If you require the English Language page, please go here.
Home educators can choose GCSE or IGCSE English Literature, as neither have coursework.
Do you need a separate English Literature qualification?
Is it necessary to do separate exams in English Language and English Literature? What if you want to study English Literature at sixth form?
It depends. The real gatekeeper for entry to many courses and jobs is GCSE or IGCSE English Language. If you only want to do one GCSE/IGCSE in English, then English Language is the one to do. (More detail about English Language options here)
A separate English Literature qualification might be important is if you wish to study English Literature at a higher level. It might also be helpful if you want to study Drama. Some A-level English courses are combined literature and language, while others are literature-only. Some colleges specify that applicants need GCSE or IGCSE English Literature, particularly if the student wishes to study an essay writing subject, such as History, for A Level. Others have been more flexible. If it's important to your child to have the option of studying English A-level then contact local colleges to find out what their requirements are.
One Family's Experience
"My daughter did CIE English Language IGCSE. She got an A*. She decided English Lit IGCSE would be too tedious and restrictive...so she read and studied a range of literature of her own choice and wrote essays on short reflections on them. (internet gives plenty of ideas for essay titles..). She created a portfolio of work ready for her application to 6th form. As it was, they were not concerned to see it.. just talked to her and were quite happy to have her study AS and A2 English Lit with them. She is doing very well and is markedly better read than most of her peers! The good grade in Eng Lang was significant....she needed a B for the 6th form in that and I think the A* was persuasive when she did not have Eng Lit too."
The specification for each exam will list the text options. Parents who have recently taken their child out of school may not realise that there are any options because their child's teacher will have decided on behalf of the whole class and the reasons for their choice may have been things like the availability of school resources and the teacher's preference. If your child has left school in Year 11, they may fimnd it easier to stick with whatever specification and text choices they have been preparing for.
However, if you are planning far enough in advance, you have lots of options! You will find that the choices in the GCSE English Literature exams are pretty much of a muchness, as they are determined by the UK government and are largely British writers. Shakespeare, for example, is compulsory. The IGCSE possibilities are more varied. The CAIE IGCSE for example usually has a good range of non-British writers in English and Shakespeare is not compulsory.
Many children like to choose texts they already know and are fond of. This might be an advantage, but not always. Studying a text you love can sometimes kill your enthusiasm for it! Or, it may have the opposite effect and deepen the affection.
English Literature Specifications
The most popular options for home-educated students have traditionally been CAIE IGCSE English Literature and Edexcel IGCSE English Literature. However, since the new GCSEs were created, there is now a wider choice of Literature exams which home educated students can take. The GCSEs in English Literature available to external candidates include those from all major exam boards - AQA, OCR, Pearson Edexcel, etc. They are all graded 9-1. It should be noted that the GCSE courses are all strikingly similar in approach because they are controlled by the UK government. The IGCSEs are rather different, particularly the Cambridge (CAIE) one. One disadvantage of the CAIE exam is that the specification and component choices can seem complex. Do ask for help in the HE Exams Group or the English Exams group, if you are not sure about anything.
CAIE IGCSE English Literature
Cambridge Assessments and International Examinations - CAIE, offer 2 IGCSEs in English Literature from 2020. The difference is in the grading, 0992 being 9-1 and 0475 being A*-G, otherwise the syllabus is identical. There is no difference apart from the type of grading, but you must specify which you want when making your entries.
- Exams from: 2020
- Available in Autumn and Summer series
- Specification code: 0992 (9-1) or 0475 (A*- G)
0992 was new in 2020, 0475 was also new in 2020 but replaced the previous specification 0486. The only change was name and code.
CAIE say this about the 0475 spec: 'This syllabus replaces Cambridge IGCSE Literature (English) (0486) from 2020 onwards. The only change is the title and the syllabus code. Past papers and other resources for Cambridge IGCSE Literature (English) (0486) are still largely applicable for teaching Cambridge IGCSE Literature in English (0475)'.
'Learners develop an understanding of literal meaning, relevant contexts and of the deeper themes or attitudes that may be expressed. Through their studies, they learn to recognise and appreciate the ways in which writers use English to achieve a range of effects, and will be able to present an informed, personal response to the material they have studied.'
The questions in this exam vary little from year to year. Generally speaking, there are 4 essays to write over the course of 2 exam papers. You can opt for 1 poetry anthology (15 poems), two plays and one prose text (novel or short story anthology), but an 'Unseen' question is possible in place of one of the plays.
Cambridge IGCSE Literature in English (Cambridge International IGCSE)] by Russell Carey
Complete English Literature for Cambridge IGCSE®] by Mark Pedroz
Either of the above textbooks are essential for learning correct exam technique. However, they are not 'notes' on the texts to be studied. The student will need copies of each of the texts to be studied.
Edexcel International GCSE English Literature
- Exams from: June 2018
- Available in June and January (until 2023) and November (from 2023)
- Specification code: 4ET1
Component 1 - Poetry and Modern Prose
Students study a set of poems from Part 3 of the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE English Anthology, they will also need to apply their knowledge of poetic form, content and meaning to unseen poetry.
Students also study one text from a choice of 5 modern prose texts (choices are listed in the specification)
Component 2 - Modern Drama and Literary Heritage Texts
Students will study two set texts for this component: one of the modern drama set texts (choice of 5) and one of the literary heritage set texts (choice from 3 Shakespeare plays and 3 novels). The full list of set texts are listed in the specification.
100% exam based option.
- Paper 1 - Poetry and Modern Prose - 2hrs - 90 marks - 60%
- Section A – Unseen Poetry: one 20-mark essay question exploring the meaning and effects created in an unseen poem. The poem will be reproduced in the question paper.
- Section B – Anthology Poetry: one 30-mark essay question from a choice of two, comparing two poems from Part 3 of the Pearson Edexcel International GCSE English Anthology.
- Section C – Modern Prose: one 40-mark essay question from a choice of two on each of the set texts.
- Closed book: texts are not allowed to be taken in the examination. Students will be provided with the anthology poems in the examination.
- Paper 2 - Modern Drama and Literary Heritage Texts - 1hr 30 minutes - 60 marks - 40%
- Section A – Modern Drama: one 30-mark essay question from a choice of two on each of the set texts.
- Section B – Literary Heritage Texts: one 30-mark essay question from a choice of two on each of the set texts.
- Open book: prescribed editions of set texts are allowed in the examination. Check with exam centre who needs to provide the texts
There is also a coursework option where students sit paper 1 and complete coursework instead of paper 2. This is an option than is not usually available to home educators as it requires working with a tutor affiliated to your exam centre to complete, mark and moderate the coursework.
The specification lists the set texts and the prescribed editions for the exam.
The Edexcel Anthology for International GCSE English Language A and International GCSE English Literature is provided for use throughout the course and in the examination. The latest edition is under Teaching and Learning materials on the specification page but locked. If you have a relationship with an exam centre they may send you a copy, if not contact Pearson on firstname.lastname@example.org saying you are home educating and they should send you a copy. If you have trouble accessing a copy ask on the Facebook group: Home Education UK Exams & Alternatives or the English Language and Literature IGCSEs for Home Educators' Facebook group.
The Teaching and Learning materials on the specification page has lesson plans, mapping documents, exemplars, past training and getting started guides which are really helpful.
The English Language and Literature IGCSEs for Home Educators' Facebook group has advice and resources.
Edexcel GCSE English Literature(1ETO)
This exam has two papers, sat in May/June. Pearson does not publish a textbook specific to this course but has quite a lot of materials on its website to help students and teachers.
Component 1: Shakespeare and Post-1914 Literature
Component 2: 19th-century Novel and Poetry since 1789
Find the specification (syllabus) here. Edexcel/Pearson's GCSE English Literature
OCR GCSE English Literature (J352)
OCR English Literature information There are 2 x 2 hour papers.
Component 1 Exploring modern and literary heritage texts (01)
Component 2 Exploring poetry and Shakespeare (02)
Poetry Anthology order form.
AQA GCSE English Literature (8702)
The specification may be found here. There are two papers. 1 x 1hr 45mins and 1 x 2hrs 15 mins. There does not seem to be a single comprehensive textbook available.
Component 1: Shakespeare and the 19th-century novel
Component 2: Modern texts and poetry
WJEC Eduqas GCSE English Literature (C720QS)
The specification may be found here There are 2 papers. 1 x 2 hrs and 1X2hrs 30 mins.
Component 1: Shakespeare and Poetry
Component 2: Post 1914 Prose/Drama, C19th Prose and Unseen Poetry
WJEC Eduqas GCSE English Literature: Student Book (WJEC GCSE English) : Graham, Margaret: Amazon.co.uk: Books
Resources and Support
For support from other parents whose children have studied, or are studying English Literature, there is a dedicated Facebook group. English Language and Literature IGCSE for UK Home Educators
Poetry Study Journal for GCSE/ International GCSE English Literature: A place to record your ideas and observations "A guided journal to help you study the poetry for your GCSE/ International GCSE Literature exam" Written by home educator and English tutor, Dorothy Murphy.
Short Story Study Journal for GCSE/ International GCSE Literature: A place to record your ideas and observations "A guided journal to help you study the short stories for your GCSE/ International GCSE Literature exam." Written by home educator and English tutor, Dorothy Murphy
Many home-educated students study this subject successfully using just the textbook and free online resources, but some find a distance learning course suits their family better, or want to use a tutor occasionally for marking essays or past papers. Course providers can be found on the Distance Learning Providers page.
See also: English Language