HE Exams Wiki

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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."

Choosing Texts

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 English Literature IGCSE (0475)

The specification most commonly taken by home-ed students is :

English Literature IGCSE This specification replaced 0486 in 2020.

Don't worry about the lack of past papers, as 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.

'☀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.'

Possible textbooks for CAIE Literature

Cambridge IGCSE Literature in English (Cambridge International IGCSE)] by Russell Carey

Complete English Literature for Cambridge IGCSE®] by Mark Pedroz

Both the above textbooks are essential for learning correct exam technique. However, they are not 'notes' on the texts to be studied. The student will also need a copy of each of those.

Edexcel IGCSE English Literature (4ET1)

The new specification graded 9-1 for exams from Summer 2018 is

Edexcel International GCSE English Literature (2016)

Past papers for Edexcel IGCSE / Certificate English Lit from Jan 2015

Dedicated textbooks for Edexcel IGCSE English Lit:

Edexcel IGCSE English Literature Student Book with ActiveBook CD

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

Poetry Supplement

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.

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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

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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 Return to Main_Page