Lydia Ridding, English Subject Advisor
Having taught OCR’s A Level in English Language and Literature for several years at Cirencester College, I am a huge fan of the specification and the opportunities it offers students. Keen to find out more about the learner’s experience, I interviewed Katelyn, an ex-student of mine who successfully completed the course in 2022.
Lydia Ridding (LR): What attracted you to the OCR English Literature and Language A Level? What made you enrol on the course?
Katelyn (K): I have loved storytelling and reading since I was a kid, so when it comes to choosing my studies, English has always been a bit of a no-brainer. But it was distinguishing whether it was Literature, Language, or the combined course I wanted to take that was the challenge. After seeking advice from a teacher on an open evening, Lang/Lit seemed like the best option. I liked how balanced the Lang/Lit A Level course seemed, not too much of one or the other: you can have the best of both.
LR: Did you have a favourite text or author from those we covered on the course? (We studied: The Great Gatsby, A Streetcar Named Desire, Songs of Innocence and Experience, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Anthology of non-fiction texts.)
K: I really enjoyed Gatsby, the story, and the author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing style really resonated with me, so it was arguably my favourite. But having said that, I think my biggest surprise from this course was how I really fell in love with non-fiction. I had previously dismissed non-fiction as boring, but the texts on this course really opened my eyes to a whole new genre. The anthology texts also really made an impression on me; whether it was a graphic novel or a Horrible Histories transcript, they have forever changed my perception of examples of the written and spoken mode in everyday life.
LR: What skills did you develop throughout the course?
K: Critical thinking, in a variety of ways. Now when I read a book, watch a play or even a film, I find myself really thinking about the meaning and the effect, with a depth that I perhaps didn’t before. I think I’ve also developed a more open mind to what I read – I’ll often step out of my comfort zone and pick from a wider variety of genres. Additionally, my essay structure really improved thanks to this course. That probably applies to any A Level across the board, but especially in English. I think you become highly aware of what you are writing, and that sharpens up the quality.
LR: How important do you think English is as a subject? Why should people study it?
K: It is incredibly important! It broadens your imagination, creativity, critical thinking and empathy, through what you read and the discussions you have about them. It prompts you to ask difficult questions and challenge yourself. Honestly, I could go on forever, but there is no mistaking that English is an incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling subject.
LR: Would you recommend the OCR English Language and Literature A Level to other students?
K: Absolutely. This course is a perfect middle ground for people who want the best of both sides of English. If you are intimidated by lots of reading or very in-depth linguistics, the Lang/Lit course balances them really nicely. In my opinion, I felt like the course managed to touch on “everything” to some extent – novels, plays, poetry, non-fiction (memoirs and the anthology texts). I always went to every lesson excited for what we would be learning that day.
LR: What was the last book you read?
K: Recently I have been trying to tackle more classic novels, most recently Emma by Jane Austen. I really enjoy the work of Austen’s that I have read, but I am also trying to step out of my comfort zone: I am currently giving Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights a go (the two books are quite different, as you can imagine!).
LR: What did you do when you left college?
K: I took a gap year, and just used the time to really explore what it is like living outside of a timetabled school year. It has been very liberating, and I like to think it has helped me mature as a person.
LR: What are your future career/study plans? How will your English A Level qualification help to support you?
K: After the end of my current gap year, I will be studying English Literature at university. As for careers, I am currently quite open-minded, as long as I am able to incorporate some of my interests into it and be creative. For a really long time, I’ve loved the idea of going into filmmaking or writing (perhaps a combination of both), but I am also keen to explore other options for careers.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_English. You can also sign up to subject updates to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates and resources.
Prior to joining OCR in June 2023, Lydia spent 20 years working in a range of sixth form colleges across the country, teaching A Level and GCSE qualifications in English. She was a coursework moderator with OCR for a number of years and has an MA in Victorian Studies from Birkbeck University.