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English Language

English Language

What is it about at sixth-form level?

If you could go back in time and eavesdrop on a conversation in the England of Chaucer’s time, it might be hard to follow what is being said and if someone told a funny story, you might not get it. Perhaps the same will be true for any visitors to our present time from 700 years in the future. The English language, like fashions in clothes, undergoes continuous modification. Just think about text-speak or street slang, the flood of new words associated with technology, or from immigrant communities. Our course explores these linguistic changes in detail and the reasons for them.

Many of us share a fascination with the way toddlers speak. One feature of language acquisition is that children master English by making mistakes until they fully acquire all the skills. You will learn how a “wug” is used to research this, what a “virtuous error” is and you will be amazed at how we achieve fluency in such a brief time span. When it comes to literacy, you will study how we learn to read and write, realising what complex skills these are.

We begin the course by introducing you to the terminology used by linguists and you will learn about aspects such as phonetics, lexis and morphology. You will consider the diversity of English found in different regions and social groups: if you went to an interview in the USA wearing a vest and pants it would be perfectly acceptable, and if you wanted to buy thongs in Australia you would go to a shoe shop!

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Lower sixth
Upper sixth

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Language is a powerful tool; the sharper and cleaner we make it, the more effective it will be for us. As you pursue the course, you will learn how to adapt your English to suit different purposes and audiences, both in speech and in writing. You will learn how to write evaluative essays and how to model your creative writing on a variety of style models. A deeper knowledge of how and why our language has evolved will enrich your use of it and enhance your understanding of a wider range of texts. The usefulness of this skill will last your whole life.

Moreover, an awareness of how children learn to speak, read and write will be beneficial to you in years to come, equipping you to shape positively the linguistic development of our next generation.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

For UK based students, a good GCSE grade in English language or Literature is needed. This should be 6 or higher. For international students, an in-house diagnostic will be required for entry into the course. An overall grade 6 will be the criteria for entry. An interest in the everyday use of English in all its forms and across all media would be very desirable. You will be expected to read a lot and collect your own examples of English for in-depth study.

How is the course assessed?

A level

Paper 1 and 2 will be similar to those sat in the lower sixth but will include all the A level content.
In addition to the lower sixth topics, Paper 1 will cover children’s language development. In Paper2 language discourses is an additional topic to those covered in the lower sixth. Each paper willlast 2 hours 30 minutes and is worth 40% of the whole A level. The remaining 20% is accessed viacoursework for which you will need to produce a language investigation of about 2,000 words and apiece of original writing and commentary of 1,500 words


To be confirmed at the start of the course

AQA English Language A level and AS
By D. Clayton, A. Goddard, B. Kemp and F. Titjen
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-019833402

How Language Works: How Babies Babble,Words Change Meaning and LanguagesLive or Die
By D. Crystal
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0141015521

Exam Board and Specification Codes

A level: AQA 7702

"I have really enjoyed my time èAV and would recommend this college to anyone. I learnt how to work more efficiently and revise more effectively thanks to the tutorials and weekly Timed Assignments, which also allowed me to prepare myself mentally for the exams from the first day. My history teacher was phenomenal. He managed to get me to reengage with the subject, as well as giving me all the support and help I asked for and more, giving me the knowledge and exams technique needed to achieve an A*."


Grades achieved at èAV: A*AA Progressed to: Exeter University (International Relations)

"The small class sizes proved invaluable for a number of reasons, some of which I did not anticipate. Aside from the obvious individual attention, the size of the class allowed for a lot of students’ questions to turn into a fruitful academic discussion. I have found the atmosphere at the college far more friendly and supportive than I expected. The support I had from my Personal Tutor was very helpful during the application process for university. I could tell that he really did care about my future and wanted to do everything he could in order to help me secure my place at my chosen university. Overall, I am pleased to say that my high expectations of èAV were fully met."


Grades achieved at èAV: AAB Progressed to: Southampton University (Business Innovation)

"I have definitely made the right decision to come to èAV - my grades have gone from averaging Es to straight As. Teaching at èAV is much more personal and I felt like talking to teachers. They are very good and give you lots of support if you do not understand something. My Personal Tutor took me through the UCAS process step by step. We went through my Personal Statement many times to make sure it was completely perfect. I am very excited about my firm choice."


Grades achieved at èAV: AAA Progressed to: Warwick University (Chemistry)

"As a dyslexic student who initially got CCEE for my AS, I was convinced that I could not achieve any higher. My time at èAV proved me wrong. Initially I was reluctant to move from my local school in York to a college so far away from home, my parents, and friends. At the end of my first year I was overjoyed to find that many hours of hard work and renewed revision techniques had resulted in me achieving three A's in my subjects. I wanted to continue at A2 as I knew it would greatly improve my university prospects and encourage me to work even harder. After two fantastic years at èAV I can emphatically say that going to èAV was the best decision I ever made."


Grades achieved at èAV: AAA Progressed to: Nottingham University (Philosophy)

"Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful."


Grades achieved at èAV: A*AA Progressed to: University of York (Law)

"Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined èAV that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one."


Grades achieved at èAV: A*A*A* Progressed to: University College London (Economics)

"International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but èAV surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most èAV Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college."


Grades achieved at èAV: A*A*A* Progressed to: University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

"The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do."


Grades achieved at èAV: A*AABB Progressed to: King's College London (International Relations)

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