A-level History is one of the most interesting and popular A-level subject.
This article will answer all the questions you have about A-level History and help you determine how difficult the subject is and whether it is a good choice for you.
How hard is A-level History?
A-level History is a moderately hard subject. The reason students find A-level History relatively difficult is because of the extensive syllabus and long essay based questions that require students to put forward their argument in a clear and convincing manner.
The A-level History syllabus is massive and you need a good memory to remember all the dates and events. You will also need to understand the significance of individual events and why they happened. Just knowing what happened is not sufficient.
The following list contains the topics included in A-level Histroy:
- 1A The Age of the Crusades, c1071–1204
- 1B Spain in the Age of Discovery, 1469–1598
- 1C The Tudors: England, 1485–1603
- 1D Stuart Britain and the Crisis of Monarchy, 1603–1702
- 1E Russia in the Age of Absolutism and Enlightenment, 1682–1796
- 1F Industrialisation and the people: Britain, c1783–1885
- 1G Challenge and transformation: Britain, c1851–1964
- 1H Tsarist and Communist Russia, 1855–1964
- 1J The British Empire, c1857–1967
- 1K The making of a Superpower: USA, 1865–1975
- 1L The quest for political stability: Germany, 1871–1991
- 2A Royal Authority and the Angevin Kings, 1154–1216
- 2B The Wars of the Roses, 1450–1499
- 2C The Reformation in Europe, c1500–1564
- 2D Religious conflict and the Church in England, c1529–c1570
- 2E The English Revolution, 1625–1660
- 2F The Sun King: Louis XIV, France and Europe, 1643–1715
- 2G The Birth of the USA, 1760–1801
- 2H France in Revolution, 1774–1815
- 2J America: A Nation Divided, c1845–1877
- 2K International Relations and Global Conflict, c1890–1941
- 2L Italy and Fascism, c1900–1945
- 2M Wars and Welfare: Britain in Transition, 1906–1957
- 2N Revolution and dictatorship: Russia, 1917–1953
- 2O Democracy and Nazism: Germany, 1918–1945
- 2P The Transformation of China, 1936–1997
- 2Q The American Dream: reality and illusion, 1945–1980
- 2R The Cold War, c1945–1991
- 2S The Making of Modern Britain, 1951–2007
- 2T The Crisis of Communism: The USSR and the Soviet Empire, 1953–2000
As you can the list of topics is immense. You will need to know all the details of about 1000 years worth of history. However, if you are passionate about the subject then you can read the entire coursebook like a novel.
You will also be expected to read around the topic from sources other than your textbook. You should have a genuine interest in the subject; otherwise, it will be an uphill task to engage in an activity you do not enjoy.
The other major difficulty students face is the exam technique that examiners demand. You need to write and format your essay based answers in a very specific manner.
History is mainly assessed through written exams in a timed environment at the end of the year. Only about 20-25% of A-level history marks are dependent on the coursework. Hence you must do really well in the exams to succeed.
Most students have a tough time completing the exams in the given time period. You must really hurry and practice writing essays so that you can complete the paper in the allotted time.
How Difficult Is A-Level History Compared To GCSE History?
A-level History is significantly more difficult than GCSE History due to a larger number of topics, more in-depth subject matter, and more challenging exams.
GCSE history is quite easy and you can mostly rely on rote learning of the topics. A-level history focusses on the why and how questions as well.
You also have a larger number of topics in A-level History. These topics are also more in-depth and comprehensive than GCSE History.
The examiners will also mark your papers much harsher.
GCSE history has a pass rate that hovers around 70%. A-level History on the other hand has a consistent pass rate of over 97%.
This should not confuse you with the relative difficulty of A-level History compared to GCSE History. At GCSE most students take History to try out the subject, there are no prerequisites for taking GCSE History, and most students are not really serious about the subject at GCSE level.
At A-level colleges usually require students to have a strong academic background in GCSE History (colleges usually require a 5 in GCSE History). A-level History students usually have a strong interest in the subject and much more serious. Students who cannot cope up with the subject usually end up dropping it.
This explains the relatively higher pass rate of A-level History.
What is A-level History Like?
Like GCSE, A-level History is the study of the people and events in the past, using evidence such as books, newspapers, letters and artefacts such as pottery, tools, human and animal remains. The classes are quite interesting and engaging.
A-level History classes are full of lively discussion and debates. The teachers expect you to do the reading beforehand. So be prepared to do a lot of the readings yourself.
You will need to write lots of essays and practice the exam technique to perfection.
You will really need to love the subject otherwise it would be a huge challenge to read everything. This is what most students struggle with.
You will get a holistic idea of all the major wars and conquests that have occurred in the past 1000 years or so.
What are the Minimum Requirements to Study A-level History?
The minimum requirements to study A-level History is to get decent grades at GCSE; colleges typically ask for a 5 in GCSE English and History and a pass in all other subjects.
Colleges may accept you on lower grades depending on colleges’ competitiveness and policies.
The minimum requirements to study A-level History are only a guideline. If you have a passion for History and need it for University applications then you should definitely study it.
However, do remember colleges may ask you to attend extra classes and give you more assignments if you fail to meet the requirements. They do this to ensure you successfully pass the subject.
Alternatively, you may choose to do the subject privately. This is a perfectly good decision, as, A-level History is not as difficult as Further Maths or Chemistry and it also has no labs.
There are several dozen amazing resources online and offline to help you get a good grade in A-level History. You can consider taking a few classes with a private tutor to nail down the examination technique.
What can A-level History Lead to?
A-level History can lead to a degree in History and a career as a History teacher, academic researcher, librarian, archaeologist, politician and professor.
History degrees will teach you many transferrable skills that you can use in other walks of life. You will learn strong analytical skills and critical thinking skills, will learn how to think creatively, and gain interpersonal and communication skills.
A-level History can open a plethora of opportunities for you. Most students with History degrees get medium to high paying jobs.
Alternatively, you can create resources for History students by writing books, revision guides, notes, and setting up a Youtube Channel. There is always room for quality content and good books.
You can also become a teacher or tutor. You can teach something you are passionate about and genuinely enjoy.
The difficulty of A-level History is easily mangeable. You can get much better at A-level History by practicing and revising all the content.
Overall A-level History is a really good subject. It is enjoyable and quite interesting.
It will provide you with many skills and opportunities in the future.
A-level History goes along really well with A-level Psychology, Literature, Language and Law.
As long as you put in the effort have a passion for History then you should be able to get a good grade in A-level History.