New History A/AS level draft specifications | Pearson qualifications

New draft specifications for Edexcel History A level and AS level

6 June 2014

We’ve just published the new, draft specifications for Edexcel A level and AS level History qualifications, to be taught in schools from September 2015. 

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These have been developed following careful consultation with teachers, higher education and subject experts and as part of Pearson's World Class Qualification programme, benchmarking the qualifications with those of the highest-performing jurisdictions in the world.

They have been put together according to the criteria that the Department for Education published last year and were submitted to Ofqual on Thursday 5 June for accreditation.

AS levels will be a standalone linear qualification, which won't count towards the A level grade but can be taught alongside the A level. A levels will be two-year linear courses with all the examinations taken in the summer of Year 13.

Key features of AS and A level History from 2015 will include:

  • At both AS and A level, students must study the history of more than one country or state, including at least one outside the British Isles.
  • A level students will be required to study topics from a chronological range of at least 200 years (for example if the most modern topic in a course ends in 1990, the earliest topic must start in 1790 or earlier).
  • A level students will be required to study at least 20% British history in the course.
  • AS is 100% examination. A level History will have a 20% coursework component assessing an independently researched historical enquiry.
  • The requirement to study change over a period of 100 years at A level has been retained.

Mark Anderson, Managing Director of Pearson UK, said:

"We are enormously grateful to the many teachers, academics and stakeholders from the wider History community who have helped us to put together these new qualifications. We believe that this is an engaging and coherent course, offering both breadth and depth of historical study, which provides excellent preparation for further study in higher education.
"From our consultations, we know that many of these changes are welcome, but that change always poses new challenges. Our main priority is to provide schools with the most up-to-date information and support on the reforms, to ensure that they and their students are prepared for these changes next year."

For further information please contact:

Martin O'Donovan
+44 (0) 20 7190 5372

Notes to editors

About Pearson

Pearson is the world's leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning.

About the World Class Qualifications Programme

In 2012 Pearson launched the World Class Qualifications programme, bringing together international assessment and education experts to develop qualifications that will support young people globally to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Led by an expert panel, and Chaired by Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor at Pearson, a key role of this programme is to feed in to the development of the new GCSE and A level qualifications.

Further information about the World Class Qualifications Programme

Accessing the draft qualifications

View the full specifications online:

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The format and content of the new AS and A level specifications


There will be three papers in total in the A level course and two for the AS level.

For papers one and two, teachers must choose one theme from eight options, which are designed to cover a diverse range of history:

  • Conquest and control in medieval Europe
  • Religion and state in early modern Europe
  • Revolutions in early modern and modern Europe
  • Challenges to authority of the state in late 18th and 19th century Europe
  • Communist states in the 20th century
  • Searching for rights and freedoms in the 20th century
  • Nationalism, dictatorship and democracy in 20th century Europe
  • Democracies in change – Britain and the USA in the 20th century

Within each theme, students will be required to study the history of more than one country, through clearly defined 'breadth' and 'depth' topics which are linked to ensure greater coherence across the course.

Paper 3 covers the requirement to study change over at least 100 years.

There will be a choice of 16 topics with a number of prohibited combinations with paper 1, and two routes (to ensure that the British history and 200-year rules are met):

  • Lancastrians, Yorkists and Henry VII, 1399–1509
  • Rebellion and disorder under the Tudors, 1485–1603
  • The Golden Age of Spain, 1474–1598
  • The witch craze in Britain, Europe and North America, c1580–c1750
  • Industrialisation and social change in Britain, 1759–1928: forging a new society
  • Poverty, public health and the state in Britain, c1780–1939
  • Britain: losing and gaining an empire, 1763–1914
  • The British experience of warfare, c1790–1918
  • Protest, agitation and parliamentary reform in Britain, c1780–1928
  • Ireland and the Union, c1774–1923
  • The changing nature of warfare, 1859–1991: perception and reality
  • Germany, 1871–1990: united, divided and reunited
  • The making of modern Russia, 1855–1991
  • The making of modern China, 1860–1997
  • Civil rights and race relations in the USA, 1850–2009
  • Mass media and social change in Britain, 1882–2004


This can derive from or relate to the content of papers 1, 2 or 3, or be a new topic.

The task is:

  • centre-set
  • teacher-marked
  • externally moderated.

Students must look at the interpretations of three different historians on a chosen question, problem or issue. The same title could be set for all students as long as students have the opportunity to choose interpretations relevant to the chosen question.


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