What are the 5 biggest mistakes of students in A Level English Literature?

Can anyone summarize their experience?

From the perspective of someone who really hated English Literature (I’m a science/commerce student), this is my biggest regret.

Not writing enough essays throughout the year - If your teacher is chill, and you have year 13 privileges, most can usually get away with not writing a single essay for the year except during exams. (I did). This really negatively affected my ability to write fast, coherently, and confidently as well as having a greater effect on my performance on essay-based scholarship subjects.

I hate writing essays (laziness) but I recommend you get into habit of writing lots of essays till it becomes as natural as doing a mathematics past-paper.

1 Like

I did A Level English Literature during my final year at Westlake Boys High School where half of A2 Eng Lit was assessed through 2 pieces of coursework (1,500 words worth 25% of your A2 grade, or 12.5% of your entire A Level Eng Lit grade each), ending up with an A* (94%, a slight drop from 96% in AS English Lit). Here are the 5 biggest mistakes from my POV:

1. Not taking NCEA Scholarship English! Personally, I took it in year 12 alongside AS Eng Lit, and unlike math or science for which there may be significant additional content to learn if you have only studied a subject until AS or NCEA level 2, NCEA Schol English is primarily skill-based and allows you to use several texts from a variety of genres (short texts, drama, extended texts, film) you’ve studied during the past few years. By AS level, your analysis and critical thinking skills should be developed enough to comfortably tackle the unfamiliar text section, too. Passing and/or scoring Outstanding is very doable if you’re sitting at B or above for A Level Eng Lit, especially as you’ll be able to recycle a lot of texts that you’re going to learn anyway for your externals.

2. Getting complacent for the externals after having scored highly in your coursework and with substantially fewer texts to study than AS Level Eng Lit as you only sit one 2-hour exam (2 essays). Though I’d like to blame the school’s awful selection of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ as one of two of my externally examined texts, I must admit that after already scoring 50/50 for my coursework and 96% in AS Eng Lit the previous year, I walked into my final external Eng exam a tad bit too comfortably.

3. Assuming that the complexity of texts at AS Level are synonymous to those of A2. For example, we were gifted King Lear as our A2 Drama text, having been blessed with Julius Caesar as our AS Drama text. The fact that the latter has now been demoted to an IGCSE text since then evidences a significant gap in difficulty and complexity across these two tragedies. Capturing some of these dormant subtleties and nuances in disguise may add those intangible marks that will boost your overall essay grade towards an A* or perfect score. You’re still only given 1 hour for each AS and A2 essay; though you aren’t expected to write more, a higher level of sophistication and argumentation is demanded.

4. For those applying to the US and UK universities, writing your application essays the same style as your A Level Lit essays. Your Personal Statement is an ‘essay’, but perhaps more aptly described as a ‘slice of your life’, a window into the idiosyncrasies, personalities and values that shape your identity not just as a student, but as a person. Supplemental Essays call students to demonstrate an interest in their intended major of study (or academic, extracurricular, research, internship interests if they are still undecided), illustrate how the student can intellectually and otherwise contribute to the school, and vice versa. Needlessly to say, a Hamlet essay is incomparable to an extended anecdote of your life story to showcase your candidacy to admission officers.

5. Students drop A Level English Literature in year 13 because either because they hate it and/or don’t perform well in it, replace with an additional science or humanities subject, like History or Economics. Although your final year subjects must be strategically selected in consideration of your intended major of study at university and their subject requirements, and often more importantly, based on your projected performance in that subject relative to how much time and effort it will consume, English is so fundamentally important to drop without good reason. Let’s say you’re weighing Economics against English (assuming similar academic performance) and considering pursuing a Bachelors of Commerce at university, I’d personally recommend English. This is because the theory you learn the whole year from A Level Economics will be covered in a two papers, ECON101 Microeconomics and ECON111 Macroeconomics, each taking up only one-fourth of your slots in each semester. Rather than jumping into knowledge that will be compressed and re-fed to you in your first year of university, I find more merit really digging deeper into the nuances of literary devices, critically reading into themes that have darkened and matured since the IGCSE days and honing your mastery of transcribing a cohesive, compelling argument.

For further advice on how to crush A Level English or getting familiarised with the nuances of Application Essay writing, send an email now at p.kim@crimsoneducation.org for some personalised recommendations and strategy.

1 Like