English literature

What is it? It is the study of eight texts from different periods and genres of English literature. Students read novels, plays and poetry from a selection of both the old and the new, which are then looked at critically in the context of the time at which they were written. There is a wide choice of pre-1770 texts, including, of course, Shakespeare, and post-1900 texts.

Why do it? Because you love reading, and you enjoyed those English lessons where you really got to grips with a novel, a play or a poem.

What skills do you need? At least a C at GCSE English, plus application and perseverance for the coursework. At A2-level, you will be doing 2,500-word assignments that need plenty of original thought to get the good marks.

How much practical work is there? None, but you must budget for time to spend reading around the books that are central to your studies to get a sense of the time in which they were written.

Ratio of coursework to exams: At the most, 30 per cent (some courses are examination-only).

Is it hard? It's harder than some people think.

Who takes it? The majority are girls, but a healthy proportion of boys take it, too – around one third.

How cool is it? Pretty cool, because you are reading great books, some of them pretty hip, with some controversial themes, and getting your head around them. Margaret Walker, chief examiner in English Literature for Edexcel, says: "You study things that strike a chord in today's society. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, can raise the subject of the treatment of women by the Taliban, for example."

Added value: Theatre trips, and learning to form opinions and make judgements that you can support – a vital life skill.

What subjects go with it? Just about anything goes with it in the new, broader A-level studies, but history, languages, psychology and English language go particularly well.

What degrees does it lead to? English, linguistics, media and cultural studies, and law are just some of the degrees that it could help you in.

Will it set you up for a brilliant career? It depends on you, really. It is an extremely versatile subject that could take you just about anywhere, although a lot of English graduates do veer towards teaching and journalism. Publishing is another big favourite, so if you discover the next JK Rowling, you'll never have to worry about mortgage interest rates again.

What do the students say? "Literature is always something that I've wanted to study. I learnt to read when I was really young and I'm fascinated by novels," says Charlotte Gray, 17, a pupil at Bromley High School, who is also doing French and business studies at A-level. "The course is just what I expected – all about literature – and I enjoy it very much. I'm looking at the subjugation of women in The Handmaid's Tale for my coursework."

Which awarding bodies offer it? AQA, OCR, Edexcel.

How widely available is it? It's available everywhere.

w.berliner@aol.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Economics, Finance)

£23000 per annum: Harrington Starr: First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Ec...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor