- The Importance of Languages
- Be Kind to Yourself With Exams
- Literature, Wisdom and Emotional Intelligence
- Differences Between Spoken & Written English
- How to Read for A Level English
Most A-level students probably spend more time on the internet than I do, which is no mean feat given that I’m also a Millennial (just). But nevertheless, here are a few useful resources for A-level English that might be helpful. It’s an incomplete and subjective list, but it’s hopefully wide-ranging enough to be useful.
1) Exam board websites
Yes, I know, it’s a sickeningly obvious place to start. But it’s also a really good one. Look at your exam board’s materials - specifications, mark schemes, assessment objectives, all that jazz. That’ll tell you what you’re meant to be demonstrating and (hopefully) how, as well as recent exam feedback, learning resources, sample materials and more. Don’t lose yourself in it, but it’s worthwhile looking at what you’re trying to achieve – and running difficult bits past your tutor or teacher – especially if you’re feeling lost or gunning for the higher grades.
2) British Library website
The BL website itself is a godsend, with their catalogues and blogs being a goldmine of various unconsidered trifles. However, what I would particularly point you towards is the English and Drama blog (which has articles on Jean Rhys, Angela Carter, crime literature, Shelley, Shakespeare and the Gothic to name but a few) and the Learning section, under the Discover tab, which contains many and varied materials and essays on Shakespeare, Romantics and Victorians (including the Gothic for anyone doing AQA), 20th century literature (including Woolf, Carter, crime writing, Auden, Plath, and a diverse range of modern authors), accents and dialects, World War One, Playtimes (children’s games and rhymes, mostly useful for language analysis), Sisterhood (the women’s movement), and Timelines (showing you key items in the Library collections from a particular period). Foremost scholars like John Mullan, Emma Smith, Carole Levin and Lisa Picard, plus popular figures like actor/writer Simon Callow and novelist Zadie Smith, talk about particular texts, themes or literary movements, often in specific reference to set texts. If you go to the Articles tab, articles are sorted by theme, author and text, and there is also a search facility. The Themes tab enables you to search thematically and pick out patterns over time; the People and Works tabs do exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a great resource, especially for areas like the Gothic or crime writing or particular authors or texts, and the essays are noticeably readable and interesting.
JSTOR is ‘a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources’ (and unfortunately its articles are not necessarily readable in the same way!) You’ll need access through your school, but many of my A-level students’ schools have institutional logins so they can access the goods. Essentially, you just type your topic of interest into the box and publications on that topic appear. It’s not an exac t science, and it’s occasionally difficult to sort your results, but it’s often a very good source of critical quotes for coursework titles and other such joys, or critical works on a particular text. I wouldn’t get bogged down in it unless you are either super enthusiastic or super ambitious – a lot of stuff on there is going to be more advanced than your writing needs to be, which is a saving grace on occasion.
4) Google Scholar
This basically does pretty much the same thing JSTOR does but you don’t need a subscription. Its results are sometimes more haphazard, but you can still find some good stuff. Just typing in the name of your set text should bring up a smorgasbord of related articles and books, and it’s fairly easy to scan through titles and get hold of the themes or terms you’re after.
5) Victorian Web
This is a great place for all things nineteeth century, including Gothic fiction and particular authors. Its design is firmly stuck in the late 90s and there isn’t a search facility, but its thematic sections are easy to navigate and very comprehensive, and you can find detailed information on a wide range of texts and historical topics.
6) The Globe
If you’re studying Shakespeare, the Globe’s website has some great factsheets about the realities of early modern theatre as well as information about their recent productions.
I hope this is helpful! If you feel I've left out anything obvious, please feel free to comment/get in touch.