GCSE English Literature
At Barts, we offer real flexibility when it comes to exam boards for English. While our English tutor’s preference is for Edexcel iGCSE, due to the option to have coursework count towards your grade, we can also teach towards AQA, OCR, and (regular) Edexcel. If you would like to stick to an exam board that you are familiar with, we will support and encourage that. However, switching exam boards for one reason or another is not uncommon and our tutors will support you with this transition.
As with most other GCSEs, it doesn’t really matter what exam board you work towards, unless of course you have a preference – which we will support! The content you are taught across all exam boards for English Literature is broadly similar. You will likely study some of the following: a modern (after 1914!) text, a text from the 19th century, a collection of poetry including some unseen poems, and a Shakespeare play or other ‘literary heritage’ text. A common combination in most schools is: a Shakespeare play (heritage), An Inspector Calls (modern drama), the Poetry Anthology, and A Christmas Carol (19th C.).
Some of the other options include: Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Kindertransport, A View from the Bridge; Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, The Scarlet Letter; To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Things Fall Apart. And, of course, many other options.
Through studying the above texts, you will learn to achieve the following objectives, which are actually how the examiners award marks in your exam:
- Demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of the text, using inference to engage with the text critically.
- Analyse the text and the methods and techniques used by the writer to achieve particular effects and different meanings.
- Compare and contrast texts.
- Demonstrate an understanding of how the text’s context (when it was written and by whom and all the circumstances surrounding its creation) impacts on the text.
Unlike in GCSE English Language, where there are some short-answer, low mark questions to ‘warm you up’, the exams and coursework are based on essay-style questions. There’s no definitive ‘amount’ to write – a question we often get asked! – but it is important that the skills in the objectives above are demonstrated confidently and consistently in your answers. With that in mind, you would probably want to aim for around 300-500 words for each of your answers. You will have around 45 minutes for each question though, so don’t let that scare you! These essay-style answers give you a better opportunity to really explore the text, to delve into it and enjoy the process of picking it apart and understanding it in greater detail. I mean, that’s the process that draws most Literature students to this subject, right?
The questions themselves are usually fairly simple, and pretty open-ended. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions that often come up:
- Explore the importance of [CHARACTER NAME] in the novel.
- In what way is [THEME] important in the novel?
- Explore the character of [CHARACTER NAME] in the novel.
- How important is/are [THEME] in the novel.
Or slightly differently, in that they begin with a statement made about the text:
- “[THEME] is very important in the novel.” How far do you agree with this view?
If you really think about the above questions, they are very similar. ‘Explore’, ‘in what way’, ‘how important is’ and ‘how far do you agree’ are all very open-ended and really just ask the student to explore something about the text. As you can see above, this will always be either a character (or characters) or a theme.
Our tutor, Ant, has a driving passion for literature, is an avid reader and loves great stories. Even if Literature is not your first love, we have no doubt that Ant will instill some passion for reading in you through his infectious love for literature!
If you would like to get in touch to discuss coming to Barts to study, for the first time or as a retake, English or any other subject for that matter, please do get in touch with us through our contact page.