September 23, 2017, by Words on Words

From A Level to Degree Level

Hi, my name’s Chris, I’m an A level student studying in Nottingham. For my work experience I spent a week in the School Of English. During my time here I had the opportunity to speak to staff about studying English at university, finding out information which I couldn’t find anywhere else. I thought this would be useful to share to anyone thinking about studying English at degree level.

Image: Author’s own: Chris Meadowcroft

How will my time on the English course be spent?

In year 1, you will have a minimum of 12 hours contact time a week. In year 2, a minimum of 10 hours, and in year 3 a minimum of 8 hours. Contact time decreases as you progress through your degree as you are expected to do more independent study in these years.

These contact hours are divided between lectures and seminars, depending on the structure of the module. Some modules may be purely seminars, some lectures, some a mixture of the two.

Over the course of the academic year a similar amount of time will be spent in lectures and seminars.

Seminars usually consist of 12-25 people, with the average being around 20. These provide an opportunity to explore topics by discussion, and identify and correct any misunderstandings.

Students are expected to work a lot outside of these contact hours. They should spend twice the amount of contact time they have doing independent study.

The pace of undergraduate study is a big step up from A level study. Each module will cover a text a week, this could mean studying 3 or 4 texts every week. However, this is balanced out between longer texts and shorter texts to help with the workload.

What should I put in my personal statement?

To study English, you’ll have to be an analytical individual with great communication skills, and you should try and demonstrate this in your personal statement.

Whilst Nottingham put an emphasis on predicted grades and academic achievement, personal statements also play an important role in the admissions process.

One key thing to make sure you include in your personal statement is your enthusiasm!  Talk about why you love English, your wider reading (outside of your set A level texts) and what really interests you- whether it be Chaucer, post-colonial literature, or language development. Be honest about what interests you, don’t try to cover all bases and say you have a passion for every single author and time period. The personal statement, should be personal and allow the university to learn about who you are and your interests, not what you think they want to hear.

Ensure you make all of the points in your personal statement relevant, relate them directly to the English course, and say why these skills you have developed through extracurricular activities will make you a good candidate. For example, if you have done part-time work alongside your A levels (or alternative qualifications) explain why this means you’d be suited to an English degree. It could be that this helped you develop communication skills and confidence which means you are suited to discussions and presenting ideas, or you have good time management skills which means you could cope with the level of independent study expected at university.

Try to avoid over complicating your writing. Use clear and concise language to explain why you want to do this course, and why you would be suited to it.

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