New draft 2015 AS and A level History specifications | Pearson qualifications

New draft 2015 AS and A level History specifications

6 June 2014

Below are the draft AS and A level History specifications for first teaching in September 2015. These draft specifications and sample assessment materials have been submitted to Ofqual for accreditation and may be subject to change.

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You can download the draft specifications for AS and A level History 2015 below.

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lease note: these draft qualifications have not yet been accredited by Ofqual. They are published to enable teachers to have early sight of our proposed approach to AS and A level History. Further changes may be required and no assurance can be given at this time that the proposed qualification will be made available in its current form, or that it will be accredited in time for first teaching in September 2015 and first award in Summer 2016 (AS) and Summer 2017 (A level).

Key changes from 2015

The following changes are being made to all A level History specifications as a result of the DfE and Ofqual subject requirements:

  • From 2015, AS will be a stand-alone linear qualification - no AS results will count towards the A level grade, and the new AS will be of a similar standard to the current AS. A level History will be a two-year linear course with all examinations taken in the summer of Year 13.
  • 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.
  • A level students will be required to study at least 20 per cent British history in the course.
  • AS is 100 per cent examination. A level History will have a 20 per cent coursework component assessing independently researched historical enquiry.
  • The requirement to study change over a period of 100 years at A level has been retained.

How we've addressed these changes

We've been working on the draft specifications for over a year, and have consulted widely with teachers in schools and in colleges to gain feedback on our current A level and to seek ideas and input on the new specifications. We've also worked closely with Higher Education and the wider History community and, in developing this new specification, we've aimed to balance all the feedback received whilst seeking to address some of the criticisms of the current modular A levels.


We've thought carefully about designing a specification which enables co-teaching of AS and A level as we know that many centres will want to continue to offer AS. The specified content of the AS is the same as the content of half the A level (Paper 1 and Paper 2 in both). While assessments have to be at different standards, the AS and A level examinations for these papers target the same skills and share a common structure to aid co-teaching.

All subject content requirements met through examined components

A key design principle was the decision to free up the choice of coursework topic by ensuring that all major subject content requirements were met through the examined components. Our approach means that teachers can be confident they are meeting the subject criteria through the permissible examined routes, and ensures there is a free choice of coursework topic. We've also ensured there is flexibility to meet the '200 years' requirement, either by having a broad course within one period or by having topics from more than one period.

200-year rule

Perhaps the biggest change is the new requirement for A level History courses to cover a range of at least 200 years, which means that many courses will need to be chronologically broader than they are now. Many centres currently offer predominantly modern 20th century courses or early-modern 16th century courses, which will no longer be permitted under the new subject criteria for 2015. We've structured our A level specification to allow flexibility in how the '200 years' rule is met - within one period or across more than one period. We've created discrete medieval and early modern routes which meet the '200 years' rule, and we've enabled a variety of modern routes which span the 19th and 20th centuries. Centres can also mix modern, early modern and medieval options, and the structure ensures that, where this approach is taken, students study a substantial element of each period.

Balance between breadth and depth

One of the criticisms of the current modular specifications is that content is often fragmented into discrete topics which can be studied in isolation, and that depth is often decontextualised. Throughout the new specification, we have clearly distinguished between breadth and depth topics: the breadth topics have been chosen for their suitability for breadth, and are genuine breadth topics. We've also thought carefully about linking breadth and depth topics to ensure more coherence and more context for depth studies. This addresses HE and stakeholder concerns about current modular specifications and is better suited to a linear qualification.

Avoiding direct repetition of GCSE content

There is currently a lot of concern amongst Higher Education and the wider History community about students studying the same topics at A level as at GCSE. We've therefore tried not to have direct repetition of GCSE topics in our new A level specification and, where there is, we've tried to ensure that what is often studied in depth at GCSE is studied in breadth at A level. We will build on these principles for the development of our new GCSE History specification for first teaching in September 2016.

British History

In response to teacher feedback about the current A level History specification, we've ensured that there is flexibility in where the British requirement is met. With British history options in each of the three examined papers, you may choose to have British history in the second year of A level only.

We want our new AS and A level History qualifications to achieve a balance between being rigorous and stretching, and inclusive and genuinely empowering for all learners. We know that some of these changes are significant, and we're working hard to support you through them. We will continue to consult extensively with teachers during the accreditation process and we will keep you informed about changes to the draft specifications as a result of Ofqual feedback.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will the draft specifications be accredited?

We can't say exactly. We are working with Ofqual to get them accredited and expect the specifications to be finalised in September 2014 (but it could be later depending on the accreditation process).

Will there be textbooks for the new specification, and when will they be available?

We will be providing you with free topic booklets for every topic that will contain a list of useful resources that are currently available. We are also working with a range of publishers to ensure that books are written for the new specification and we will keep you up to date with planned resources via email updates. Please make sure you sign up for my regular email updates by contacting us.

How can I provide feedback on the new AS and A level History specifications?

We welcome your feedback on the new specifications - please contact us.

How can I find out more about the new Pearson Edexcel AS and A level specifications?

You can book a place on one of our free launch events which we are running throughout June and July

Check out our training page to see upcoming events.

We will be running more launch events in September and October, followed by Getting Ready to Teach events later in the year.

How can I register an interest in teaching the new Pearson Edexcel AS and A level History specifications?

Register your interest in this qualification.

If you have any questions about our new AS and A level History specifications please get in touch.




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