A-level English Language: What Your Child Needs To Know
English Language is a popular A-level choice. But the course can be confusing, and many students may be unsure about what it is they are required to know.
Though there are of a number of exam boards that exist in this country, this article focuses on the course specifications from AQA, which is currently the UK’s largest awarding body. AQA offers two separate specifications: English Language A and English Language B. Your child will only do one of the following two sets of work. Make sure that you check with your child’s school or college to find out which specification they will be following.
English Language AAt AS-level, your child will take two separate units: Seeing Through Language, and Representation and Language. In Seeing Through Language, they will have to demonstrate an understanding of a range of concepts including audience, genre, and mode. They will also have to show a basic grasp of language development, showing how humans use language to as a tool for expression. The course is assessed through a two-part, two-hour written exam.
In Representation and Language, your child will have to demonstrate their ability to write for a range of different audiences. They will also have to show an understanding of the way in which language can be used to represent people or events in certain ways. The course is assessed through two pieces of coursework.
At A-level your child will again take two separate units: Language Explorations, and Language Investigations and Interventions. Language Explorations requires them to show some of the ways in which language fits into a wider social context, and how it interacts with the world around it. They will also have to show an understanding of the way in which language changes over time. The course is assessed through a two and a half hour written exam.
In Language Investigations and Interventions, your child will have to demonstrate an ability for the independent investigation and analysis of language. This will include showing that they can explain certain concepts and data in an easily understandable fashion. The course is assessed through two pieces of coursework.
English Language BAs with English Language A, at AS-level your child will take two separate units: Aspects of Narrative, and Dramatic Genres. In Aspects of Narrative, your child will need to demonstrate their understanding of the role of narrative within literature. This course focuses particularly on the various ways in which authors develop and use narrative in their work. Your child will be required to study four texts for this unit: two prose texts, and two poetry texts written between 1800 and 1945. The course is assessed through a two-hour, open book written exam.
In Dramatic Genres, your child will have to demonstrate their understanding of a range of aspects of drama. This includes drama not just as a form of literature, but also as a type of literary content. Your child will be required to study two separate plays in this unit, at least one of which must be written by William Shakespeare. The dramatic genre from which these plays are taken varies by year; at the time of writing the plays were required to be tragedies, but this will change in future years. This course is assessed through two pieces of coursework.
At A2-level, your child will again take two separate units: Texts and Genres, and Further and Independent Reading. In Texts and Genres, your child will have to demonstrate an understanding of the nature of ‘gothic’ and ‘pastoral’ texts, and compare the characteristics of certain genres. They will be required to study at least three texts, one of which must have been written between 1300 and 1800. This course is assessed through a two hour, closed book written exam.
In Further and Independent Reading, your child will have to demonstrate an understanding of what AQA describes as “a range of different texts”. Your child will also have to demonstrate their understanding of different types of academic reading. Finally, they will have to apply a range of critical ideas to the texts they have read. They will have to study at least three texts, one of which must be an anthology of criticism. Your child may be able to choose one or more of the texts they read themselves. The course is assessed through two pieces of coursework.