What will I study?
The full specification (syllabus) can be found on the easy-to-navigate Edexcel website (Edexcel.org.uk). You will see that there is a range of options; exactly which ones you will be taught depends upon the choice of who is teaching you; the most likely courses will be:
Year 12 (AS)
Unit 1: This unit is a study of the past in breadth. All Year 12 historians will study modern Italian History, including the Unification of Italy, the impact of the First World War and the rise and fall of the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini.
Unit 2: This unit involves the study of an aspect of modern British History in depth. Topics taught include Political Change in Britain, Britain and Ireland and the Nationalist Challenge to British Rule in India.
Year 13 (A2)
Unit 3: This unit involves a depth study into an extended period of history and an investigation of the historical controversies surrounding that period. All Year 13 historians will study the unit ‘From Kaiser to Führer: Germany 1940-45’.
Unit 4: This is the coursework unit in which you will study key aspects of a chosen theme over a period of about 100 years and independently investigate causes and consequences to produce an original research assignment. Topics recently covered include ‘Crusading Europe 1095-1204’ and ‘Islam and the creation of an Islamic civilisation c.570 – c.750’.
Units one and two are taught in Year 12 and units three and four follow in Year 13. There are exams in the June sessions of both years and the chance to resit AS units, if necessary, in January of the A2 year.
How will I be assessed?
During the course you will have ample opportunity to demonstrate your progress via a variety of tests and exercises; in particular, you will need to learn essay writing skills since these techniques are not learned at GCSE. The Units that require document analysis will seem more familiar but there will also be significant guidance in this respect as the skills required at 'A' level need to be more developed than was the case at GCSE.
You will be taught by two members of the Department; for each Unit the principal themes, characters and problems of the periods being studied will be explained; you will then be required to develop this knowledge through wider reading and via other research. Classroom debate is also an important way of demonstrating your knowledge and understanding and is a key element of History in the sixth form.
Beyond the classroom
The History Department offer two foreign trips to its 'A' level historians. These visits, to Berlin and Rome, occur in alternate years during the February half term and are run as joint lower and upper sixth escapades. Sixth form historians also assist us with the organisation of the weekly lower school History Society and help out at other key events, such as Choices Evening, Open Morning and SHINE. Meanwhile, members of the Department offer guidance and tutorials to those boys who choose to apply to the Oxbridge colleges to read History and to boys who are interested in studying the subject at other universities.
You are unlikely to do well at A level History without at least a Grade A at GCSE since the skills needed build upon the foundations laid at GCSE. You should not, however, assume that a Grade A or A* at GCSE guarantees success at A Level - the demands at this higher level are considerably greater. Good grades in other subjects that require a good deal of writing - especially English Language - are also very useful. Furthermore, you must really want to study History - a substantial amount of your work involves private reading and research (according to your predecessors, more than any other subject). If you really enjoy History this is a pleasure, but if not it becomes exceedingly boring and you are likely to rush it and thus attain poor grades. There are not many shortcuts in History!
Where will it lead?
It is no coincidence that so many leading politicians, lawyers, civil servants and business leaders have a qualification (often a degree or more) in history; it is widely recognised that the subject develops and hones the skills of judgement, literacy, analysis and discernment, skills that are in high demand in a rapidly changing economy and work environment. These "transferable skills" are popular in many professional fields …. so only a tiny proportion of History graduates end up in school-teaching, contrary to popular myth!
You will, of course, be most welcome to come and see any Members of the Department to talk about the course and whether it will suit you.