A-Level English Literature

Exam Board: OCR

Specification Code: H472

Course Outline

At KPS, we teach the English Literature A-Level set by the OCR exam board. This is a stimulating, challenging qualification which encourages students to develop a love of literature in all its forms: prose, poetry, drama and literary criticism.

Studying Literature at A-Level will teach you to think clearly and analytically about the fascinating debates that literary texts raise. It will also develop your skills as a reader and a critical writer that will equip you for both university study and your future career.

Course Description

Full details of the specification can be found on the OCR website - ocr.org.uk. For the sake of ease, we have chosen not to list the range of options for each component available to all teachers, only the specific choices that we have made in constructing a syllabus which we are confident that students at KPS will enjoy studying.

The course consists of three components:

Component One: Shakespeare and Poetry and Drama Pre-1900

This component is assessed by a closed-text examination, consisting of two sections.

In Section 1 students will answer on a play by Shakespeare.

This section comprises two questions:

  1. A close analysis of a specified extract from the play
  2. A question that invites students to evaluate a critical proposition in relation to the play

In Section 2, students will answer a question that invites them to compare two texts by different authors: a selection of poems and a play.

Component Two: Comparative and Contextual Study

For this component, students will study texts drawn from a shortlist of subject areas specified by the exam board, focusing primarily on two novels. They will develop a detailed knowledge of a particular literary movement or period in literary history.

This component is assessed by a closed-text examination, consisting of two sections.

In Section 1 students will answer a question on an unseen piece of prose, analysing its use of literary techniques and discussing its significance in relation to the cultural and historical context of its time of origin.

In Section 2, students will be have a choice of three questions which invite them to compare two novels in both literary and socio-cultural terms.

Component Three: Literature post-1900   

This is a non-examined unit for which students produce two written answers. These responses will be marked by your teachers, then moderated by OCR.

Students taking an A-Level over two years will complete this component in their second year.

For this unit, students will study three texts on a similar theme: a prose text, a play and a collection of poetry. At least one of these texts must have been first published or performed in the 21st century.

This unit presents students with the opportunity to explore some of their own literary enthusiasms and exercise their independent skills of reading and research. For this reason, we have chosen not to draw up a definitive list of texts and titles, a decision which allows us time to get to know students’ literary interests before advising them on their choices of task and title.

Students will be asked to produce a 3000 word portfolio consisting of two tasks:

  1. A close reading of 3-4 pages of prose or drama OR up to 45 lines of poetry. This will be approximately 1000 words long.
  2. An essay comparing the presentation of a particular theme across two literary texts. This will be approximately 2000 words long.

Related Courses

English Literature is an A-Level identified as a ‘facilitating subject’ by the Russell Group universities, and contributes valuably to an application for any degree course in arts or humanities.

The careers pursued by graduates in Literature encompass journalism, publishing, marketing, PR, law, and almost anything else you care to mention.


English Literature is a subject that encourages students to discard some of the more superficial notions about literature that they might have derived from previous study and instead begin to hold all literary ideas up to scrutiny.

Perhaps the most satisfying element of the subject is the divergence of opinion that literary study will engender. Literary analysis, almost by definition, will be the cause of disagreement amongst critics. Such debates test the validity of one’s own presumptions not only about the texts under discussion but about the myriad of moral, philosophical, emotional, political and aesthetic questions that arise from it.

It is a course, in short, that teaches clarity of thought. 

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Kensington Park School Sixth Form,
59 Queen's Gate,
South Kensington, London,

Tel: +44 (0)20 7225 0577


Kensington Park School (Years 7-11),
40-44 Bark Place,
W2 4AT

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