Government and Politics A Level

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Government and Politics A Level


Politics shapes our lives – what we can do, the type of society we live in, the chances we have to succeed. This course is for people who want to understand more about how politics and government actually work.

You will learn about the grand ideas and vibrant movements that are transforming the world around us, and also see how seemingly arcane customs and obscure committees hold enormous power.

In the AS section, we start by looking at politics in the UK: Who has the power? How important are elections? What are the limits on Parliament and the prime minister? We will learn how laws are made, and about the ever changing influence of political parties, the Euro…

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Government and Politics A Level


Politics shapes our lives – what we can do, the type of society we live in, the chances we have to succeed. This course is for people who want to understand more about how politics and government actually work.

You will learn about the grand ideas and vibrant movements that are transforming the world around us, and also see how seemingly arcane customs and obscure committees hold enormous power.

In the AS section, we start by looking at politics in the UK: Who has the power? How important are elections? What are the limits on Parliament and the prime minister? We will learn how laws are made, and about the ever changing influence of political parties, the European Union and devolved government. We’ll also see some of the ways ordinary people interact with the government - and the power they can wield.

In the A2 section, we use the concepts and ideas we’ve learned in AS to explore the wider world of politics. You will be able to study the colourful, larger-than-life politics of the United States – learning about its almost sacred constitution, the horse-trading in Congress and the surprising powers of the White House.

In both the USA and the UK, there can be wide differences between what should happen in theory and how things happen in practice. In this course, we will look at both the theory and the practice.

In summary, this course explains ‘the rules’ of how politics works and looks at how people and politicians operate within – and bend – these rules. Both sections are examined in two ninety-minute written exams. To excel, you will need to put aside any preconceptions about politics and keep your eyes open to the world around you – the things you’ll learn about in this course are happening all around you, every day.

Read on to find out more about our A Level Government and Politics distance learning course and how you can learn with our amazing materials and online support.

Course Content

An outline of what is offered in our A Level Government and Politics course:

Unit 1: GOVP1 – People, Politics and ParticipationThis unit focuses on the theme of political behaviour in the UK. It explores how people's different patterns of participation can be explained and the forms of participation in a democracy.

The importance of voting behaviour, the influence of electoral systems in communicating political opinion and the controversies surrounding the use of referendums are crucial topics for analysis.

The principal institutions through which people's participation is achieved: political parties and pressure groups, are explored in terms of communicating views, shaping people's political ideas and the acquisition of resources which are likely to make them more powerful within the wider political system.

  • Participation and voting behaviour
  • Electoral systems
  • Political parties
  • Pressure groups and protest movements

Unit 2: GOVP2 – Governing Modern BritainThis unit focuses on the process of governing the UK, with power dispersed from local to European levels. The extent to which Britain's unique constitution regulates the process of government and maintains the balance between individual rights and the power of the state is explored.

The role of Westminster in providing a democratic element in government is examined as well as the degree to which power rests in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. The direction which government takes is analysed at the very apex of power in arrangements within the core executive.

Academic controversies are assessed in terms of the focus on the key issue of how Britain is governed

  • The British constitution
  • Parliament
  • The core executive
  • Multi-level governance

Unit 3A: - GOV3A the Politics of the USA
At A2 there is a requirement for synoptic assessment and, in this unit, it is expected that students will draw upon and extend the political knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding gained from their AS studies and make the necessary connections between the areas studied. In the assessment of this unit credit will be given for appropriate references to contemporary developments, issues and debates in the areas covered.

  • The electoral process and direct democracy
  • Political parties
  • Voting Behaviour
  • Pressure groups

Students should study one of the Unit 3 options: either this unit, or Unit 3B Ideologies, or Unit 3C Politics and Power.

Unit 3B: - GOV3B Ideologies
At A2 there is a requirement for synoptic assessment and, in this unit, it is expected that students will draw upon and extend the political knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding gained from their AS studies and make the necessary connections between the areas studied.

In the assessment of this unit credit will be given for appropriate references to contemporary developments, issues and debates in the areas covered.

  • Liberalism
  • Socialism
  • Conservatism
  • Fascism

Students should study one of the Unit 3 options: either this unit, or Unit 3A The Politics of the USA, or Unit 3C Politics and Power.

Unit 3C: - GOV3C Politics and PowerAt A2 there is a requirement for synoptic assessment and, in this unit, it is expected that students will draw upon and extend the political knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding gained from their AS studies and make the necessary connections between the areas studied.

In the assessment of this unit credit will be given for appropriate references to contemporary developments, issues and debates in the areas covered.

  • Power in modern society
  • Executive power
  • Political culture
  • Britain in Europe

Students should study one of the Unit 3 options: either this unit, or Unit 3A The Politics of the USA, or Unit 3B Ideologies.

Unit 4: GOV4A the Government of the USAAt A2 there is a requirement for synoptic assessment and, in this unit, it is expected that students will draw upon and extend the political knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding gained from their AS studies and make the necessary connections between the areas studied. In the assessment of this unit credit will be given for appropriate references to contemporary developments, issues and debates in the areas covered.

  • The constitutional framework of US government
  • The legislative branch of government: US Congress
  • The executive branch of government
  • The judicial branch of government: the supreme court

Students should study one of the Unit 4 options: either this unit, or Unit 4B Political Issues: Ideologies in Action, or Unit 4C Perspectives on Modern Politics.

Unit 4B: GOV4B Political Issues: Ideologies in Action
At A2 there is a requirement for synoptic assessment and, in this unit, it is expected that students will draw upon and extend the political knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding gained from their AS studies and make the necessary connections between the areas studied.

In the assessment of this unit credit will be given for appropriate references to contemporary developments, issues and debates in the areas covered

  • Ethnicity and Gender
  • The Environment
  • Education
  • The Economy

Students should study one of the Unit 4 options: either this unit, or Unit 4A The Government of the USA, or Unit 4C Perspectives on Modern Politics.

Unit 4C: GOV4C Perspectives on Modern PoliticsAt A2 there is a requirement for synoptic assessment and, in this unit, it is expected that students will draw upon and extend the political knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding gained from their AS studies and make the necessary connections between the areas studied.

In the assessment of this unit credit will be given for appropriate references to contemporary developments, issues and debates in the areas covered.

  • Participation and Representation
  • Globalisation
  • Change and Continuity
  • Territorial Politics

Students should study one of the Unit 4 options: either this unit, or Unit 4A The Government of the USA, or Unit 4B Political Issues: Ideologies in Action.

Summary of Assessments

Unit 1: GOVP1 – People, Politics and Participation

  • 50% of AS Level
  • 25% of A Level
  • 1 hour 30 minutes written examination
  • 80 marks
  • Two structured source-based questions from a choice of four.

Unit 2: GOVP2 – Governing Modern Britain

  • 50% of AS Level
  • 25% of A Level
  • 1 hour 30 minutes written examination
  • 80 marks
  • Two structured source-based questions from a choice of four.

Unit 3: either - GOV3A the Politics of the USA, or GOV3B Ideologies, or GOV3C Politics and Power

  • 25% of A Level
  • 1 hour 30 minutes written examination
  • 80 raw marks
  • Two questions from a choice of four.

Unit 4: either - GOV4A the Government of the USA, or GOV4B Political Issues: Ideologies in Action, or GOV4C Perspectives on Modern Politics

  • 25 % of A Level
  • 1 hour 30 minutes written examination
  • 80 raw marks
  • Two questions from a choice of four.

Recommended Reading

There are a number of textbooks that cover the AS and most parts of the A2 course (Units 1 and 2). Some of the best include:

British Politics in Focus, by Roy Bentley et all, 2004 – comprehensive and straight-forward

For the American politics sections of A2, there are also a number of books specifically aimed at A-level students, including:

American Politics and Society, by David McKay, 2005 – very good

On the European Union:

The European Union and British Politics, by Andrew Geddes, 2003.

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