A Level General Studies
General Studies (AQA 1761 and 2761)
As part of our commitment to broadening the A level programme of study, most Sixth Formers will take General Studies for two periods a week in each of their Lower and Upper Sixth years. (Those pupils studying Further Mathematics A level will not be able to attend the lessons owing to a clash on the timetable but will be able to sit the General Studies examinations). The content is too wide-ranging for the course to be taught as a conventional subject where all topics are covered in targeted lessons. Instead we present a course of 9 modules over two years which focus on broad skill areas covering the two main themes of the A level syllabus.
These themes are :
a) Culture and Society : Module 1 (AS); Module 3 (A2)
b) Science and Society : Module 2 (AS); Module 4(A2)
All students rotate through each module covering the following issues in the Lower Sixth : Art & Culture; World Views; Science in Society, and Society, Politics and the Economy. In the Upper Sixth students participate in Science Issues; Great Music; International Society, Politics and the Economy.
Method of Assessment
This subject is assessed by examinations of which there is one for each module. Modules 1 and 2 are taken at the end of the Lower Sixth year, thus enabling students to concentrate on A2 modules 3 and 4 at the end of the Upper Sixth year.
Module 1 comprises a comprehension tested by Objective Test Questions and 3 short questions on documentary analysis.
Module 2 consists of Objective Test Questions and an essay on issues linking Science and Society.
Module 3 assesses the ability to analyse source material via a series of structured questions and two essays, one on Culture and one on broader Social issues.
Module 4 centres around a Case Study requiring analysis of a wide range of source material via structured questions and an extended essay on scientific issues. The documentary material is provided for study in advance of the examination.
Critical Thinking (AS only)
In the Upper Sixth, AS Critical Thinking is offered as a timetabled subject in place of General Studies to those pupils who are preparing applications to Oxford and Cambridge universities. The course is also available as an optional extra in classes after school for those pupils who are studying Further Maths and any other interested parties.
Critical Thinking is devoted to the skills of practical reasoning and is intended to equip students to think and write clearly about everyday matters both inside and outside school. These skills are reflected in the aptitude tests that have been developed as part of the admissions process of certain universities; for example, Oxford University’s Admissions Tests (HAT, MAT, PAT, TSA); the Cambridge University Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) for natural sciences, computer science, economics, and engineering; the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) and the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT).
Links to other AS/A2 courses
Given the over-arching nature of the General Studies course there are elements of most subjects reflected in the examination as a whole. Students can expect to find some sections of the examination more accessible where they relate closely to A level courses; other areas will prove more challenging but should encourage students to apply their skills and knowledge in a broader context. To this end students are encouraged to complete wider reading on their own initiative. This can take the form of newspapers; journals (eg Economist, National Geographic) in addition to any books which may capture interest. This is good practice which should reinforce advice given by staff in each A level subject on the curriculum. Likewise the skills embodied in Critical Thinking underpin most other A level courses and should help students to approach their work in a more analytical way.
Links to HE courses and beyond
A number of universities value the General Studies qualification in its own right and each year several students obtain their first choice university place on the strength of their performance in General Studies. A grade in General Studies can often prove to be the deciding factor in securing a place even at those institutions which do not include the subject as part of their offer as it is recognised that candidates succeeding in General Studies have proven ability in transferring their skills across subject boundaries.