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  Chris Hawkes

Non-Examination Assessment: AQA A-Level English Literature Specification A (2015-on)


For the new specifications, coursework has been renamed "Non-Examination Assessment" - NEA - and only operates at A-Level (not AS). This is a cross-board requirement from OfQual.

Non-Examination Assessment (NEA):
Independent Critical Study:
Texts Across Time

25 marks: 20% of the total A-Level marks

The table below shows the marks allocated to each of the Assessment Objectives for the NEA extended essay. Note that marks are not evenly allocated across the AOs.

Assessment Objective Marks Percentage
Informed and relevant, accurately written, appropriate terminology
7 28%
Ways meanings are shaped, focus on STRUCTURES
6 24%
Contexts arising from text, task and genre
6 24%
Connections in the text itself, but also connections over TIME
3 12%
(Debate and interpretations are DYNAMIC)
3 12%


For the NEA component for this qualification, students produce one extended essay (2,500 words)comparing two texts, at least one of which must have been written pre-1900. There is a (non-compulsory) list of "Recommended" pre-1900 texts in the Specification (4.3.3).

All centres are allocated an NEA Advisor by AQA. Whilst there is no requirement to have texts or tasks "approved", centres are encouraged to make use of their NEA Advisor if in any doubt about suitable text choice or task framing.

Given the title, "Independent Critical Study", it is clearly important that students are allowed to work independently: texts which are over-taught, specified by the teacher and tasks that are not negotiated by the student are likely to prevent the student from displaying independence, to the detriment of achievment agianst the Assessment Objectives. The Specification states that at least one text should be independently chosen by the student, and students should be given ownership of task-choice with the guidance of the teacher.

In essence, these are the requirements.

  • Students produce one essay, a comparative critical study of two texts.
  • The two texts should be by different authors.
  • The essay should be broadly equally weighted between the two texts.
  • The theme for comparison should be the student's own choice.
  • Both texts should be substantial and of appropriate quality – compare with the texts for Papers 1 and 2. Poetry collections are NOT suitable, but a long poem (for example, one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales or a Book of Paradise Lost would qualify.
  • An academic bibliography and "appropriate" academic referencing are a Specification requirement for the NEA.
  • The word limit is 2,500 words. Quotations and Bibliography / references are NOT included.
  • The essay should be focused on debate.
  • ONE essay must include consideration of interpretations of text over time.

NB: "A-level core set texts and chosen comparative set texts listed for study in either Love through the Ages or in Texts in shared contexts cannot be used for non-exam assessment.”

Texts in translation
The chosen texts may be texts originally written in a foreign language that have been translated into English. However, the Specification states “Texts chosen for study may include texts in translation that have been influential and significant in the development of literature in English. The translated text should be treated as the original writer’s own words for assessment purposes. Therefore, schools and colleges should ensure that they use a version recognised by academia as being a high quality translation which supports the original author’s writing appropriately.”



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