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History A Level Aqa


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#1 lizadb

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 05:43 PM

I have decided to study independently for a History A level but am struggling to find a combination of topics that fits in such a way that fulfils the requirements of the specification and also allows me to study for Unit 3 'The Making of Modern Britain, 1951-2007', which I'm really keen to do. I'm guessing that outside of this I look at the changes in countries after war and also after India's independence from Britain, so was thinking of something along the lines of doing other units that cover the change in identity of a country after war/the end of empire, etc. I thought to this end I might study The USA and Vietnam (I haven't studied much on this but from what I do understand it seems to have impacted on USA, its people and its image a lot.) and for Unit 1 France in Revolution 1774-1815. Is this too random? I'm really not sure and need to decide by the end of the week!

I'd really appreciate some guidance on this.

#2 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 07:21 PM

Welcome to the Forum. We will have a think about this and get back to you as soon as possible.

#3 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 08:55 PM

I'm guessing that outside of this I look at the changes in countries after war and also after India's independence from Britain, so was thinking of something along the lines of doing other units that cover the change in identity of a country after war/the end of empire, etc. I thought to this end I might study The USA and Vietnam (I haven't studied much on this but from what I do understand it seems to have impacted on USA, its people and its image a lot.) and for Unit 1 France in Revolution 1774-1815. Is this too random? I'm really not sure and need to decide by the end of the week!


My first instinct was to say; good thinking, makes sense, go for it.

Then caution took over, somewhat.

You're obviously a motivated student who thinks carefully about your study of History. However, as you will be working on your own you need to balance the inspiration (hopefully) of studying the units you have outlined against the difficulty of taking three units which have some chronological overlap re. the US and Vietnam, but none in the case of the French Revolution. So, you might wish to consider whether your life would be easier if you looked at Britain 1906-1951 or USA 1890-1945 for Unit 1 instead. Many History Departments do two 'linked pairs' of units, e.g. Tudors for Units 1 and 2, USA for Units 2 and 4. That said, you would then be guilty of following a wholly 20th century course, which leads to some lack of breadth.

Alternatively, if you think your current plan is what you feel you would like to do, rather than what you really want to do, then have another close look at the subject content area of the specification. If you're still happy with the course you outlined, fine.

So, I think your plan makes good sense and if it's what you want to do go for it. However, I don't know what the rest of your workload is going to be. By the way, make sure you contact AQA about the arrangements for Unit 4 (coursework) as per page 70 of the specification.

If you want more help (assuming this has), let us know. Best of luck.

#4 lizadb

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 03:26 PM

Thanks for the feedback - greatly appreciated.

I've had a think about what you said and I think you're probably right about the potential lack of link against the close link of Units 2 & 3, so I thought about another potential spin by changing my choice for Unit 2.

Thinking about Unit 3 again and Britain 1951-2007, this was clearly a time of huge change in Britain, as the final days of the empire had drawn to a close with India's independence in 1947 and also of course the huge impact the Second World War had in the lives of ordinary people on a daily basis with rationing and so on.

So I thought in that case I would study 'Challenging British Dominance: The Loss of American Colonies 1754-1783' for Unit 2 and again deal with Britain on the international stage (albeit in a very different guise) and how this impacted on Britain's international standing as it was, I suppose, the very beginning of the fall of the empire.

This would, I hope, then link both chronologically and on theme with Unit 1 and France, in terms of the revolution, the Napoleonic era, the huge social change that occurred in this period, the way the international view of France changed.

For the historical study I thought this would lend itself to my coursework being a question around Russia from the fall of Imperial Russia to the fall of Communism, which could easily cover 100 years.

Does this make more sense and have a better link?

As for the coursework, I've had a look at AQA's requirements for external candidates and although I need to get my head around it I'll hopefully be able to sort it out!

#5 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 05:00 PM

Thanks for the feedback - greatly appreciated.

So I thought in that case I would study 'Challenging British Dominance: The Loss of American Colonies 1754-1783' for Unit 2 and again deal with Britain on the international stage (albeit in a very different guise) and how this impacted on Britain's international standing as it was, I suppose, the very beginning of the fall of the empire.

This would, I hope, then link both chronologically and on theme with Unit 1 and France, in terms of the revolution, the Napoleonic era, the huge social change that occurred in this period, the way the international view of France changed.


This makes a really coherent programme of study for AS, with interesting parallels with what you propose to do in your second year. The French revolutionaries were, as I suspect you already know, inspired by the Americans to a great extent. You have obviously thought very carefully about the ramifications of the different units and how they would fit together. There is still time to change your mind about the coursework, but the way you have organised your subject choices shows excellent historical understanding.

Please let us know if you need any more help.

#6 lizadb

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 08:10 PM

Thank you very much; you've put my mind at ease! I probably will be asking for more help, as I am now slightly panicking having realised that all the resources I was simply given by my teachers when I was at school I now have to find myself and teach myself to learn an A level at the same time. I have only twelve weeks to do the AS, so I'm clearly either a bit crazy or just a glutton for punishment!

#7 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 08:57 PM

Thank you very much; you've put my mind at ease! I probably will be asking for more help, as I am now slightly panicking having realised that all the resources I was simply given by my teachers when I was at school I now have to find myself and teach myself to learn an A level at the same time. I have only twelve weeks to do the AS, so I'm clearly either a bit crazy or just a glutton for punishment!


We'll be very happy to help, as far as we can. You are clearly a very organised student, so I probably don't have to recommend that you have a look at the mark schemes and recent examiners' reports for the Units you are taking.

#8 lizadb

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 09:29 PM

So I went away and studied (not particularly well, admittedly) and ended up with a C. Clearly not good enough. Now I feel like I need to reassess EVERYTHING and don't really know where to begin. Bearing in mind in another AS I did I came out with an A, I clearly have some history specific problems, which I think I can sort of summarise...

1) Actually, reading books about the topics (and I'll take the American Revolution going forward, though it's applicable to both that topic and the French Revolution unit) I think has encouraged me to be far too narrative in my approach. I also, bizarrely, found I tried to collate the information and regurgitate as much as I could, thereby not focusing in on what the question was asking.

2) I, for the first time in my life, ran out of time. This comforts me slightly in that I am thinking that since two relatively high marked questions were basically only half answered, if I plan my time better then I will make some progress but what about the fact that even though I planned all the questions and allotted myself time, why wasn't I answering the question within time? How do I get back into that exam mindset of having basically a bullet point of facts to use for whatever question might come up on the topic?

3) At school, I had AMAZING history teachers, who gave me all the information I needed and who knew their subject so well, they would casually bring in other bits of relevant information to draw a big picture of the circumstances surrounding whatever topic I was studying. I am struggling to join all the pieces together effectively, and don't really know where to look for the jigsaw. How does one teach oneself the right amount of information about, say, the Seven Years War? I feel like I am struggling to stay on course.

4) I used the scheme of work and worked through it step by step but clearly there's a flaw there. I also, as you suggested, went through every single past paper and the mark schemes for them and tried to hone in on exactly what the examiner was looking for but frankly doing all of this without any guidance was in many ways a fool's errand, since I actually have nothing to compare myself to but notes of what should be mentioned in the answer to each question.

I have now had my university offer and I HAVE to get at least an A in the A level this summer in order to meet the conditions of the offer and I am so nervous about it that I am scared to even pick up the book!!! Any help on guiding me through these weaknesses would be greatly appreciated, especially if anybody would be able to point me in the direction of some useful resources/websites/books to assist me in what currently seems an impossible challenge.

#9 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 10:05 PM

Welcome back.

This will need a bit of thought; I will try to get back to you tomorrow evening.

#10 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 10:21 AM

Don't go away.
Like Mr Byrant, I will come back with some thoughts and questions after I've had a bit of a think.
Is that OK, please.

#11 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 10:24 AM

Sorry for the delayed reply.

Did you ask for your paper back? It's well worth having a look at it to see if you can find where you have gone wrong. If not, it may be too late now. Sometimes, having done it once, you can have a much clearer idea of what to do next time.

You are quite right; planning is central to all good A-Level answers, as the Examiner's Reports are always telling us. So, this may be an area you need to look at. Although some narrative structure is necessary, the emphasis always needs to be on analysis, so this is another thing to think about.

I will have a look for relevant resources, however I think it may be a question of how you are using the information, rather than that more information is needed.

Your main problem, as you have recognised, is not having someone who can mark your work and advise you. Is there anybody offering private History tuition where you live? They ofen advertise in free newpapers/magazines. If so, they may be able to help.

I will have a look at the AQA units you are doing and see what I can tell you. This will take a bit of time.

#12 lizadb

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 03:04 PM

Thanks for coming back to me.

I did think of asking for the paper back, but to be honest I wonder if I'll dwell too much on it rather than really focusing on ALL of the skills that are needed to successfully complete the paper. I think I'm also a bit stung because for whatever reason I seem to be unable to keep consistency with my history successes. When I was doing my A levels back in 2005, I would always get As or Bs for English literature and ended up with an A at AS and an A at A2 in that subject. In history, however, my results were literally all over the place. I got an A for my AS and came out with a C at the end of A2 because in the second year I went from getting As and Bs to Ds and Es. I resat a paper on Stalin twice and never managed to do very well in it, and I remember thinking as I was writing the answers, 'I will answer this question in a minute, I really will answer it in a minute,' as I droned on and on with a narrative description of events. It's like I have a hammer in my hand that either hits the nail on the head brilliantly or misses it entirely. It's a very odd and disconcerting problem to have, though I by no means think I can possibly be the only student to have this sort of issue.

I think I will do as you suggest and get hold of a history tutor just to help with the writing of the essays. I know I'm more than capable of taking in and storing the information that I need to answer the questions, I just have an issue with the analytical side, which is ironic because I don't seem to have this problem with other subjects!!!

I have managed to get hold of some sample answers from past papers as well, so I think that'll help.

Sorry for the delayed reply.

Did you ask for your paper back? It's well worth having a look at it to see if you can find where you have gone wrong. If not, it may be too late now. Sometimes, having done it once, you can have a much clearer idea of what to do next time.

You are quite right; planning is central to all good A-Level answers, as the Examiner's Reports are always telling us. So, this may be an area you need to look at. Although some narrative structure is necessary, the emphasis always needs to be on analysis, so this is another thing to think about.

I will have a look for relevant resources, however I think it may be a question of how you are using the information, rather than that more information is needed.

Your main problem, as you have recognised, is not having someone who can mark your work and advise you. Is there anybody offering private History tuition where you live? They ofen advertise in free newpapers/magazines. If so, they may be able to help.

I will have a look at the AQA units you are doing and see what I can tell you. This will take a bit of time.



#13 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 09:13 PM

I think you are really wise to seek a tutor.

At A-level there are various issues regarding essay technique - we can probably help there on an essay by essay basis.

But the main issue you seem to be struggling with is the ability to plan analytically - to plan your essays as a series of points, not as a narrative with 'points-as-you-go-along'.
If you do get a tutor, start your essays by discussing with them how to approach the essay in an analytical way, then go away and do it, then go back to them to have it marked and discuss where you gained and lost marks.
I suspect you will not need to do this more than a few times and 'the penny will drop.'

PS the model for most A-level essays is the Hegelian dialectic - Thesis (points for), Antithesis (points against), Resolution




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