. You can’t be too creative and change the story lines!
Both English subjects have been rated as two of the hardest GCSE subjects on this article from Think Student.
What are the GCSE English Language and Literature pass rates?
A summary of the 2022 pass rates for GCSE English Language and Literature actually found slightly higher pass rates for GCSE English Literature. A grade 4 is a pass at GCSE.
A summary of the pass rate percentages can be found in this table:
There may be slightly higher pass rates for GCSE English Literature because most students find this subject easier to revise. In comparison, the texts you receive in your GCSE English Language exams are probably ones that you have never seen before!
As a result, you need to think of good answers on the spot. This can be extremely difficult with an unfamiliar text. You can find out more percentage results on the official JCQ website, if you click here.
What are the GCSE English Language and Literature grade boundaries?
To achieve a pass at GCSE, you need at least a grade four. This table summarises the grade boundaries for a pass in the GCSE English subjects for different exam boards for 2022:
As you can see, for OCR, you only need 33% of marks correct in order to pass GCSE English Literature ! Consistently, it is found that you require a lower percentage of marks to pass GCSE English Literature across all exam boards, compared to GCSE English Language.
This certainly suggests that GCSE English Language is harder. If you want to discover more grade boundaries for all of the different exams, check out this AQA website , this Edexcel website or finally this OCR website .
If you want to compare the subjects GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature even more, check out this article from Think Student.
Check out https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/student-guide-to-awarding-summer-2021/student-guide-to-awarding-summer-2021-html
All about A level English Language and Literature – course information
What's a level english language and literature about.
The coverage of A level English Language and Literature is broader than that of English Literature A level since, in addition to the study of novels, poetry and plays, it includes the study of non-fiction spoken and written texts as well as providing exciting opportunities for creative writing.
In the first year of the A level English Language and Literature course you study non-fiction written and spoken texts and the language of literary texts. You study both prose and poetry this year.
In the second year you continue to broaden your understanding of non-fiction and spoken texts through emphasis on how language is used in context. You also continue the exploration of the language of poetry and plays. Finally, both through an examined unit and a coursework component, you work on creative writing exercises - often the most stimulating aspect of the whole course.
Re-visiting texts you have studied previously is a very satisfying aspect of the course giving you a real sense of how far you have traveled intellectually over the course of two years and enabling you to write with genuine authority.
The study of non-fiction and spoken texts from across different time periods and contexts in the second year requires responses that are comparative and contextual; there is also an unseen element to second year A level study.
What sort of work is involved?
As in the case of its more straightforward English Literature counterpart, this is an essay-based subject. Unlike English Lit, A level English Language and Literature has a creative element that you will either find very attractive or potentially off-putting.
The other strength of the subject is in the variety of tasks the course offers in the analysis of fictional and non-fictional material. It can be challenging to develop an analytical framework for such a wide range of 'texts', but it is the very variety of this A level that makes it a compelling one.
As in the case of English Lit you will be guaranteed lessons in which discussion and debate are major features.
Students who enjoyed literary analysis at GCSE but are worried about the extent to which medieval writers like Chaucer and early modern writers such as Shakespeare dominate English Lit A level often feel much happier with the more modern choices of texts that feature on A level English Language and Literature. Shakespearean plays are set but they are not compulsory; on all English Lit A level syllabuses the study of a Shakespeare play is mandatory!
What background do I need?
Students who have studied, enjoyed and done well in English Language and English Literature GCSE are natural candidates for this A level. With GCSE grade 6 or above you should certainly cope.
You do need to appreciate that the skills being tested in the language components of this A level are somewhat different from those tested at GCSE. Nonetheless, A level English Language and Literature holds obvious attractions for those who enjoyed the creative aspects of English Language GCSE and the opportunities it afforded to consider non-literary forms of writing.
Creative writing and engagement with non-fictional texts form no part of any current English Lit A level and for some students this a lack only to be remedied by opting for this particular A level. Those equally daunted by the linguistic demands of the English Language A level or troubled by the purely literary emphasis of the English Literature syllabus should regard this A level as an excellent compromise!
You cannot take A level English Language and Literature alongside English Literature or English Language A levels.
Where can it lead?
It is quite possible to study this subject and end up reading English Literature at degree level (but do check university entrance requirements). On the other hand, A level English Language and Literature is perfect preparation for degree courses in English Language or Linguistics. A science-based student might well be attracted to this A level as a fourth subject option to be retained or jettisoned at the end of year 12. The subject leads naturally into all degree courses in the Humanities and is a particularly attractive option for those interested in Journalism or Creative Writing courses.
One year course?
A one year course in this subject is entirely feasible though any student contemplating this accelerated option needs to have A level experience in this or other A levels. It might well suit a student who had not enjoyed their year 12 studying English Literature but has an analytical skills base they wish redeploy in a more varied programme of study.
The OCR A level syllabus (H474) comprises four units, the first three of which are assessed through written exams.
- ‘Exploring non-fiction and spoken texts’ is a closed text paper. Its duration is an hour and it worth 16% of the total award.
- The second unit, ‘The language of poetry and plays’ is also a closed text examination and is two hours in duration. It is worth 32% of the total award.
- The third and final examined unit is ‘Reading as a writer, writing as a reader’. This is an open text paper; its duration is 2 hours and it is worth 32% of the total award.
Finally, the fourth unit, ‘Independent study: analysing and producing texts’ is an assessed coursework unit, worth 20% of the total award.
Pearson and AQA offer comparable syllabuses in which the same combination of creative, linguistic and literary skills are developed and tested.
This article was written by Richard Martin of MPW College, London
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Interesting in studying A level English Language and Literature?
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