A level English- what sort of brain do you need?

(21 Posts)
racingheart Thu 27-Dec-12 22:49:00

A lot of the skills are the same. I suppose with English Lit, the difference is, on top of having a very analytical brain you also need to be a confident independent thinker - able to put forward and back up an original argument. In history you can always rely on facts to do this. In Eng Lit, it is your own opinion which is persuasive or not, dependent on how well you use language to convince your reader, and how well you are able to critically analyse a text in the first place.

I also agree with Donnie that there's a lot of background reading. (Though that's true of history too. That's a heavy workload.) If you're studying one Shakespearean tragedy you really should read all four. For Clockwork Orange it would help to have read other dystopias which were contemporary with Burgess (1984 maybe) and for Brighton Rock some other Graham Greene, especially his letters, as well as some seminal literary crime writing, like Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

It's funny. I loved deconstructing texts to find out how they worked, like biologists dissect in the lab, but lots of people find it deadly. It's a shame. It should add to the appreciation, not deaden it, if it's taught well.

I agree with you - English is sooo much easier than history. But maybe it's only easier if you get it. There is a knack that almost can't be taught, just as maths is easier for people who have an in built facility with numbers.

LettyAshton Thu 27-Dec-12 15:38:03

I was under the impression that English Language is not on the approved list for good universities, so, therefore, must be easier than English Literature. (Scratches head as no English Language A Level in my day.)

losingtrust Sun 23-Dec-12 10:25:45

I did English and History A levels plus another language and my worst grade was English despite the fact I got an A in the O'Level but quite frankly the main reason was that I found it really tedious. We did Chaucer which was just awful. History I really enjoyed and the English skills really helped with that and the language which was also literature based but I just preferred the German books that we did to the English ones.

seeker Sun 23-Dec-12 06:15:39

Pantofino as I said, I'm not worried. Just interested. In my head, English Literature is SOOOO much easier than History, obviously dd is wired differently!

Yellowtip Sun 23-Dec-12 01:11:23

DD3 got 100% in her A level English Lit: very capable at analysis, very semantic, creative and imaginative too.

The only other student to score 100% at her school since her was in the next year down and had a remarkably similar mind (happened to be the best friend of DS1).

MsElleTow Sat 22-Dec-12 22:34:12

DS1 is doing A level English Lang & Lit(it's a one A level course) and A level History ATM. He got 100% in History GCSE, A* in both English Lit and Language and A's in both subjects at AS.

He has been on the G&T register for English since he was in a junior school.

He has found the English course hard. It is a lot of work. He doesn't particularly enjoy it any more, TBH. He was going to do English and History at Uni, but is now looking at just History. The teacher isn't very good though so that could be part of the problem!

Pantofino Sat 22-Dec-12 22:27:58

Why would you be worried about it? It is her doing it -not you.

pointysettia Sat 22-Dec-12 22:25:01

I did the Cement Garden for the Dutch equivalent at A-level (though this was English as MFL, obviously) and we were expected to dissect it in a lot of detail. And that was with us not having English as a first language. I think you need to read not just the text but a lot of secondary material analysing the text - which is what I'd expect at A-level, really. When I did my Dutch A-level we were certainly expected to research and analyse for background, context and meaning.

donnie Sat 22-Dec-12 14:40:09

manic - I can assure you that it takes more than an ability to "waffle eloquently, give opinions and learn quotes". Or are you, like me, also an A level marker for EDEXCEL?

Muminwestlondon Sat 22-Dec-12 13:23:50

Some interesting comments....just to add mine!

My DD is predicted an A at AS English. She is not particularly widely read though she does have a lot of hobbies and interests. History was her weakest subject at GCSE (though she got an A), though she is taking Classical Civilisation for A level in which she is also predicted an A (plus two sciences).

I think you need an analytical mind, to dissect the text and all it's meanings. I was also good at English and work in a profession where analytical skills are quite important

OP, is it the teaching do you think?

manicinsomniac Sat 22-Dec-12 10:35:09

It depends it it's language or literature?

I did both history and English Lit and found history much tougher going at first. They are both analytical but if you can waffle eloquently, give opinions and learn quotes then you'll do well at English whereas in History they analysis has to be that much more precise and is therefore more learnable. I can well imagine that an intelligent person with a logical brain who learns methods and can reason well would do better at History than English.

seeker Sat 22-Dec-12 09:33:25

That's interesting, vj32- they're doing Brighton Rock and A Clockwork Orange at the moment, and her nicely brought up sheltered eyes have been on stalks!

vj32 Fri 21-Dec-12 15:01:52

I think you need maturity for some English texts, that you don't need in history in the same way. One of the texts that we did at A Level was The Child in Time by Ian McEwan, which was taught in the most tedious way by a woman who thought she was an actress. But anyway... its about a man who has lost his son (disappeared) and is grieving, and then his relationship with his wife. While I hated it at the time, especially the fact that we were told on every other page there was a 'sexual metaphor', I think I also just didn't engage with the book. It was a bad choice really, especially as I also read the Cement Garden, death and incest. Lovely.

wontwearsocks Fri 21-Dec-12 10:43:30

I would look at it the other way. I think the fact that she is studying English, reads widely etc is having a knock on effect with her History grade.

I am not in the UK so not familiar with course content but if she has a lot of essay type work in History then the skills she has learned through English will help.

In History it is important to know the facts and be able to analyse but you also have to be able to present your argument fluently and coherently.

Theas18 Fri 21-Dec-12 10:40:26

An analytical actually quite scientific approach is ideal I think. DD1 did english to AS and dropped it, not because she wasn't doing well etc but because if made her miserable- you have to dissect the texts in such detail if sucked the joy out of it for her.

seeker Fri 21-Dec-12 10:28:37

I know- I would have thought all the analytical skills people use in history would also apply to English.

Just seems odd, that's all. Interesting to see what happens when she's next assessed.

castlesintheair Thu 20-Dec-12 18:18:36

An analytical mind helps a lot. Plus the staying power to read widely around the set texts.

donnie Thu 20-Dec-12 18:08:45

clArity, of course!

donnie Thu 20-Dec-12 18:07:57

A Level Language is quite hard IMO: you need to understand language in very specific and detailed ways and be able to closely scrutinise pieces of text according to a myriad of criteria. It is really interesting though, with components like 'language and power' and 'language and gender' (that's AQA, EDEXCEL v similar. Most lang students find it pretty challenging - but rewarding.
Lit really does need wider reading in order to be able to make full sense of text/genre and to get to gripw with all the AOs, especially context and other interpretations.(AOs 3 and 4). I have taught v v clever students who just cannot get those top grades because they are not prepared to read beyond what the immediate syllabus requires. Lit A level also - and it was ever thus - requires a certain fluency and clerity of written expression, and as we all know, the more you read, the better you write.
The other A levels, esp theatre studies, will be useful.

I remember lots of conversations with you about books when our dds were younger, Seeker. I think with a GCSE at B English Lit would be fine, although certainly not a walk in the park. I'd probably steer clear of Lang. Tbh I'm surprised that she's predicted A/A* for History but not for English - any particular reason?

seeker Thu 20-Dec-12 17:57:39

Interested because dd is an A*/A student for history, philosophy and threatre studies and a most definite B for English. She enjoys all her subjects and works hard- and I would have thought that they all take the same sort of skills?
What do people think? I'm not worried about it, I'm just interested.

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