AQA GCSE English Literature Exams from 2015 video transcript

All awarding organisations were asked to make sure that our English Literature specification has: 

  • coverage of six texts 
  • full text study (including in controlled assessment) 
  • coverage of three full English Literary Heritage texts 
  • coverage of assessment objectives 

It was necessary to draw specific attention to the fact that in preparation for unseen, candidates are required to study a ‘text’ (fifteen) poems. This enabled us to demonstrate that six ‘texts’ are studied in preparation for GCSE English Literature.

Therefore the change to Unit 2B is:

  • The question on the unseen poem remains the same, but the unseen poem will come from a list of 15 named poets. 
  • The type of question will remain consistent with those set on unseen poems since June 2011.
  • The level of challenge will be exactly the same as in the previous series. There is no change at all.
  • The only difference is that the unseen poem will now be taken from the work of one of the 15 poets from the list. 

Named poets for Unit 2 Section B:

  • William Blake
  • John Keats 
  • Thomas Hardy 
  • Christina Rossetti 
  • W. H. Auden 
  • Robert Frost 
  • Wilfred Owen 
  • Dorothy Parker 
  • Maya Angelou 
  • Wendy Cope 
  • Tony Harrison 
  • Jo Shapcott 
  • Sophie Hannah 
  • Owen Sheers 
  • Brian Patten 

The Ofqual requirement that six texts are studied for GCSE English Literature necessitated the provision of a ‘text’ (fifteen poems) to support your preparation for unseen. However, if you already have poems that work well with your students, you might want to continue to use these instead. We know that teachers spend a lot of time finding poems to help prepare students for unseen and this new text is in no way intended to replace material you already have.

We have developed a resource, which can be downloaded from e-AQA, to help prepare students for responding to the unseen poem. Lesson plans focus on developing skills that can be transferred across any poem. You might want to use some of these lesson plans with the poems suggested, or perhaps adapt them to use with the poems you already use as unseen preparation.

The poems used in the resource will not appear as an unseen poem on the examination.  However, the unseen poem will be by one of the poets in the resource. This DOES NOT MEAN you have to study lots and lots of poems by that poet in order to prepare your students for unseen. ‘The work of Robert Frost’ is not assessed at all.

How to use the resource

The resource has been developed to support the two Assessment Objectives assessed in Unit 2 Section B:

AO1 – respond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual detail to illustrate and support interpretations. 

AO2 – explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings. 

The overall aim of the resource is to offer a range of strategies which may support you in preparing your students to respond to an unseen poem under examination conditions. 

The poems have been selected because each of them provides a way into an aspect of poetry study. When taken together, they could constitute a study of the variety of ways in which poets present their ideas. However, other poems could do just as well.

The lesson plans within the resource could be used:

  • holistically, to introduce the study of poetry for GCSE
  • to add additional lessons to your departmental schemes of work for Unit 2 Section A
  • to develop skills in one particular area of poetry study
  • to practise responding to unseen poetry.

The resource is organised into a sequence of ten lessons. 

Each lesson uses one or more of the fifteen poems in the resource to exemplify the skills being developed.

However, this does in no way preclude teachers from substituting other poems by these fifteen poets as appropriate and relevant for their students.

Taken as a whole, the ten lessons consider the range of skills and approaches that students might find useful when approaching any unseen poem. 

Therefore, using the resource holistically may be a useful starting point to studying poetry at GCSE.

To add additional lessons to your departmental schemes of work for Unit 2 Section A

Each lesson in the resource is designed to develop AO1 and AO2.

In other words, each lesson will focus on ideas and meanings, linked to writers’ techniques and purpose. 

AO1 and AO2 are also assessed in Unit 2 Section A.

Therefore, using the resource to add additional lessons and / or activities to your preparation for Unit 2 Section A may highlight the transferable nature of the skills your students are learning to demonstrate.

To develop skills in one particular area of poetry study

Some of the lessons in the resource focus on reading strategies. However, some are targeted towards particular aspects of reading poetry, such as: 

  • the significance of titles (Lesson 2 )
  • unpicking layers of meaning (Lesson 3)
  • poets’ use of imagery (Lesson 4 )
  • poets’ use of structure  (Lesson 6 )

Therefore, you could use individual lessons as an introduction to a particular area of focus: Lesson 2 ‘Titles’ could be used as an introduction to the cluster being studied for Unit 2 Section A, for example. 

To practise responding to unseen poetry

Students need to be able to ‘respond’ to the unseen poem in the examination:

What do they think it means / is about?

What do they think are the ideas / themes / attitudes / feelings in the poem?

How has the poet’s use of language, or structure, or form, contributed to their interpretation of the meanings?

Therefore, considering a range of different poems gives students more opportunities to ‘respond’ with confidence under examination conditions. 

In summary:

  • the  resource is not ‘extra’ work or extra curriculum time
  • it has been designed to augment / support your study of a text of poems in preparation for the unseen element of Unit 2
  • knowing all about the work of one of the poets in the resource is not going to be particularly beneficial to your students
  • the type of question, the level of challenge, and the type of poem used for unseen will remain the same as in previous series.