A Level

English Language


Where Could It Take Me?

Studying English Language at A Level is excellent preparation for higher education courses in the English Language/Linguistics field, as well as a range of other Arts, Humanities and Social Science subjects.  Our students go on to a wide range of course and career disciplines. As a skilled language commentator and user, students will have access to a wide range of professions including education, journalism, speech therapy, publishing, law and management.

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including Mathematics and English.

A Level English Language looks at the social science of language, its differing use by groups in society, attitudes towards these, and the detailed terminology through which we describe English's structure and grammar.  Our students find the focus of the course very different to GCSE English Language. Prior study of a foreign language often helps prepare students for the grammatical concepts A Level English Language covers. We will draw on content from Sociology, Psychology and Media Studies. There is some original writing in the course but written responses will be predominately analytical in their nature.

Course Content

English Language is an exciting, analytical subject in which students will learn the tools and terminology of linguistic description to respond to texts.  While students will have the chance to produce some of their own writing, an interest in how English is used in daily life will be needed, along with a desire to analyse its various components in detail.

Year 1:

  • Child Language Acquisition - Students will study the patterns of children’s development of language.  Students will learn theories about the wider process of acquisition and apply these to texts (for example a conversation of children interacting whilst playing with toys or reading books).  There will also be a focus on how interaction using modern technology could influence acquisition (for example studying child-adult interactions conducted over FaceTime or whilst using an app on a tablet device). 
  • Language Analysis - Students will be introduced to the skills of textual analysis – writing systematically about the language used in texts. ‘Texts’ will be taken in a wide sense and could include a range of written, electronic and spoken texts.  Students will be required to use accurate terminology to describe specific features of language, in order to guide comparisons of how texts create meanings and representations.  The exam will invite students to compare 2 texts on similar topics but from different time periods (potentially back to 1600) and places.
  • Original Writing (non-exam assessment) - Students will produce their own piece of original writing (750 words).  There is a great deal of choice of what this could be: it will draw on analytical studies of a range of genres (for instance dramatic monologue, short story, journalism).  In the commentary element (750 words), students will write about their own drafting process and how stylistic choices contributed to the intended purposes and meanings. 

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

Students will be assessed on the content and skills at the end of the 2 years through two 2½ hour summer exams (80%) and the non-exam assessment (20%) for the award of the A Level qualification.  Internal exams at the end of Year 1 will assess Year 1’s learning and inform on progression to Year 2.

Year 2:

  • Language Diversity - Students will learn how language use is affected by an individual’s gender, occupational, social, regional and ethnic background.  This will involve looking at previous case studies, conducting some wider research and using data (for example a transcript of a conversation or statistics about language use by groups of people) to evaluate ideas.  Student will be encouraged to challenge past research with their own observations and experience as language user.
  • Language Change - Students will learn how the English Language has evolved historically and the factors that have led to modern English being as it is.  Students will also study how English continues to change in modern times in the British Isles, in addition to its developments in other places around the world.  Attitudes towards these changes will be considered and evidenced through the analysis and production of journalistic texts, as well as evaluative essays.
  • Language Discourses - Students will engage with the varied attitudes that exist in society to language use, related to topics such as those being covered in Language Diversity and Language Change.  The exam will require students to compare opinions expressed in texts about a course topic.  This will then lead to the task of writing a piece of opinion journalism on this topic for a stated audience (for instance an opinion article for The Guardian on why people might change their regional accents).  
  • Language Investigation (non-exam assessment) - This involves students undertaking a linguistic investigation (2000 words) into an area of personal language interest. The task will involve aim setting, data collection (which might involve designing experiments, recording and transcribing language use, searching internet databases), linguistic analysis and evaluation.

Methods of Teaching

Teaching methods include use of ILT (interactive whiteboard, use of subject intranet site, Kahoot, Google classroom), class discussion, audio/visual clips and completing notes in course packs. Extension lectures and revision sessions take place at some stages of the year, as well as workshops to offer assistance on subject content. Students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning by completing written assignments and undertaking independent study through wider reading, supported by the subject intranet site.

Financial Implications

There is a £5 initial cost at the start of the course for resource packs that will be used to accompany the teaching of units.  There are suggested textbooks that can be bought to support the course. Additional costs could be incurred for optional trips to lectures, conferences or visits. The College has a Student Support Fund for those students who have difficulty meeting these costs.