Pages of a book laying half open


English literature is the study of prose, poetry and plays written in the English language. You'll gain opportunities to read widely for pleasure and develop an understanding of how literature is both rich and influential.

Throughout your two GCSE years you’ll read a number of texts including novels and plays. More specifically, you’ll study:

  • One modern novel or play
  • One Shakespeare play
  • One 19th century novel
  • A number of poems based around a theme


You’ll sit two exams in Year 11 to gain a GCSE in English Literature. Alongside the texts, you may also be set what’s known as ‘unseen’ questions where you’ll be asked to compare texts you’ve studied with ones you haven’t seen before.


English Literature is designed to develop your knowledge and skills in reading, writing and critical thinking. 

This includes:

Reading - You’ll learn to read literature critically and evaluatively, making connections across your reading, and articulating informed, independent interpretations of texts. You'll acquire and use a wide vocabulary, including the grammatical terminology.

Speaking - Through class discussions you’ll learn how to form arguments and give your opinion.

Writing - You'll learn how to explain your ideas and understanding and write accurately, effectively and analytically about your reading, using Standard English.

Critical Thinking - You'll learn to make connections across your reading and develop a clear understanding of literary works.

What’s Next

If you enjoyed English Literature at school you may want to continue it onto A-level, and the GCSE is great preparation for the study of literature at a higher level. It’s a great A-level to combine with many subjects whether it’s other essay-based subjects, such as the humanities, or more practical subjects such as Performing Arts (BTEC) or Drama and Theatre Studies (BTEC). If you prefer the sciences, taking English Literature alongside it can show that you are a well-rounded individual, and it can also be a welcome break from scientific learning. It highly regarded by both employers and universities.


Bedford Free School - Great information relating to Of Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls especially relating to the syllabus. 

BBC Bitesize has information on all the set texts studied for GCSE English. There are revision notes and videos to help you to pick out the main themes, understand how plot and character are developed or how a poem is structured, or to set the text in a wider context. There are also sample questions and tests that you can use to check your progress.

English Biz - Not the most inviting website, however it gives you lots of information about how to write and argue to gain better marks in your exams. 

Gojimo is a free revision app to help you revise on the go. It offers you random tests, detailed explanations for every question and the ability to track your progress and watch your knowledge grow. 

Icknield High School - Focussing on Conflict Poetry, this school's information can be used to help you understand how to approach your essays and exam questions. 

Revision World - Revision & exam advice on anything you could ever need. 

Shakespeare's Globe - A free collection of award-winning websites with a variety of creative ways to engage with language, character, themes and performance for a number of Shakespeare plays performed specifically for Key Stage 3, 4 and A-Level students.