Cambridge IGCSE Subject Briefs: Literature (English)

Timothy Hoffmann

Cambridge IGCSE Subject Briefs: Literature (English)

This subject brief covers the Literature (English) syllabus.

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

We often think of literature as pure escape: open a book by a favourite author, suspend our disbelief, and allow the writer to transport us to another world that grants us ‘release time’ from the one we customarily inhabit.

Please note: The final examination for this syllabus will be November 2019. The syllabus will then be replaced from 2020 by the updated syllabus Literature in English (0475).

Syllabus Aims:
Without question, IGCSE Literature provides students with a wide range of literary worlds each capable of taking them away to another time and place. This course, however, is designed to do much more than this. At its core, it encourages students to investigate HOW poems, short stories, novels, and plays achieve such magical effects on their readers. IGCSE Literature is concerned with the art of writing. IGCSE Literature encourages students to seek personal answers to the following questions:

  • Why do writers write? What’s the purpose behind the writing? Here the course is concerned with literary content (meaning).
  • How do writer’s cast their spells over us? What techniques do they use to do this? Here the course is concerned with literary form (style/technique).
  • What is the role of the reader in the writing process? Here the course is concerned with the literary triangle: author, text, audience.

In the process of finding answers to these questions, the course strives to:

  • Develop the student’s ability to demonstrate detailed knowledge by learning how to select and use solid textual evidence in support of claims and interpretations;
  • Develop the student’s ability to show understanding of an author’s intentions by learning how to explore the thematic dimensions of an individual text;
  • Develop the student’s refined appreciation of how language works to evoke desired response in readers.

Assessment and Grading:
The course deals with three aspects of literature: poetry, prose and drama. The candidates’ understanding of literature is assessed in different papers. There are different exams students may take, depending on the school’s choice.

Exam pathways schools may take are:

  • Paper 1 and Paper 2
  • Paper 1, Paper 3 and Paper 4
  • Paper 1, Paper 3 and Component 5

Candidates will then take either:





Grade boundaries change every year and depend on the components taken. As an example, in June 2017, students had to score between 57% to 70% (depending on the components chosen) to earn an A*, while the minimum for a C was between 36% and 44%. You can check past years’ boundaries here.