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How to Make a Strong Application for an English Literature degree. What qualifications will I need ?. English is one of the most competitive and popular university subjects so you will need to achieve AAA or AAB or equivalent in most cases although you will find lower offers

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what qualifications will i need
What qualifications will I need ?
  • English is one of the most competitive and popular university subjects so you will need to achieve AAA or AAB or equivalent in most cases although you will find lower offers
  • Check whether or not you need a fourth AS level
  • Check with your teachers to find out your predicted grades. Make sure they are good enough to meet likely offers
  • Offers will be made on the basis of your predicted grades NOT on what you think you can get at the end of the course
  • Check the ‘Course Specific Requirements’ on the Entry Profile for each course on the UCAS website
apart from english literature there are other course options such as
Apart from English Literature there are other course options such as.....

American Literature Classical Literature Colonial Literature Comparative Literature English Literature European Literature German Literature Italian Literature Latin American Literature Latin Literature Literature Studies Medieval Literature Modern Literature Scottish Literature United State Literature Welsh Literature

Applied English Studies Contemporary English Contemporary English Language Studies Contemporary English Studies English Drama English Language English Linguistics Studies English Literature English Studies Modern English Language Modern English Studies Teaching English

check the content of each course carefully
Check the content of each course carefully
  • Make sure the course is right for you
  • Beware!! Courses with same title in different universities can be very different in terms of their content.
  • Look at what you will do in all three years of the course
  • Check on course options offered in each year
  • Do the course assessment methods suit you ?
look at entry profiles on ucas website
Look at Entry Profiles on UCAS website
  • Use ‘course search’ on UCAS APPLY
  • Choose a course at a university
  • Look at ‘entry profile’ for English for that course
personal qualities are you the kind of person who
Personal qualities: are you the kind of person who........
  • Opens a book with a thrill of anticipation?
  • Is prepared to persevere with a book?
  • Is excited by a fine production of a play or newly published novel
  • Is fascinated by something you have read and wants to read more by the same author?
  • Who wants to extend your knowledge of past and present literature?
personal qualities have you ever wondered
Personal qualities: have you ever wondered......
  • Why advertisements are so effective?
  • Why politicians are economical with the truth?
  • Whether British English is under threat from Americanisation
  • Why there is so much variation in the pronunciation of British English and apparently so little in Australian English?
alumni profiles
Alumni profiles

I chose to read English because the course offered Language as well as Literature, and ran the gamut from works like The Dream of the Rood and Beowulf to 19th century American literature, Lennon as a poet and modern drama. We English students used to be teased by engineers or medics who had many more hours of tutorials, but that's where our self-discipline had to kick in and we had to spend many solitary hours pouring over tomes of literary criticism in the library. I have to admit though, we were lucky enough to benefit from a reading week once a term and at the end of the first year, this meant a trip to Stratford-on-Avon to immerse ourselves in the works of Shakespeare, the resources of the unique Shakespeare Institute and the delights of the RSC

what overall qualities will selectors be looking for
What overall qualities will selectors be looking for ?
  • High predicted grades of at least AAB for the most competitive course
  • An interest in reading
  • Enthusiasm for literature
  • Curiosity about language
  • A willingness to be challenged and to engage in debate
what will i cover on a typical course
What will I cover on a typical course?
  • Works from all periods of literature from the middle ages to the present day
  • You will probably have the chance to specialise in areas that interest you
  • How to read and analyse texts
  • The historical background to different texts
  • Place texts within a tradition such as dramatic tragedy or a historical tradition
Read critical, historical and theoretical works about the text you are reading
  • The opportunity for class discussion as well as lectures about the texts
research universities and courses at open days
Research universities and courses at open days
  • Book early
  • Watch out for subject specific open days
  • Don’t go to too many!


website to:

  • Search
  • Access open days calendar
  • Book for many of them
  • Get advice
  • Subscribe to newsletter
open days calendar
Open days calendar

Useful article at:

why study english website
Why study English website

A very useful website!!!

find out about the history of the subject
Find out about the history of the subject
  • Look on Wikipedia for a short history of English Literature
  • If you want to dig deeper try:
  • Out in October 2010:

English Literature a Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Bate, Oxford University Press

think about the contemporary relevance of the subject
Think about the contemporary relevance of the subject

Develop your own ideas on the following:

  • Why English is worth studying
  • What it offers the individual
  • Whether or not it helps to understand how humans behave and if so how
  • What benefits it has to offer society
  • Whether it is worth studying for its own sake whether or not it benefits society
  • Read more texts by authors you are studying: novels plays and poetry
  • Explore new authors
  • Read authors from different historical periods
  • Good suggested reading on University College London website:

go to the theatre
Go to the theatre!!
  • If you have a local theatre that puts on serious plays rather than West end Musicals go regularly eg Bristol Old Vic, Birmingham Rep, Liverpool Everyman
  • Go to the National Theatre, Royal Court, Almeida, Tricycle or Old Vic theatres in London
  • Go to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford
website for author interviews hay festival
Website for author interviews: Hay Festival

£25 annual subscription

One hour downloadable interviews and

lectures from last 10 years with, for example:

Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Iain Banks, Doris Lessing, Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Attwood, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatjie and many others

use the poetry archive website
Use the Poetry Archive website
  • The Poetry Archive gives an opportunity to research and learn about poetry.
  • It has a range of resources specially designed to help students.
  • Alongside the recordings of poets reading their work there is background material which will help to understand the context of their work.
  • There are filmed interviews giving the inside story of the writing lives of poets.
  • The Archive is a gives an excellent opportunity to research and learn about poetry.
what should i put in my personal statement
What should I put in my Personal Statement?
  • Use the ‘Entry profiles’ for your courses on the UCAS website to give you pointers about skills you will need and what is being looked for by selectors.
  • Details about your reading, and reason for wanting to study English should dominate rather information about extra-curricular activities, gap year plans, etc.
  • 80% on English 20% on general interests
  • Concentrate on interests and experiences that are relevant to the course you are applying for
Do not list every book you have read.
  • Recent reading rather than childhood favourites
  • Explain what you especially admire, or find interesting, about particular books, plays or poems.
  • Remember, not all universities interview so the PS is all they may see BUT keep a copy in case you are interviewed
  • Don’t claim knowledge you don’t have or mention books you have not read, you will get caught out at interview
what to avoid in your personal statement
What to avoid in your Personal Statement?
  • Being pretentious and trying to hard to impress. Write clearly and concisely.
  • Being boastful
  • Poor written English
  • Following a formula
  • Plagiarism. You will get caught out
  • Writing in note form rather than continuous prose.
how not to write a personal statement according to southampton university
How not to write a Personal Statement according to Southampton University
  • ‘Good personal statements, unlike happy families, are not all alike’
  • ‘If you really want to interest admissions tutors you shouldn't work from existing 'model statements'.’
  • ‘Bad ones, on the other hand, have a lot of features in common.’
  • ‘Would you want to read several hundred versions of the following statement every year?’
'Renowned novelist William Makepeace Thackeray once said, "There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write." This statement is so true / I have adopted this as my inspirational mantra. I have a passion / thirst / lust for literature. Personally for me, the literature art form offers a release of feeling and great writers are often the most fascinating people of mankind. Studying English gives the opportunity to explore vast cultures within the literary world and to critically analyse the stylistic prose present in many brilliant works. I am an avid reader, ever since I was a little girl I have loved to curl up with my nose in a book. My reading spans from Dan Brown to Harry Potter, and I have a huge admiration for Jane Austin and Sylvia Plait. 
I have been intrigued / captivated / entranced / ensnared / enthralled / enamoured by my introduction to 'Cymberline' by the classic, highly influential and universally acclaimed Shakespeare who is undoubtedly my favourite play write, his plays show an incredible insight into human nature and I excitedly await the challenge of dissecting / delving into more than one work by him at University. My other A Levels greatly compliment my work in English. Here are two long paragraphs about all the things completely irrelevant to an English degree, that I have acheived while at school. I relish / savour the opportunity, to further hone my writing skills at your University for which I am a perfect / ideal candidate. This will stand me in good stead for the field of journalism of which I have long wanted to be a part of.'
what do they say is wrong with it
What do they say is wrong with it?
  • Weak introductory quotation
  • Stilted vocabulary
  • Cliche
  • Formulaic structure
  • Superfluous generalizations
  • Indications of limited reading insufficiently compensated for by effusiveness
  • Lack of focus on the subject
  • Immodest self-advertisement
  • Inadequate command of grammar, spelling and punctuation
the interview
The interview
  • Not all universities interview for English

so make your application a good one

  • They are usually looking for applicants who like to think and talk about the books they read.
  • You need to be able to listen to what is said, but also weigh up different arguments and interpretations of texts you have studied or read for yourself
  • Above all you need to show that you can think for yourself.
  • Remind yourself of the things you wrote about in your Personal Statement . They will probably ask you about this
  • Some universities may give you a short text to read before the interview and then ask you about it or ask you to write about it. Practice this before you go on interview
  • Here is an example from University College London:
Write a critical commentary on this complete poem, paying particular attention to language, structure and point of view. You should aim to spend about 40 minutes on your essay.

‘Golden Retrievals

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attentionseconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s—ohjoy—actually scared. Sniff the wind, then

I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue 5 of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?Either you're sunk in the past, half our walk,thinking of what you never can bring back,

or else you're off in some fog concerning—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work: 10 to unsnare time’s warp (and woof), retrieving,my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,

a Zen master's bronzy gong, calls you here,entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.

general questions
General questions
  • Tell me about yourself?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • Tell us about your current courses?
  • What are you best at?
  • What are your main interests?
  • Do you have any weaknesses

These are self awareness questions, so prepare by thinking about:

  • Your key personality characteristics
  • Your general and study interests
  • Try and be relevant and talk about those personality qualities and interests that match the course.
questions about your motivation for the course and the university
Questions about your motivation for the course and the university
  • Why do you want to study for a degree?
  • Why did you choose this course?
  • What do you think university can offer you?
  • What else, apart from study, interests you about

this university?

  • Why do you want to study at this university?
  • Why do you want to study in this town/city?
subject related questions
Subject related questions
  • Why do you want to study this subject?
  • What do you know about the course?
  • What attracts you to this course?
  • Are there particular aspects of the course

that attract you ? Why?

  • What have you read recently that is relevant to your interest in this course?
  • What experiences /work experience/ visits/ independent study have you done which is relevant to this course?
You may want to study the subject because:
  • You want to study it further and in more depth
  • It is a strong interest and/or your best subject
  • You will need it for your future career plans
  • That a particular university has a type of course that is suited to you
  • Or some other reasons of your own.
  • Use supporting evidence and examples where possible.
topical questions
Topical questions
  • Interviewers may ask your opinion on something topical, that is something in the news or related to your subject.
  • Prepare for the interview by looking in the media to see what is current
  • You can reading the national serious newspapers online or in hard copy and pick out current stories that seem linked to your subject.
  • Collect them in a folder and think about how you could respond to a question on these topics.
  • Watch TV documentaries related to the subject
two page options with your subject sheets
Two page ‘Options with Your Subject’ sheets
  • Skills the degree will give you
  • Job options related to your degree
  • Jobs for which your degree would be useful
  • Links to each of the jobs for further details
  • Career Areas chosen by those with your degree
  • Where are the jobs?
  • What next: other possibilities after your degree
examples of jobs directly related to an english degree
Examples of jobs directly related to an English degree
  • Teaching English Literature in a school or FE college
  • Teaching Literature in higher education
  • Primary school teacher
  • Teacher of English as a foreign language
  • Book editor
  • Publishing


examples of jobs where an english degree would be useful
Examples of jobs where an English degree would be useful
  • Advertising account executive
  • Advertising copywriter
  • Arts administrator
  • Librarian
  • Writer
  • Editorial assistant
  • Marketing executive
  • Journalist
  • Press officer
  • Public relations
what do graduates do with an english degree
What do graduates do with an English degree?

The HESA Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey

useful sources
Useful sources
  • Doing English – A Guide for Literature Students by Robert Eaglestone, 3rd ed., Taylor & Francis 2009, ISBN13: 9780415496742 
  • Starting an English Literature Degree by Andrew Green, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, ISBN13: 9780230211834
  • Studying English Literature by Tory Young, Cambridge University Press 2008, ISBN13: 9780521690140  
  • Get Set for English Literature by David Amigoni & Julie Saunders, Edinburgh University Press 2003, ISBN13: 9780748615377  
  • Studying the English Language by Rob Penhallurick, Palgrave 2003, ISBN13: 9780333727409