Different types of questions at A-Level

In A2 English Literature examinations different types of questions are used to assess your abilities and skills. Here are some of the question types you can expect to encounter.

Open book questions

The kind of question that you are asked when you have access to the text in the exam very often begins by referring you to a part of the text that you are asked to re-read. You are then asked a question that is likely to require close analysis of this part of the text, perhaps then relating the specified section to the text as a whole. Open book format allows examiners to set questions that are routed in specific areas of the text and which require detailed text-based answers.

Closed book questions

These tend to be broader in scope than open book questions and do not require the close textual analysis of the open book type question because, obviously, you have not got access to the text in the exam. Such questions often tend to focus on thematic, structural or other issues that involve a consideration of the text as a whole.

Comparison questions

As you will have noticed from the assessment objectives one of the features of the A2 course which was not required at AS Level is the requirement to compare texts with one another. Some of the questions you will encounter, therefore, will ask you to focus on the ways in which texts relate to each other.

Cultural, historical and contextual influence questions

Another feature of the A2 assessment objectives which differ from those for AS is that you will need to consider in greater depth the context within which texts were written and which exerted cultural or historical influences on the text. In questions which address this assessment objective note that the questions will examine context as well as text.

Thematic questions

Some exam boards include a study of texts that are linked through a common theme. This will probably cover the comparison element as well and involve questions that focus on the common themes or links between the specified texts.

Synoptic questions

All specifications involve synoptic questions as we have already mentioned. You will encounter synoptic questions in the final unit of your course. Quite simply, these questions are designed to test all the assessment objectives for the course and because of the broad nature of these questions they may well consist of several parts.


As part of your A2 course you will have the option to include coursework for part of your assessment. The exact nature of the coursework will depend on the particular specification that you are studying but it will be assessed against the objectives already given.

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