Specifications that use this resource:

Specification comparison

This document has been created by AQA to help you compare specifications for first teaching from September 2015. Information is correct as of June 2015. Version 1.0.

My vision for AQA English, both at A-level and GCSE is for AQA English to be accessible and enabling for every student. This will see us offer:

  • a suite of qualifications that develop progression through KS3 through to KS5 so that there really will be something for everyone
  • individual specifications designed to offer stimulating and engaging learning experiences so that every student, no matter what their ability, will be able to achieve and succeed
  • a comprehensive set of resources to support high quality provision and inspire outstanding teaching and learning
  • a unified and unrivalled national network of advocate schools and subject advisers.

Sitting alongside this vision and commitment to you, are some equally important principles that we are determined to retain. They are part of our identity and what makes AQA English the quality experience that we believe it to be. In the way that all of our new specifications have been designed, I feel confident that you will be able to see how we have:

  • considered the subject criteria and regulatory requirements, and have done all that we can to interpret them in creative and engaging ways
  • ensured that our new specifications continue to honour our commitment to high quality, robust and credible assessments
  • shown pride in our heritage as the leading provider for English assessments and have worked in close partnership with a range of schools and subject stakeholders to develop new specifications that will inspire teachers to teach them, and motivate learners of all abilities to achieve through them
  • recognised that in today’s school curriculum, English is a high stakes subject and will do all that we can to support you through the introduction of the new specifications and the first series of assessments
  • maintained our tradition for doing the right things well and for the right reasons, making sure that we base all our design principles on what is best practice for the subject.

Assessment structure





Paper 1: Explorations in creative reading and writing

  • 1 hour 45 mins written exam.
  • 80 marks.
  • 50% of GCSE.

Section A: Reading

  • One extract from C20th or C21st Literature text
  • 1 short form question
  • 2 longer form questions
  • 1 extended response question

Section B: Writing

  • One extended creative writing response to a visual stimulus or scenario
  • Candidates choose one from two tasks

Students will be assessed over a 3½ hour period split equally across two papers, giving them time to express their true abilities

Simple structure through equal weighting of papers and mark allocation.


Paper 2: Writers’ viewpoints and perspectives

  • 1 hour 45 mins written exam.
  • 80 marks.
  • 50% of GCSE.

Section A: Reading

  • Two extracts from literary non-fiction and non-fiction from C19th, and either C20th or C21st depending on the time period in Paper 1
  • 1 short form question
  • 2 longer form questions
  • 1 extended response question

Section B: Writing

  • 1 extended writing response in which students write about their own viewpoint.

Design principles which aim to take students on an assessment journey through the question structure.

This is designed to build confidence in students at the start of the assessment with more familiar and accessible questions, before leading gradually to more challenging and extended response questions at the end.


Distinct identity and approach to the reading task in each paper

  • Paper one will assess a literature fiction text to develop reading skills
  • Paper two will assess a non-fiction and literary non-fiction text in order to focus on writers' attitudes and viewpoints.

A consistent approach to what is assessed and how we will assess it means students can prepare with confidence for the assessment ahead.

  • Paper one will focus on a single text, to act as a lead-in to the series.
  • Paper two builds on this with two linked texts on the same topic. The focus will simply be on what the texts are about and how they are written and won’t require any prior knowledge or understanding outside of this.

Ensuring that we meet the requirement of the subject criteria to use ‘high quality’ texts whilst ensuring that students of all abilities are supported.


Combining reading and writing in both papers:

  • Paper one’s creative text leads to a creative writing task
  • Paper two’s texts lead to the students writing about their own views on that topic.

The reading sources act as a bridge to each specific writing task, supporting students in their own writing.


Resources and Support





Support with planning

  • Summary of changes to see what’s new, what’s changed and what stays the same.
  • Outline teaching plans to help you prepare your course.
  • Teacher case studies to show how other teachers like you are planning to teach the course.
  • Launch meetings starting in June 2014.
  • Preparing to teach meetings in 2015.

Material to help you plan your teaching with confidence.

Free face to face or online meetings to fit in with your schedule.

All free.


Resources to support your teaching

  • AQA’s online digital specification – an innovative approach to integrating our specification and resources giving you access to free, high quality, relevant resources when you need them.
  • Our popular digital anthology which is being updated to include GCSE English Language and A-level resources.
  • Extra resources to support areas which are new or have changed:
    • helping with reading 19th century texts
    • supporting students in key stage 3 with 19th century texts
    • the interpretation of context in literature
    • spoken language.

Helping you teach with confidence, with particular support for new areas of the specification.

All free.


Preparing for assessment

  • Specimen question papers and mark schemes
  • Additional sample questions
  • Student answers and examiner commentaries to help you understand what examiners are looking for

Helps you to understand what examiners are looking for.

Additional papers will help you understand how papers will have a consistent approach over time and can be used for mock exams.

All free.


Reviewing results

  • Enhanced Results Analysis, offers instant exam results analysis by school, subject, classes, groups and individual students.

Helps you analyse your students’ results and plan for improvement.

All free.


Personal contact

  • Network of subject advisers and advocate schools.
  • Direct access to English subject team.
  • Frequent email bulletins with an up-to-date website.

Access to the largest network of English teachers allowing you to share ideas and best practice.

You can always get through to a subject expert when you need to.

We keep you up to date with developments.

All free.

  • Teachit online resources developed by teachers for teachers.
  • Textbooks by Collins, Cambridge and OUP will be producing AQA textbooks with supporting digital resources.

Comprehensive teaching resource matched to the specification available to buy if you don’t have time to create your own or want additional material.


CPD and teacher support

  • Comprehensive range of high quality training delivered in school, online or at a face to face event.

Help to develop subject expertise and career advancement delivered by AQA’s team of expert trainers.