A-Level Politics: What You Need to Know to Succeed
Revising A-Level politics requires a different approach to any other A-Level subject. And, this year more than ever, it's so important that A-Level politics students stay up to date with what’s going on in the world of politics.
I interviewed Zoe Holland, one of my academic coaches and an A-Level politics teacher with 21 years of experience teaching. She shared some of her advice for A-Level politics students who want to achieve the best grade they possibly can.
Read on for a summary of my conversation with Zoe or listen to the full conversation using the podcast player above. You can also listen on The School Success Formula podcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
What do A-Level politics students find hardest about the subject?
Many A-Level politics students struggle with answering essay and source exam questions. For essay questions, the struggle is with structuring paragraphs that are worthy of an A*/8 or 9. For source questions, it's how to make the best use of the source material possible in order to earn maximum marks.
However, one of the biggest difficulties is keeping up to date in today’s political climate. Things are changing very quickly and A-Level politics students need to keep up to date with all the new developments.
Zoe is leading the How to Revise A-Level Politics Masterclass on Saturday the 26th of February 2022. During the masterclass, Zoe is going to ease this problem by giving you some up to date case studies and examples that you can use in your examinations this year.
How to cope with information overload
Today’s A-Level students have so many sources of information available to them with the availability of the internet. It is very helpful in many ways but it can lead to an overload of information.
There is so much information out there coming from a range of sources and not all of them are reputable or even factually accurate. Students really need to ensure that the sources they’re using are legitimate and reliable. However, given the time constraints students are under, it’s very difficult for them to sort through all the available information.
A good starting point is doing very good quality reading to set you off in the right direction. Zoe highly recommends Tim Marshall’s books, The Power of Geography and Prisoners of Geography. They show why the world is as it is today and why world leaders and politicians behave in the way that they do.
It’s vital that you can show you understand different views. One of the pitfalls that A-Level politics students fall into is that they can get too carried away with their own views and bring them into their exam answers. At A-Level politics, that should be avoided.
To access the top marks, A-Level politics students need to make judgments and evaluate in an unbiased manner in their exam answers. This means not writing in first person and discussing your personal views on the topic. Instead, you need to show that you are aware of some of the other views that exist and explore them.
Zoe will be covering this in more depth in the masterclass. She'll be giving some really helpful pointers for finding and identifying relevant information quickly, and using Twitter effectively so that you're not bombarded with lots of information that you haven't got time to read and sift through.
What do students get wrong in A-Level politics exams?
With the essay questions, the biggest thing students do to lose marks is changing their minds halfway through their answer.
Politics examiners are looking for students to make their points, show their judgement and actually answer the question in the introduction. The rest of the essay should consist of a series of paragraphs that follow that judgement through in a logical and well-argued manner. Assessment Objective 3 (AO3), which is evaluation, has to be present all the way through the essay answer. Evaluations should be solid throughout and your conclusion should refer specifically back to them.
Another issue is focusing on regurgitating knowledge. Many A-Level politics students know a lot about politics because it’s the sort of subject that attracts those who are naturally interested in it. Therefore, many students have a lot of knowledge about politics that they’re eager to get across in the exam. However, it’s important not to include too much knowledge (which is Assessment Objective 1) and not focus enough on analysis (AO2) and evaluation (AO3).
Because schools concentrate on teaching the subject content, skills like analysis and evaluation are often not covered thoroughly.
So, how can you make sure you display analysis and evaluation in your answers?
In lower school years, teachers often teach the PEEL acronym for structuring paragraphs in essay question answers. PEEL stands for point, evidence, explanation and link. For A-Level politics, Zoe suggests a more refined version of this structure: PEA, which stands for point, evidence and explanation, and application. Application is about referring back to what the question is actually asking. That displays to the examiner that you have hit AO3 and that you have made substantiated judgments throughout.
Zoe will be discussing the difficulties that students face in getting top grades in the essay questions, source questions and the political ideologies questions in more depth in the masterclass. She'll also show you a foolproof way of ensuring that every paragraph is of an A*/8 or 9 calibre.
A-Level politics revision tips
Firstly, to revise effectively for A-Level politics, and GCSEs and A-Levels in general, you need to be applying your knowledge. Practise past papers and get really familiar with the mark scheme so you can mark your own paper with confidence. Only then will you know what level you've achieved and what marks you've achieved.
This is exactly what I teach inside The Extraordinaries Club too. I call it learning to think like an examiner. And you can only give the examiner what they need to see when you understand what they're looking for.
Secondly, many students find that creating flashcards is a great way to revise politics. They're especially helpful for revising political ideologies as it’s crucial students remember to include the different strands within those ideologies. For instance, with conservatism, there’s the new rights, traditional conservatism and one nation conservatism. Flashcards can be an effective way of recording that information.
Of course, different revision techniques work for different students. In the masterclass, Zoe is going to show you exactly where to look for revision exercises so you can stop sifting through the many resources available. This means your valuable time can be spent exploring only the best quality ones.
Where can A-Level politics lead?
There is never a dull moment in politics. If you have an inquiring mind a politics qualification can set you up for a fantastic career. There are so many different career opportunities for politics students, both inside and outside of a political career, such as journalism, HR and social policy. Some students enjoy studying politics and decide to continue down the research path.
Do you want more help with A-Level politics?
If you’ve found this helpful, join us for the How to Revise A-Level Politics Masterclass live on Saturday the 26th of February.
During the masterclass, Zoe will be showing you how you can move from your current grade towards an A*/8 or 9. She'll offer invaluable guidance whether you’re sitting politics exams this year, or preparing for them next year.
In the masterclass you'll discover:
Would you like to join us? Click here to register for the How to Revise A-Level Politics Masterclass live on the 26th of February. It’ll also be recorded and will be available to watch in The Extraordinaries Club anytime after that.