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Hi Tayo.

It took me a long time to become convinced that writers do in fact create layers of meaning in their texts (the colour red used alongside Curley's Wife in 'Of Mice and Men' is a perfect example of this). This is something that becomes more and more obvious the more you study literature. However, it is completely down to the reader to decide if they should read into a piece of literature or not, that is the beauty of literature, it can have a complete different meaning from one reader to the next, but both readings are equally valid. It is also sometimes the case that authors had to use symbolism to get across their meaning rather than simply saying it, for example, if they were writing in a context that banned their ideology. For example, if you believed that homosexuality was normal in Victorian England, it was much safer to hint about it through symbolism in poetry than to risk your reputation and be branded as a lunatic by simply stating it as a fact.

The main difference between GCSE and A-Level is the amount of originality that you're expected to bring to your answers. At A-Level, you are expected to read the texts and come to your own conclusions as to what the writer intended, which I found to be a lot more interesting. You are expected to read and engage with critical arguments to get an understanding of the deeper themes of the texts.You also deal with more mature topics at A-Level (sex, politics, oppression, violence, etc), which makes the subject more engaging. 

The most obvious thing that the marker is looking for is the completion of all the assessment objectives, but this can take the magic away from English Literature. In my opinion, an excellent essay shows you have thought deeply about what the author intended with their writing, and that you have come up with your own opinions rather than simply regurgitating what your teacher has said. It's all well and good to talk about colour, but an outstanding essay could talk about colour specifically applied to nature, or gender, etc in order to display opinions of the time. 

Everybody has different ways to prepare, but in my experience mind-maps, brief essay plans, cue cards and even recording your own notes and playing them back are all excellent ways to revise.

Literature at degree level is probably what you would expect: extremely interesting, varied and allows for much more originality and creativity, but it can be quite challenging. You are expected to be a lot more original in the ideas that you bring to your essays (a recent essay I wrote is 'Can 'The Hunger Games' be read successfully through Marxism?'). You get a lot more choice as to the types of books you can study too, so you can read what you love. You are also expected to do a lot more reading of critics in order to strengthen your knowledge of the topic or theme.

Hi Tayo, 

The first is an interesting question. There can sometimes be a discrepancy between intention and what the teacher or students read into a novel or piece of literature. However, it is argued that anything is valid and whether the author intended the reading is neither here nor there. 

A-level English Literature often looks into literature much more deeply, with a focus on analysis. There is no creative writing usually, and there is also more of a focus on context. 

In an excellent essay, you would need to hit all the Assessment Objectives. These vary from including context, analysis, and correct punctuation and grammar. The essay would need to flow fluently and have a good and clear structure. 

It is sometimes difficult to prepare for controlled assessments and coursework, however I would recommend writing out quotes so you can begin to learn them if the controlled assessment is closed book. Also, research a few critics that can be used in your controlled assessment or coursework.

At degree level, the breadth of literature is a lot wider. The depth of analysis is less as you are studying more books in a shorter amount of time. You are expected to do a lot more individual study. 

I hope Ive helped answer some of your questions. let me know if I can help any more! 


One of the chief purposes of literature is a means of exploring what it is to be human. It is also a way of communicating with others about a huge range of ideas and concerns. 

The writer does intend to convey certain meanings and will be aware of audience interpretation, the rest of the interpretation will be up to us as readers. Once the piece of literature is out in the world, it is open to the reader to try to understand it with the information available to us. 

At A Level you will be expected to think in a more critical and sophisticated way about a text, in preparation for university. You will be expected to understand more of the social, historical and political contexts surrounding the making of a work of literature. Your essay writing skills should improve, as will your ability to think about wider issues in relation to what you are reading.

Your marker will be looking for the ability to read carefully and deeply, to analyse, and to be able to express your ideas fluently and cogently.  

In preparation for your assessments: read and absorb as much as you can. Look over past exam questions, brush up on your vocabulary - all the useful words you'll need for exams, and practice your writing skills as much as possible. In your coursework, be sure to structure your essays properly and form coherent arguments. Use the text and surrounding criticism; all the information is there for the taking.

Literature at degree level is challenging but so rewarding. Your mind will be opened to a huge variety of authors, ideas and concepts. You will be expected to read, a lot! You will also be required to research your ideas and think independently - the tutors will only give you so much - the rest of the work is up to you to discover in your own studies.

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