Back to Key Stage 4 Options Visit the Exam Board website

Course Description

GCSE English Literature provides vital skills for life and work by developing powerful cultural capital and enabling students to comment on, and challenge, the world around them. This course prompts students to read in depth, critically and evaluatively, and to structure their ideas on the page; these are abilities necessary for a wide range of careers. The syllabus also encourages students to acquire and use an extensive vocabulary, complementing their studies in English Language. GCSE English Literature equips students for further study at post-16 and university, in a range of different subject areas. 

Student Quotes

How will I be assessed?

Students will be assessed on the basis of two untiered (everyone sits the same) exams, taken at the end of year 11. Paper 1 accounts for 40% of the total GCSE and paper 2 is 60%.

  • Paper 1: Shakespeare and the 19th-century novel (1 hour 45 minutes). 
    • Section A – Shakespeare: students will answer one question on their play of choice. They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the play and then to write about the play as a whole.
    • Section B – The 19th-century novel: students will answer one question on their novel of choice. They will be required to write in detail about an extract from the novel and then to write about the novel as a whole.
  • Paper 2: Modern texts and poetry (2 hours and 15 minutes).
    • Section A – Modern texts: students will answer one essay question from a choice of two on their studied modern prose or drama text.
    • Section B – Poetry: students will answer one comparative question on one named poem printed on the paper and one other poem from their chosen anthology cluster.
    • Section C – Unseen poetry: Students will answer one question on one unseen poem and one question comparing this poem with a second unseen poem.

What will I learn?

Reading comprehension and reading critically

Literal and inferential comprehension

Understanding a word, phrase or sentence in context; exploring aspects of plot, characterisation, events and settings; distinguishing between what is stated explicitly and what is implied; explaining motivation, sequence of events, and the relationship between actions or events

Critical reading

Identifying the theme and distinguishing between themes; supporting a point of view by referring to evidence in the text; recognising the possibility of and evaluating different responses to a text; using understanding of writers’ social, historical and cultural contexts to inform evaluation; making an informed personal response that derives from analysis and evaluation of the text

Evaluation of a writer’s choice of vocabulary, grammatical and structural features

Analysing and evaluating how language, structure, form and presentation contribute to quality and impact; using linguistic and literary terminology for such evaluation

Comparing texts

Comparing and contrasting texts studied, referring where relevant to theme, characterisation, context (where known), style and literary quality; comparing two texts critically with respect to the above

Producing clear and coherent text

Writing effectively about literature for a range of purposes such as: to describe, explain, summarise, argue, analyse and evaluate; discussing and maintaining a point of view; selecting and emphasising key points; using relevant quotation and using detailed textual references

Accurate Standard English

Accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar

What could I do next?

Most employers will look for good communication skills, both written and spoken, and the ability to read with understanding and insight. Careers using English specifically can include work in media, journalism, proofreading, publishing, advertising, the law, book selling, administration, web design, editorial work, secretarial work, public relations, management, teaching and professional creative writing.

The skills acquired in GCSE English Literature are useful in many post-16 courses where extended writing is required, especially psychology and the reflective project (IB CP), but also in subjects like business studies.