English Language vs English Literature: Which is easier?

02 MAR 2023

There are many misconceptions surrounding these two subjects, and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Two common misconceptions are that English Language is easier than English Literature and that English Language is only for native speakers. However, these assumptions are far from the truth. In this blog, we will set the record straight and provide an in-depth analysis of both subjects to help you make an informed decision about which one to pursue.


People assume that English Language is easier. This is not true!

One important point to consider is that English Literature courses focus on the analysis and interpretation of literary works, while English Language courses focus on the study of language itself, including its structure, function, and evolution.

English Literature requires students to express ideas. It involves reading and analysing works of poetry, novels, and drama from different periods and genres, such as such as Shakespearean, 17th Century poetry, Victorian novels, and modern-era literature. This includes studying the themes, characters, and literary techniques used by the author to convey their message.

Students also learn how to write analytical essays that delve deeper into the texts and explore different interpretations and critical perspectives, increasing complexity as they progress from Pre-IG to International GCSE to A-Level. At Pre-IG and IG level, the study is largely about themes and characters and poetic techniques. At AS and A-Level more is required about the era and context in which texts were written, along with appreciating extra critical perspectives at A-Level and writing lengthy essays in a much more sophisticated style.

At IG level, students are required to understand 16 poems by writers over several centuries and eras. Whereas at AS level and A Level, students study 30 substantial poems, some from centuries ago.

Because the focus is on ideas, exam markers will overlook spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, to an extent, as long as they do not impede understanding.

In English Language, courses focus on understanding the intricacies of the English language and how it is used in various contexts, including speech and writing. Students learn how to analyse the structure and function of language in different texts and contexts, and how to use language effectively to convey meaning and shape the reader's response.

The International GCSE course is about learning how structural and language techniques shape and direct the impact of the text on a reader; how suspense and tension are developed through punctuation, sentence and paragraph structure; the effect of a metaphor to help the reader visualise a person or object; and how repetition can reinforce an idea or theme.

At AS Level the analysis focuses increasingly on the context of the language - its use as a political tool or as a way to manipulate attitudes towards social groups, individuals or causes.

The courses also look intensively at how the English language has evolved and how language functions.

Students are also penalised more harshly for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.

Despite their differences, both English Language and English Literature require strong analytical and writing skills, as well as a good understanding of the language itself. Both subjects require extensive reading and critical thinking, as well as the ability to communicate complex ideas in a clear and concise manner.


The International GCSE and A-Level courses in Language are not Second Language or ESOL courses; they are more like studying Linguistics. Non-native speakers with a good command of English can also excel in these courses, as long as they are fluent and capable writers.

There is no true answer to the question of which subject is easier, as both English Language and English Literature require different skills and strengths.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and interest, as well as the specific goals and aspirations of the student. Whether you choose to study English Language or English Literature, both subjects offer a rich and rewarding learning experience that can help you develop essential skills and broaden your understanding of the world around you.

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