No-Nonsense Applicant Guide by Saarah Ahsan-Shah

Even after choosing a degree, deciding which university to do it at might seem daunting. It’s worth researching the nature of a particular degree at various universities to compare them. English at one university is not the same as English at another.

To start off your research, read on for answers to commonly asked questions about English and Drama at Queen Mary, first hand from two students; myself (an English student) and Chris Dhanjal, a joint honours English and Drama student.

Applying to Queen Mary

1. What are the entry requirements?

The entry requirements are typically ABB at A Level (or an equivalent qualification), with an A in English Literature / English Language and Literature. Non-standard qualifications are also sometimes accepted from well-motivated candidates who demonstrate achievement in literary study. See here for more details of our entry requirements.

2. Do you give unconditional offers?

We have just launched our Outstanding Potential Award for those who show a high potential. If you meet the criteria for the award we will contact you to arrange an interview. More details about applying are available here.

3. Can you combine English or Drama with another subject?

Yes! Students are able to take joint courses, and are able to take English alongside another subject such as Drama, Linguistics, Creative Writing, Film Studies and History.

Our degrees are all about giving you social capital, through work experience, modules from other schools and extra activities, so you have the skills to succeed in life in and outside of university. The QMUL Principal, Professor Colin Bailey talks about this new approach we are taking in this article in The Guardian.

Structure

1. What modules are offered in an English and/or Drama degree?

English: In first year we had  six compulsory modules; Reading, Theory and Interpretation, Poetry, Narrative, Shakespeare, Literatures in Time and English in Practice. These modules gave us a foundation in English Literature across the spectrum which becomes more specific in second year. In second year, there are three categories, ‘Medieval and Early-Modern Studies’, ‘Eighteenth-Century, Romanticism, Nineteenth-Century Studies’ and  ‘Modern, Contemporary, And Postcolonial Studies’.

We picked one module from each category and a fourth module either from one of these categories or from a “special list”, which offers a range of options. In our third year, we are given plenty more options, not bound by any categories, allowing us to pursue any field enabling us to take whatever piques our interest.  Third year modules include Postcolonial, American and Children’s literatures to name a few.

Drama: In first year, all students take London/Culture/ Performance, and Practices, which help negotiate Drama at university level. Joint honours students take six compulsory modules consisting of four Drama modules which are a combination of seminar and practical based ones and two English. For second year we were given more options, but again had to take one compulsory Drama module and at least two English modules from two separate areas.

In total we were allowed five modules but had to have an equal balance of credits across English and Drama. For final year, the options become a lot more flexible, with the choice of taking seventy-five credits in Drama and forty-five credits in English. Examples of second and third year Drama modules include Choreographic Performance, Shakespeare after Shakespeare and Race and Racism in Performance .

A current list of modules can be seen here, at the English and Drama Module Directory: https://qmplus.qmul.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=2960. This list of modules changes every year.

2. How many contact hours do you have a week?

English: We have 8-10 contact hours per week, depending on whether we take 4 or 5 modules per semester. Each module has 2 contact hours; typically a 1 hour lecture followed by a 1 hour seminar. Some modules in second year may not have a lecture and only a 2 hour seminar. In third year, most modules have a 2 hour seminar. Though 8 may seem a little, we’re expected to prepare for each module with 4 hours of work, through reading, research and assignment preparation.

Drama: We typically have 10 hours a week. In third year there may be 14 hour weeks, depending on the modules taken, as Drama practical modules can be 7 hours per day.

3. What are class sizes like?

First year lectures have around 250 students in them, but seminars are smaller groups of 15-20. Lecture sizes get smaller in second and third year as there are more modules available for students to choose from.

Drama: Most seminars and practical workshops range between 10-20 people.

4. How many books do you have to read a week?

English: We usually have to read one novel per module per week, occasionally alongside some theoretical extracts, making it 4-5 texts a week. Some texts are studied over two weeks so students (particularly in first year) may sometimes only need to read a novel/play every other week.

Drama: Roughly around 2-3 primary books a week, excluding secondary reading, in first and second year. In third year we have 3-5 primary books a week, as well as secondary reading.

5. Do you have field trips?

English: We have occasional field trips, depending on the module. In first year we went to the V&A as a part of Literatures in Time as well as to The Globe to see a play and for a day of workshops for our Shakespeare module. During third year, we attended The Foundling Museum for the Children’s Literature module. Most trips are subsidised by the department so we are able to attend at reduced costs. We are also encouraged to attend museums and exhibitions in our own time.

Drama: Within Drama we had a few field trips in first year to theatres and museums, but second and third year trips vary depending on the module. London Performance Now is a second year module which consists of weekly theatre/museum visits.

Assessment

1. How many assignments do you have a year?

English and Drama: Each module has about 4-5 assignments spread throughout the academic year. So in total there’s approximately 20 assignments. For English, most of them are essays, however there are also a couple of assessed presentations and class contributions. For drama it’s a mix of written and practical work.

2.Do you have exams?

English: In first year there is a final exam for Shakespeare and Literatures in Time. Other modules in all three years are generally assessed by coursework.

Drama: We have no written exams, however, we have assessed performances which can be timed assessments within a controlled environment.

3. Do you have to write a dissertation?

English:  Yes, in third year, all single honours students must undertake a dissertation, which is a 10,000 word research project on anything of our choice so long as it falls under English Literature.

Drama: Instead of a dissertation there is a practical research module. Joint honours students have the option between the English dissertation and a Drama written project.

Support

1. What resources does the department have access to?

Students in the School of English and Drama we have access to a wide amount of literature and criticism through the Mile End campus library, as well as through the University of London inter-library loan system and Senate House Library. The university is also subscribed to many journals and periodicals, giving us access to a huge amount of material. The department has 5 Drama studio spaces including rehearsal rooms, which students have 24/7 access to. Other resources for Drama include a wide range of drama and theatre professionals lecturing on the course who have influential and current experience.

2. Is there any guidance or support for assignments?

English and Drama: As well as useful workshops,  advisers/seminar leaders/lecturers have weekly drop-in hours which  are immensely helpful for advice and guidance on academic work. There are also beneficial student organisations, such as PASS (Peer Assissted Study Support), where second and third year students offer help to first year students and a Buddy Mentoring Scheme. We also have professional Literary Fellows available to review essays before students submit them. For practical work in Drama,  consistent feedback is given by seminar leaders and peers as our work is shared with each other.

3. What’s a personal advisor?

English and Drama: A personal advisor is a teaching member of staff assigned to you in order to help and assist you with any queries you may have. Whether it’s something academic or  personal they are there to support and help you!

 

 

 

Things I wish I’d known when I started at Queen Mary

People are always willing and happy to help; you just have to ask.

Starting uni can be nerve-racking and no doubt you’ll have questions- don’t be afraid to ask them! Whether it’s something small like asking for directions or even asking a tutor or classmate for help with an assignment, everyone is super friendly and wants to help. Instead of walking around campus for 15 minutes and ending up late for a lecture, just ask someone to point you in the correct direction and voila!

I never realised how often I was hungry, until I noticed how much I was spending on food.

Yes, it’s enjoyable to eat out, but no, it’s not feasible to do so every day. I found myself constantly popping back and forth between the library and Sainsbury’s, across the road, for snacks. But I realised if I just woke up a little earlier every day, I could pack myself a good enough lunch which would mean I wouldn’t have to buy food during the day, saving myself a good £6-7 a day; it really does add up.

Tutors have office hours, but if you can’t make them it doesn’t mean you can’t see them.

When I started uni, sometimes I’d want to see a lecturer or my advisor about something but I would find I was busy during their 1-2 office hours of the week. Instead of emailing them about it I would wait weeks until I happened to be free during that narrow time slot. But eventually I realised, if I just popped them an email letting them know I couldn’t make it, they were more than happy to rearrange a meeting at a time convenient for us both. Everyone here is super accommodating and is here to make your time at university the best it can be.

The Careers Service is a gem.

The Careers Service can help you in finding a job or any kind of work experience, whether it be a part-time retail job or an internship at a big firm. What’s also great about them is that you can book appointments with relatively short notice where they’ll review your CV for you, pointing out where it can be improved, so it stands out amongst the many other applications employers receive. They also offer interview practice; in combination, all these aspects add up to an increased likelihood of securing competitive jobs.