The top 10 topics studied by A Level History students

13 August 2014

The top 10 topics studied by A Level History students are revealed today.

Russian Dictatorship (1855-1992) proved the most popular, offered by more than a third of schools and colleges surveyed. It was followed by Civil Rights in the USA (1865-1992) in second and Dictatorship & Democracy in Germany (1933-1963) in third.

The top 10 emerged from research by exam group Cambridge Assessment. Researchers Simon Child, Ellie Darlington and Tim Gill looked at how schools were using the range of choices available to them on exam board OCR’s A Level History courses.

Writing in the Cambridge Assessment publication Research Matters, they found that schools generally favoured modern history over medieval and early modern, although ‘traditional’ topics such as Tudor history still proved popular. The study of one of Britain’s most influential Prime Ministers, Sir Winston Churchill, came in at number five. The full top 10 is published below.

Dr Child said: “History is one of the most popular subjects at A Level, and the figures show it is increasing in popularity. We set out to explore how schools use the options available to them, and found that offering a wide range of choices does not necessarily lead to historical or geographical breadth.”

A Levels are currently being reformed, with new History A Levels being taught from September 2015. OCR’s draft new A Level in History is currently in the accreditation (regulatory approval) process. It includes the chance to tackle new topics, including Alfred the Great, Genghis Khan and pre-colonial African kingdoms.

Mike Goddard, OCR’ s Head of History, said: “It’s sometimes said that Hitler and the Henrys can dominate school history. That is why here at OCR we are giving schools the opportunity to embrace a broader focus – with the extra help and support to do so.” 

Top 10 OCR A Level History topic choices offered by schools and colleges in 2013:

I. Russian Dictatorship (1855-1992)

II. Civil Rights in the USA (1865-1992)

III. Dictatorship & Democracy in Germany (1933-1963)

IV. Mid-Tudor Crises (1536-1569)

V. Churchill (1920-1945) 

VI. Rebellion & Disorder Under the Tudors (1485-1603) 

VII. Henry VIII to Mary I (1509-1558)

VIII. Democracy & Dictatorship in Germany (1919-1963)

IX. The Origins & Causes of the French Revolution (1774-1795)

X. From Pitt to Peel (1783-1846)

Research Matters

Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.

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