What will I learn?
A Level English is essentially the study of how language works; how we acquire language and how it is used in a wide variety of other contexts, as well as considering how the power of language can be harnessed to communicate different messages. You will be looking at all kinds of writing from advertisements through to fiction extracts and political speeches. Studying English Language at A Level, thus, really helps develop your analytical skills and your problem-solving skills.
The focus of lessons will always be analytical – helping you develop your interpretation of the unseen texts and linguistic data you are studying. However, Sixth Form lessons tend to have a more informal atmosphere, due to smaller class sizes, and the onus is very much on your response. From group work investigations to individual presentations, to whole class discussions, you will be offered a range of different activities and approaches to enhance your understanding of language use in both spoken and written modes. Inevitably, the nature of A Level study requires you to consolidate work completed in class with significant independent reading.
Therefore, you will need to be prepared to spend time reading and researching everything about the way language works from the importance of grammar to the impact of text messaging on the development of the English Language. You will be set roughly one hour and 30 minutes to two hours homework a week, per topic studied, and you usually study two topics concurrently.
In Lower Sixth, your initial preparation for the two examined A Level modules, Paper 1: Language, The Individual and Society and Paper 2: Language Diversity and Change, will involve the in-depth study of grammar, exploring the differences between spoken and written language use through analysis of a wide variety of text types and related data, researching and investigating linguistic theories, in addition to developing your analytical writing and directed journalistic writing skills.
In Upper Sixth, Preparation for Paper 1: Language, the Individual and Society involves extending your Lower Sixth study of how society impacts upon language use in both spoken and written contexts, in addition to the study of how children acquire and develop language skills. Preparation for Paper 2: Language Diversity and Change involves broadening your Year 12 study of regional variations of language use, in addition to the study of how language has changed over time and related theoretical concepts. Your coursework module involves you carrying out an investigation into a particular aspect of language and researching your theory, gathering data and analysing your findings. You also need to produce a piece of original writing and an analytical commentary.
Who should choose A Level English Language?
Anyone with an interest in finding out more about how language works. English Language is a multi-skilled course covering everything from the study of grammar, to stylistic and discourse analysis to original and editorial writing. It will enhance your spoken and written critical and analytical skills and will equip you with a full understanding of how language functions in both the spoken and written mode. It is an exciting, dynamic and diverse subject, and suits almost any A Level combination – all that is required from you is a genuine interest in learning about how to harness the power of language.
What other subjects go well with A Level English Language?
Due to the analytical nature of the course, it is an extremely adaptable and compatible A Level subject to study. The nature of the course content means that it forms a very useful companion subject to other A Level courses like Psychology, Modern Foreign Languages and History. However, former students have studied it in combination with everything from Art to Biology to Mathematics.
The English Language A Level course consists of two examined modules taken at the end of Upper Sixth, Paper 1: Language, the Individual and Society and Paper 2: Language Diversity and Change, in addition to one coursework module, Language in Action. Each examined module is worth 40% of your overall grade and each is assessed by a two hour and 30 minute examination. The coursework module is worth 20% of your overall grade and is assessed by a 3,500 word coursework folder consisting of two pieces.
Beyond the classroom
An English Language student’s work is never done! Whether consolidating your knowledge through wider reading, conducting individual research by recording and gathering data from ‘real life’ case studies or attending British Library workshops, you always take the work you are doing beyond the classroom in order to enhance your understanding of how language works, and how it is made to work, in the real world.
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"I have learnt the ways of crafting language and the power of the written word. As an aspiring medic, it seems bizarre to some why English lessons have often been those I have enjoyed and from which I have gained the most. I intend to use the skills and knowledge I have been given to use language in a way that strengthens whatever path I ultimately take in life." Felicity, Sixth Former