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A-level Politics: What Your Child Needs To Know

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 9 Jun 2014 | comments*Discuss
A-level As-level A2-level Politics

Government and Politics is a popular and important A-level course. It helps students to understand the way in which Britain is governed, and to develop their knowledge of some of the major political theories and ideas that have shaped history.

There is a range of different exam boards, many of which offer A-levels in Government and Politics. This need-to-know guide concentrates on the AQA specification, because it is currently the UK’s largest awarding body. You should ask your child’s school or college which board sets the course to be sure that you have the right information.


At AS-level, your child must complete two units: People, Politics and Participation, and Governing Modern Britain.

In the People, Politics and Participation unit, your child will have to demonstrate knowledge in four key areas: Participation and Voting Behaviour; Electoral Systems; Political Parties; and Pressure Groups and Protest Movements. Within these areas they will have to show their familiarity with a number of important concepts, including the party system, lobbying, and electoral reform. This unit is considered to be the bedrock for the rest of the course, and no part of it is optional. It is assessed through a one-and-a-half-hour written exam.

In Governing Modern Britain, your child will have to show that they understand the way in which government works in the UK, taking in factors like devolution, the impact of Europe, and the nature of local government. Again, they will have to demonstrate knowledge in four separate key areas: The British Constitution; Parliament; The Core Executive; and Multi-Level Governance. The unit is assessed through a one-and-a-half-hour written exam.


At A2-level, the system works differently. They will again have to take two separate units, but within each of those units they have three choices. In unit 3, they can choose between the three following options: The Politics of the USA; Ideologies; and Politics and Power.

If they choose The Politics of the USA, they will have to demonstrate an understanding of the way in which the American electoral process works, and a knowledge of the main political parties and trends. If they opt for Ideologies, they will have to show that they understand four major political ideologies: liberalism; conservatism; socialism; and fascism. Finally, if they select Politics and Power, they will have to show an understanding of four major aspects of power: Power in Modern Society; Executive Power; Political Culture; and Britain in Europe.

Regardless of their choices, your child will have to complete a one-and-a-half-hour written exam to be assessed for unit 3.

In unit 4, your child will again have three choices. They will study either: The Government of the USA; Political Issues – Ideologies in Action; or Perspectives on Modern Politics. If they choose Government of the USA, they will have to understand the machinations of government in America, with particular reference to structures and establishments such as Congress and the Supreme Court. If they select Ideologies in Action, they will have to demonstrate a knowledge of how the following four ideas impact on real-world politics: Ethnicity and Gender; the Environment; Education; and the Economy. Finally, if they choose Perspectives on Modern Politics, they will have to show that they understand the origins and development of four major ideas: Participation and Representation; Globalisation; Change and Continuity; and Territorial Politics.

As with unit 3, unit 4 is assessed through a single one-and-a-half-hour written exam.

Synoptic Assessment

At A2-level, your child will be required to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned at AS-level to their work. This is known as synoptic assessment, and it is a key part of the A2 curriculum. Your child may, therefore, find it easier to complete the course effectively if they spend some time revising what they learned at AS before they begin their second year.

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NA - 9-Jun-14 @ 1:45 PM
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