A-level government and politics: What's it really like?

Everything current students wish they had known before starting

Are you taking government and politics at A-level or thinking about it?

Prepare to work on your critical thinking skills and learn about democracy, the British political system and American politics.

A-level government and politics complements subjects like English, economics, history and sociology, or you could take it alongside maths and science subjects.

Here are some words of wisdom and advice from A-level government and politics students:

What did you do in the first few weeks?

You can expect to start with the basics. If you want to look super on it at the beginning of your course, do some research around the UK's unwritten (or de facto) constitution.

Learnt about the UK constitution – Google it!


We studied democracy.


What was hardest part of A-level government and politics?

Consuming the news on a regular basis and analysing politics in a much deeper way is what students found most challenging.

You had to go beyond what everyone hears on Facebook and really start to criticise the political process rather than just politicians.


The hardest thing was getting into the habit of learning more about local politics and following the news. Because of this, I ended up deciding that local politics was not for me and switching my intention from studying politics in university to studying international relations in university because global politics interests me more than local and national politics.


What surprised you most about A-level government and politics?

You'll basically become a politics expert over the course of two years.

It enables you to understand and make informed arguments about almost every political qualm in the UK even if it isn’t something you learn about.


Government and politics surprised me because of how up-to-date with the news you had to be. My teacher surprised me by lending me politics books, though!


What advice would you give to someone starting this A-level government and politics in September?

Read the news, read the news and... did we mention read the news?

Read the news – don’t just watch it! The Economist would be a great investment as a subscription. Engage in political debate wherever possible as it really develops your understanding.

If you don't get something, don't worry as it'll be covered later on multiple times as everything is so interlinked.


Check the time. Both exams are a mark a minute, but manageable.

In each unit, you have four topics. Do not revise every topic. In school, you will obviously be taught them all, but learning them all when you only need two or three topics for the exams is ridiculous.

Follow the news! This is way more important than it seems since your teacher may ask you about the news in class and important changes may happen. This is especially important for political parties and perhaps pressure groups.

Use examples that are as recent as possible. The Brexit referendum of 2016 is a much better example than the 1975 EC referendum.

For 25 and 40 markers, you are not allowed to stand on the fence with whether something is good or bad or if you agree or not. You can only acknowledge the other side has a point but that your side is better because insert reasons here.

If you can do it without using up more than around 20 seconds, write two examples. This is not exactly feasible in every single question, but when it is (e.g. when just mentioning the name of two secondary political parties is enough to count as two examples in a paragraph), do it.


Share your own experiences and ask questions in the government and politics forum.

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