Changes to 2021 exams for GCSE English Literature

Thursday 10 Sep 2020

Update Tuesday 15 Sep 2020: Ofqual has approved our revised changes to GCSE English Literature for summer 2021. Read about these revised changes.

Changes to 2021 exams for GCSE English Literature

We’ve been working hard to make the relevant changes to our qualifications following Ofqual’s decisions on 2021 exams, so here are the changes you need to know for summer 2021.

Ofqual has decided that GCSE English Literature exams next summer will have reduced subject content. This means that, in summer 2021, students entering for our GCSE English Literature (8702) exams will only have to answer questions on three out of four content areas.

The compulsory topics for all students will be Shakespeare and Poetry (both anthology and unseen). Students will then answer a question on one of the remaining two content areas, choosing between:

  • Option A - 19th-century novel

or

  • Option B - Modern text.

The paper structure is shown below. You'll need to let us know whether your students are choosing Option A or Option B for Paper 1 when you make your entries. This is so we can make sure we've got the right examiners in place.

2021 AQA GCSE English Literature (8702) structure

Option A - 19th-century novel

Paper 1 (1 hour 45)

Paper 2 (1 hour 45)

Section A – compulsory core

Shakespeare 
30 marks + 4 marks (AO4)

Section B 

19th-century novel 
30 marks

Total marks = 64

Section A – compulsory core

Poetry anthology 
30 marks + 4 marks (AO4) 

Section B – compulsory core

Unseen poetry
32 marks 

Total marks = 66

Option B - Modern text

Paper 1 (1 hour 45)

Paper 2 (1 hour 45)

Section A – compulsory core

Shakespeare 
30 marks + 4 marks (AO4)

Section B 

Modern text 
30 marks 

Total marks = 64

Section A – compulsory core

Poetry anthology 
30 marks + 4 marks (AO4) 

Section B – compulsory core

Unseen poetry
32 marks 

Total marks = 66

There are no planned changes to the style and format of our GCSE English Literature questions and assessment criteria. This means students will be asked to complete the same task types and display the same skills as usual.

We know that you’ll want to know more about these changes for next summer. We’ll keep in touch with latest updates and provide further guidance about the summer 2021 exams in due course.

Ofqual has decided there will not be any changes to AS or A-level English specifications and so our AS and A-level specifications remain the same.

If you have any further questions, please contact our customer services team english-gcse@aqa.org.uk or call 0161 953 7504.