Just because you do not take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you." – attributed to Pericles, 5th century BC.
With an incredible series of unexpected and unpredictable events at home and abroad in recent years, the study of Politics has never been more relevant or more fascinating and it’s a great subject for those with enquiring minds and a desire to find out just what is going on in the world today and why.
A level Politics is divided into a number of components covering a broad spectrum of political themes as outlined below:
UK Politics and UK Government: You will study and discuss such questions as ‘What is Brexit all about and why is it happening?’, ‘What powers does the Prime Minister have?’, ‘Why was the result of the 2017 General Election such a surprise?’, and ‘Is Britain truly democratic?’
Political Ideas: You will examine some of the great ideas that have shaped our world for good or ill, including Liberalism, Socialism, and Conservatism; and at the work and influence of key political thinkers such as Karl Marx, Mary Wollstonecraft and Edmund Burke.
US Politics: Find out the answers to questions like ‘How did Donald Trump become President?’, ‘Why it so easy to have a gun in the USA?’, and ‘Why is race such a big issue in America?’ You will also have the opportunity to compare and contrast US and UK politics.
What sort of work is involved?
A level Politics involves a lot of discussion, so is ideal for those who enjoy talking and thinking about current affairs. You will also need to keep up-to-date with what is happening in the world via the internet, newspapers and TV programmes, and will need to engage in independent learning to increase your knowledge of politics past and present.
What background do I need?
An interest in current affairs is perhaps the most important requirement as it is very beneficial to be able to bring at least some existing knowledge of political events and personalities to your studies. Some knowledge of history can also be helpful as so much of contemporary politics is informed by past events and decisions.
Where can it lead?
A Politics A level is not required to study the subject at degree level but many Politics students enjoy the subject so much that they continue their studies at undergraduate level or in related subjects such as International Relations or American Studies. Some Politics students do in fact go on to work in the political sphere, while other popular career options include law and journalism.
The Politics A level is assessed at the end of the course through three exams. By far the most popular exam board for Politics is Edexcel and their examination structure is given below.
Paper 1: UK Politics and Core Political Ideas: This paper lasts two hours and requires you to answer two 30 mark essay questions on UK Politics topics including Democracy and Participation, Political Parties, Electoral Systems, and Voting Behaviour. You will also answer a 24 mark short essay question on either Liberalism, Conservatism or Socialism.
Paper 2: UK Government and Non-core Political Ideas: This paper lasts two hours and requires you to answer two 30 mark essay questions on UK Government topics including the Constitution, Parliament, the Prime Minister, and Relations between Political Institutions. You will also answer a 24 mark short essay question on Feminism
Paper 3: Comparative Politics – USA: This paper lasts two hours and requires you to answer two short 12 mark questions comparing US and UK politics, and two 30 mark essay questions on US Politics topics including the Constitution, Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court and Civil Rights, and Democracy and Participation.
Year 12 Government & Politics Reading List
- N McNaughton: UK Government and Politics 5th edition (Hodder 2017) – Core textbook
- N. McNaughton and R. Kelly: Political Ideas – Liberalism, Conservatism, Socialism, Feminism (Hodder 2017) – Core textbook
- A Heywood: Essentials of UK Politics 4th edition (Palgrave, 2017)
- B Coxall, L Robins and R Leach: Contemporary British Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
- J Kingdom: Government and Politics in Britain: an Introduction (Polity, 2003)
- P Cocker and A. Jones: Contemporary British Politics and Government (Liverpool Academic, 2002)
- D Watts: British Government and Politics: A Comparative Guide (Edinburgh University 2006)
- B Jones (ed): Politics UK (Pearson Education, 2010)
- D Butler and G Butler: British Political Facts Since 1979 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
- R Heffernan, P Cowley and C Hay: Developments in British Politics 9 ( Palgrave MacMillan 2011)
- B. Crick: In Defence of Politics (Continuum 2005)
- G. Stoker: Why Politics Matters (Pagrave 2017)
- M. Mandelbaum: The Ideas that Conquered the World (Public Affairs 2002)
- N. Cohen: What’s Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way (Harper Perennial 2007)
- F. Fukuyama: The End of History (Penguin 2012) (Good for History + Politics)
- K. O’Hara: After Blair: David Cameron & the Conservative Tradition (Lawrence & Wishart 2007)
- Sampson: Who Runs This Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century (Hodder 2005)
- J. Rentoul: Tony Blair: Prime Minister (Little Brown & Company 2008)