• Foreign Languages at A Level

TSR Wiki > Study Help > Exams and Qualifications > A Levels > A Level Subject Guides > Foreign Languages at A Level

There are a number of languages available at A Level. These include:

  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Biblical Hebrew
  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • French
  • German
  • Gujarati
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Hebrew
  • Modern Greek
  • Panjabi
  • Persian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish
  • Urdu


Why Study Languages?

I think the more appropriate question here is 'Why not study a language?'. Languages are an invaluable skill that you can hone to whatever level you wish, depending on how much work you put in and how much dedication you have. Starting a language from scratch and attending one lesson for about 4 hours a week won't have you fluent by the end of the year, but you will start to be able to understand more and more with every time you go. Equally, if you work hard and completely immerse yourself in the language of your choice, perhaps by living in the country or by only speaking the language to someone who is already fluent, you can achieve a level of understanding quicker than someone who's not studying the same way.

Languages open doors - When you go on holiday you can read the street signs and converse with anyone you meet, even if it's just a simple hello and goodbye. The British have a reputation of expecting other people to speak English to them and not bothering to even try a few words in native tongue of the country. In most European countries, English is taught alongside another language other than the native tongue from a young age, a scheme which is not as readily avaliable in Britain. If you study a language up to degree level you are likely to be attractive to employers in the business sector.

Languages are also immensely rewarding. The knowledge that you can confidently talk in another language is reassuring when you travel, and watching a TV show in a different language not only works as revision, but makes you look clever. ;) Listening to music that is in other languages opens you to new ways of doing things, especially if you don't study a western European language.

Course Structure

Study Help


Different Languages


Arabic is only offered by Edexcel. The A-Level is divided into two exams: Unit 1 (AS-Level, 3 hours) and Unit 2 (A2-Level, 3 hours) each worth 50% of the total grade.

In the first exam candidates are required to translate a passage from Arabic to English, answer comprehension questions worth 25% of the paper, add diatrical marks to a passage, and write a 200 word essay.

In the second exam candidates are required to translate a passage from English to Arabic, answer comprehension questions worth 20% of the paper, and write two 250 word essays.


Biblical Hebrew


Chinese A Level is offered by both Edexcel and CIE Examining Boards. The course has no listening nor oral exam, unlike the 'major' language A Levels; its main emphasis on reading, writing and translation (without oral or listening), is in line with the other 'community language' A-levels. Nevertheless, from 2008, Edexcel Chinese A-level will include an oral and a listening element, which other 'community language' A-levels will lack.


1. (6261) Reading + Translation & Writing


2. (6262) Reading + Translation, with Prepared Essay on Topic or Text (before 2007: unprepared essay questions on a Topic or Text)

Changes to the A-level for 2008

A-level Chinese will change for first teaching 2008, as will most other A-levels. However, the changes for Chinese will not be necessarily like other community modern foreign languages (e.g. Japanese, Bengali, Panjabi), which will stay rather more alike the current specifications. Edexcel Chinese A-level (8CN01/9CN01) will have the singular distinction of being the only A-level to have three units (the first A-level to contain an odd number of compulsory units since Curriculum 2000): two for AS, one for A2, and will contain an oral and listening (again unlike other community modern foreign languages). The new AS Unit 1 (6CN01) will be an oral unit, a recorded presentation (not a dialogue or conversation with a teacher-examiner or authorised acquaintance as with GCSE), in response to a cue in English. The AS Unit 2 (6CN02) will have a listening element for Section A in addition to the former Curriculum 2000 unit 6261 - a reading comprehension section, a translation and an extended piece of writing. The A2, composed only of Unit 3 (6CN03), will stay like the current 6262, Reading + Translation, with Prepared Essay on Topic or Text. [1]

Topics and Texts

  • Modern Chinese History (1911-1976)
  • Geography of China
  • Society
  • Literary Texts

CIE Chinese

Chinese A-level is offered by CIE, primarily aimed at native speakers. CIE offers two AS's in Chinese Language and Chinese Literature, which are components of the Chinese (First Language) A-level. There is no overall Chinese AS.

Links and Resources



"French is the most common language for a pupil to learn at any level. In the year 2004, 320,818 pupils entered at GCSE level and 35,753 at A Level (20,580 at AS and 15,173 at A2). There are a number of reasons for it being popular; firstly, France is the most popular holiday destination for British tourists. As well as this, relations between France and Britain are always developing; although many French people speak English, there is always a demand for bilingual English and French speakers in industry. French is also one of the most popular languages for carrying on to degree level; in 2003, there were 21,255 students studying French is any combination (ie by itself, with another language or as part of another course). French is offered in most schools around the country; it is often chosen by pupils as the only language they carry on to GCSE study." from http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Modern_Foreign_Languages

French is split up into AS and A2, consisting of examinations on knowledge of society and literature as well as speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

French follows on quite well from GCSE but you need to be up on your grammar to get through to A2 but you could get through AS with a little more limited knowledge. Having said that, you should not sit back and relax about your grammar.
At my school an A is required to get onto the AS course. If you are scraping a B it's probably not a good idea to think about a language.

AQA French AS
Unit 1: 1.5 hours. Reading, writing and listening.
This covers topics such as television, advertising, new technologies, sports and well-being, holidays, the cinema, music, fashion, familial relationships, friends and marriage/civil partnership.
Generally contains a listening and reading sections requiring answers in both English and French. The final section requires an essay (minimum 250 words) written on the subject of one of the three questions given. Unit 2: 35 minutes. Speaking."
Consists of requiring a verbal response to the same topics as learned for Unit 1. The test is in 3 sections.
Section 1: Response to Role Play Stimulus Material (Choice of 2 cards). Allocated 20 minutes to write answers to 5 written questions. This section requires 5 minutes of speaking, 2.5 from the questions, and 2.5 from conversation thereafter.
Section 2: 10 minutes of speaking. One subtopic is chosen by the candidate and the other 2 at random. The 10 minutes should be divided equally between each of the 3 topics.

AQA French A2
Unit 3: 2.5 hours. Listening, reading and writing.
Section 1: Listening and Reading on A2 topics - Pollution and the environment, energy consumption, immigration and integration of cultures, racism, science and technologies, and justice and the law.
Section 2: Essay on Cultural topic of choice. Usually a general question which can be applied to several choices, including film directors, authors, musicians, regions of France, a period of history in France, sculptists and others.
Unit 4: 35 minutes. Speaking.
20 minutes allocated for preparation of stimulus material based on A2 topics. 5 minutes of speaking using stimulus material in a debate. Then 5 minutes on two choices of cultural topics of France.

Any university course will look very favourably on a candidate with language ability. Doing a language keeps options open. If you speak another language the options for semesters/years abroad increase dramatically. English speakers may only be able to go to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, for example whilst a French speaker can choose from around 40 countries worldwide. You could be taking semesters or years in France, Switzerland, Canada, Africa...
Speaking another language is always useful when on holiday but it is certainly a huge bonus for finding a job. On average, a bi-/multi-lingual graduate earns £4000 more than one who only speaks one language. You will have more option for travel in your work and you will often be put with high profile clients who come from abroad.

Why French instead of German/Spanish...
Spanish is spoken in the Americas with great prominence, along with Portuguese.
German is spoken in the Eastern European countries and would make learning languages like Finnish or Polish much easier as you would have experience in complex grammatical structures.
In my opinion, the opportunity for French travel is so much wider. Almost the entirety of Africa is open to you as well as western Europe and Canada. One of the things I like most about French is it's a lot easier to fake - words are similar in English and French. However this is often not the case so don't try and say an English sentence with a French accent and for you to be understood. Also, it is said that if you know a word in French you can mostly guess what it is in Spanish so with some Spanish study you have all the Spanish countries open to you too. There is the case that French and German were the traditional languages to be taught in schools for a long time and so in business you will probably meet more who speak French than who speak Greek because the older businesspeople would have learnt French in their youth. French is a beautiful language and sounds incredible. Some of the worlds greatest writings and films are French. French has close links with Spanish, Italian, Latin and English and all Romance languages.


German is the second most common MFL offered for school pupils, alongside French. Though it may be less popular than French, it still attracted 90,311 to take it at GCSE level in 2006. Part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, it is spoken by approximately 110 million native speakers and 18 million non-native speakers in the world and is an important business language. German is a very logical and literal language - many words can be broken down into other words you already know which help you find the meaning easily, like in English (Toothbrush, for example, is Zahnbürste - tooth brush).

Variations in the German Language

Like all countries and languages, Germany has a great deal of variety in accents and dialects that differ from Austrian German and so on. Whilst 'Hochdeutsch' (the language taught in school systems) is understood, it is always useful to know at least a few characteristics of some of the more common accents and regional variations on language, even if it's just for your own enjoyment. If you're planning a trip to Germany with an idea of using your German, then it may be a good idea to youtube the local dialect so that you can at least recognise it quickly, without panicking about what is being said! Whilst it's unlikely you'll need to recognise someone's accent in an A level exam, they could throw you a listening that features someone with a less than perfect accent and so it is worth knowing that very few people will speak the 'news reader' accent that is taught in schools.




The only exam board that does A-level Italian is Edexcel. Italian is a language spoken in Italy and parts of Switzerland, and although popularly taken up from scratch as a part of a joint honours degree, it can be taken as an A-level too.

AS Level At AS level the year is divided accordingly into learning grammar and learning about the culture of Italy. There is much more culture content on the course in comparison to GCSE. You get to learn the conditional and subjunctive, as well as the pluperfect, to name a few! The culture aspects include italian family life, education and food and diet. There is no coursework at AS level. There are three exams:

1. Oral: This is the dreaded (by me, at least!) spoken exam. Before the exam you write and learn a presentation on a topic of your choice, but it has to be something to do with Italy. Popular topics include the Mafia, singers i.e. Andrea Bocelli, Laura Pausini and fashion. It has to be no more/less than 1 minute 30 seconds, they are very strict on the time limit. After you've recited your presentation (which shouldn't sound too rehearsed, don't ask how that's possible) you'll have a conversation with the examiner which usually lasts 10-12 minutes, on the presentation you've just given. He/she will ask you questions, you won't know what they will be but you can have a good guess as it'll be on the content of your presentation. A good way to prepare is just by writing lots of "mock" answers and learning them.

2. Listening and Writing: This paper is 1 hour long. You provide your own CD/tape player (or sometimes the school provides it, depending), and are given a CD or tape by the examiner. Recordings are controlled by you, which is cool because you can rewind it and pause as much as you like, within the time limit. There are typical "tick the box" questions, and also 2 longer questions of 8 marks each where the quality of your writing and the relevance of your answer to the question will be assessed.

3. Reading: This paper is 2 hours long, although time should be divided accordingly as there's a 40 mark mini-essay question at the end of the paper. The word limit for this question is 140-160 words, you are given a short list of bullet points on a topic you will have studied in the year and then asked to write a letter (usually to the editor of a magazine, etc.) including certain points they have given you. In this question the relevance and the quality of Italian will be assessed, so make sure to include loads of tenses like subjunctive, and conditional.

A2 Level Luckily, the majority of the grammar for the course is covered at AS, so this year is basically just consolidating what you know and covering a few bits, but nothing major. This year, we learnt more about culture but also more argumentative topics, too. Topics include: education, crime, young people in society, drugs and euthanasia. There's no coursework at A2. There are three exams:

1. Oral: This is 15 minutes long. You have to give a 60 second presentation on a contentious issue (but it doesn't have to be related to Italy) and give a definite stance either for or against and then you get asked questions on your issue. Examples include, euthanasia, size zero models and gay marriage. So you have to say you're either for or against the issue, and why. The conversation then moves on 'naturally' to at least another two more general topics; these included, euthanasia, the death penalty and young people.

2. Tpoics and texts: This is a 2 hour exam. You have to write two essays, in Italian, of at least 250 words, on two topics or texts you've studied in the year. We did Volevo i pantaloni, a novel by Lara Cardella, and Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore, a play by Pirandello. I think there's also the option to learn about specific eras in Italian history, film or individual towns and regions. It's the teacher's choice what you do but, to be honest, I think the literature's by far the easiest. There's only so many things they can ask you about a book, and if you do English Literature (which I do, although it's not a necessity to do well at Italian) it's like second nature - a minimum of 250 words seems like a breeze! Oh, but you can't take the texts into the exam room with you.

3. Reading/Writing/Listening: This is 2 3/4 hours. This is broken down into: i. Listening and writing - 45 mins. There's basically two parts to this. You have to answer questions in Italian on a couple of listening passages, and then write a summary in English in 80-100 words. Again, like AS, you control your own playback equipment.

ii. Reading and writing - 45 mins. Again, there's two parts to this. You have to answer questions in Italian on the passage that's printed. The second question is a translation from English to Italian, but it's not too bad because you can find most of the specialist vocabularly that you might not know in the text itself.

iii. Writing in registers - 1 hr 15 mins. You have to write 230-250 words (and, yes, they're strict on that!) on either a discursive essay (choice of 4 questions) on a random topic - the environment, obesity, etc, or a creative writing piece (choice of 3 questions - the third of which is a journalistic option) with some kind of stimulus (picture, headline, etc) or a task-based assignment (which we were told not to do at all costs) - writing a letter, or something.



Modern Greek

Offered by Edexcel at both AS and A2, the Edexcel website has this to say on their specification:


Students at both AS and Advanced GCE will be expected to know the following:

The case system (nominative, accusative and genitive forms, in both singular and plural) for all parts of speech which decline. Terminations marking gender in the definite and indefinite articles, all declensions of nouns, all classes of pronoun, all classes of adjective including comparative and superlative forms, demonstratives, possessives, interrogatives and the relative οποίος and those numerals which decline.

The formation of adverbs
Stems and endings of all verb forms, active and passive, in all tenses and in both aspects.
The gerund and the participles.
Defective, deponent and impersonal verbs.

Agreement in number, gender and case.
Uses of the article.
Combinations and order of elements within the noun phrase.
Appositional constructions.
Mood and modality.
The syntax of copular verbs.
All subordinate clauses formed with να.
All subordinate clauses formed with μην.
All other forms of subordinate clause.
Word order in main and subordinate clauses.
Prepositions and the cases which they govern.
Measurement of space, time and quantity.

All the conventions of standard orthography and accentuation
For the explanation, illustration and analysis of the above, students are recommended to consult:
Holton D, Mackridge P and Philippaki-Warburton I — Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language (Routledge, 1997)


Students at both Advanced GCE and AS Level will be expected to have developed an abstract and concrete vocabulary for the discussion of day-to-day matters, the institutions and values of the contemporary society, the working world, the environment and the international context. They should also be able to express a full range of standard intellectual and emotional processes, and to construct arguments expressing causes, conditions, concessions, purpose and consequences.
Students at Advanced GCE will also be expected to have developed a specialist vocabulary appropriate to their topic or text. Students should write standard Modern Greek. Dialect forms may not be used in active production, although more common variants may occur for recognition.

Topics (for Unit 2 section 2)

1 Modern Greek history 1923-1985
Students will be expected to have studied the following topics:
•aftermath of the events in Asia Minor
•the Metaxas regime
•Greece and the Second World War
•causes and effects of the Civil War
•the Junta 1967-74
•the re-establishment of democracy 1974-85.

Suggested bibliography
Βακαλοπούλου Νεοελληνική ιστορία 1204-1985 Εκδόσεις Βάνιας (Thessaloniki reprint, 1997)
Clogg R (trans. Λ. Παπαδάκη) — Συνοπτική Іστορία της Ελλάδας
Εκδόσεις — ΙΣΤΟΡΗΤΗΣ (Athens, 1995)
The recommended reading will provide students with an appropriate vocabulary and the relevant basic facts.

2 The history of Cyprus since 1878
Students will be expected to have studied the following topics:
•the relationship between Cyprus, Britain and Turkey 1878-1914
•political and economic issues 1914-1931
•the re-emergence of the ‘Cyprus Question’ and the struggle for liberation
•the Cypriot Republic 1960-1974
•the Turkish invasion of 1974 and its effects on Cypriot society.

Suggested bibliography
Παντελή Σ — Νέα Ιστορία της Κύπρου Εκδόσεις Φλώρος (Athens, 1984) Ιστορία της Κύπρου Μεσαιωνική — Νεότερη (1192-1974) ϒπουργείο Παιδείας και Πολιτισμού ϒπηρεσία — ανάπτυξης προγραμμάτων (Leukosia, 1994) p184-317

3 An area of Greece or of Cyprus
The geography, economics and culture of one of the following areas:
•the Cyclades
•the Dodecanese
•the Peloponnese
•the North of Greece (Makedonia, Thrace)
•any area of Cyprus (eg Larnaca, Pafos).

Suggested bibliography Ελάτε να γνωρίσουμε την Κύπρο, Υπουργείο Παιδείας Κύπρου Γεωγραφία Ελλάδας, ΟΕΔΒ Any good Greek encyclopaedia contains comprehensive information and details on regions of Greece and Cyprus. The following are suggested recommendations: Ελλαδική, Εκδόσεις, Ρίζος Δομή Υδρία

4 The individual and society in Greece 1900-1960, as seen through literature
Students will be expected to discuss the presentation of the following themes:
•moral values and individual conduct
•the family and marriage
•gender issues
•social conformism
•urban life.
They will need to have a general knowledge of the relevant historical and social background.
For this the recommended source-book is:
Βακαλόπουλος A — Νεοελληνική ιστορία (see topic one above).
Literary texts which particularly reflect these issues are:
Ταχτσή K — Το τρίτο στεφάνι
Χριστομάνου K — Η κερένια κούκλα
5 Καβάφη K Ποιήματα 6 Πολίτη K Στου Χατζηφράγκου 7 Ιωάννου Γ Η σαρκοφάγος 8 Σαμαράκη A Η κόντρα

Grade descriptions

Qualifications will be awarded on a scale of A-E for AS and Advanced GCE. Individual results will be reported. The following grade descriptions indicate the level of attainment characteristic of the given grade at Advanced GCE. They give a general indication of the required learning outcomes at each specified grade. The descriptions should be interpreted in relation to the content outlined in the specification; they are not designed to define that content. The grade awarded will depend in practice upon the extent to which the student has met the assessment objectives overall. Shortcomings in some aspects of the examination may be balanced by better performances in others.

Grade A
Students show clear understanding of a wide range of written texts in a variety of registers. They have a very good understanding of grammatical markers, eg tense, mood and aspects, and a high level of awareness of structure, style and register. They not only understand the detail of the text but also show an ability to infer meaning and points of view. Where circumstances allow, they respond with insight and imagination. They appreciate the register and syntax of the original and when transferring meaning into English, Welsh or Irish they adapt their style appropriately.
Students are able to communicate information, concepts and opinions clearly. Language and expression are generally appropriate to the subject and sufficiently varied and mature to convey effectively their thought and argument. They use a wide and varied range of syntax and lexis, including idiom and specialised vocabulary, with a high level of accuracy and fluency, and are able to show ease in their manipulation of language. Despite errors, their level of accuracy is generally high, and errors which do occur are normally of a minor nature and may arise from their desire to use more enterprising constructions and vocabulary.
Cultural component
In relation to the civilisation and culture of countries where the foreign language is spoken, students demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the literature/topics studied while focusing appropriately on the aspect(s) of the text(s)/topic(s) to be dealt with. Detailed knowledge, views, arguments and insights are presented clearly, logically and with some sophistication. Students demonstrate independent judgement using appropriate evidence in well-structured, coherent, discursive essays. There is evidence of original thought and the ability to make qualitative judgements.

Grade C Reading
Students understand a range of written texts in a variety of registers. They show understanding of grammatical markers, eg tense, mood and aspects, and show some awareness of structure and register. They grasp the significant details of the text and are able to identify points of view, attitudes and emotions. They show some appreciation of the register and syntax of the original and when transferring meaning into English, Welsh or Irish their style is sufficiently clear to convey meaning unambiguously.
Students are able to communicate information and opinions clearly. Language and expression are generally appropriate to the subject, and although limited in range and variety, are adequate to convey their thoughts and argument. There are relatively few grammatical or factual errors of a serious kind and the general quality of the work tends to demonstrate that errors are due to lapses of attention or incomplete recall, rather than ignorance or failure to understand the problem involved. There is some evidence of ability to use more complex constructions.
Cultural component
In relation to the civilisation and culture of countries where the foreign language is spoken, students demonstrate a sound knowledge of the literature/topics studied while focusing appropriately on the aspect(s) of the text(s)/topic(s) to be dealt with. Detailed knowledge is presented clearly and logically although there is a preponderance of ‘content’ and limited evidence of insight and sophisticated understanding. Students show some capacity for independent judgement and are able to marshal appropriate evidence in coherently structured discursive essays.

Grade E Reading
Students respond to straightforward questions competently. They may experience difficulties with abstract or complex language. In the case of answers in the foreign language they may resort to copying parts of the text because of their lack of comprehension. In the case of questions in English, Welsh or Irish they may attempt to translate. They understand the gist and identify main points but their grasp of detail may be random and they have a limited ability to draw inferences, recognise points of view and emotions and draw conclusions. When transferring meaning into English, Welsh or Irish they manage to transmit the basic message, but often fail to appreciate grammatical markers, eg changes of tense, and their style is frequently clumsy.
Students communicate their ideas in a style which is unsophisticated but appropriate to the purpose, eg giving factual information and narrating events. Over a limited range of expression, spelling and grammar they are often inaccurate and inconsistent and include even some very basic errors. They have a limited capacity to express and justify points of view. Their vocabulary is likely to be restricted and repetitive and there may be excessive use of simple sentences. They use a limited range of tenses and are prone to native language interference. They have a tendency to use stereotypical phrases.
Cultural component
In relation to the civilisation and culture of countries where the foreign language is spoken, students display adequate knowledge of the literature/topics studied but do not always focus on the aspect(s) under consideration. Narration or description rather than analysis tends to characterise the work of such students and essays may lack appropriate structure. References to factual information may be vague or at times inaccurate.



Farsi(Parsi)/Persian, not Arabic. Iran is pronounced "EERAUN" and not "I-ran" (It's not a track & field) Iranians have named our land Iran which means "the land of Aryans" (Yes, we are Aryans) News flash: Iran and Iraq are TWO different countries!!. Middle East is a region and NOT a continent. Also camels are not our way of transportation. The first bill of human rights was from Iran, yes thanks to Iranians. Al-Kharazmi was a Persian mathematician who invented Algebra and added zero to the number system, Algorithm is from his name. Farabi invented the music notes. Razi invented alcohol. We are the first nation to invent dry cell batteries from around 2000 years ago to cover cheap metals with precious ones. We invented modern postal system, first modern university. We created the first irrigation system that has the ability to run 4 times around the earth. Iran is the first country on earth to have a lion (male) and a sun (female) for its symbol; and the colors red, white, and green for a flag. We have the most known and richest literature and poets, such as these popular individuals : Khayam, Molavi, Hafiz, Saadi, Ferdowsi, Sepehri. Romeo and Juliet? forget that, look into Majnuno leyli or Khosrowo Shirin. ;) You like mythology? search, 'shahname' which is similar to hercules, but of course it's Iranian and we had it from the pre-islamic times. The oldest country in the world established 3200 BC. A beautiful country. The rose of the Middle East.


Spoken by roughly 75mln people around the world. The greatest concentration is obviously in Poland, but there are a lot of different places where we could come across it like for example USA, Canada, Australia, UK, etc. Learning Polish language gives you the opportunity to explore this beautiful country and enables you to become more familiar with the local cultures and mores. Advanced Polish speakers are able to communicate with Czechs as both languages are pretty similar and in some cases even Slovaks would not find this a difficulty to speak and understand Polish language. This fact widen your chance to visit this beautiful Slavic regions with no worries of understanding.




Spoken by around 400 million people, the distribution of the Spanish language is widely spread, ranging from Europe to South America.

Pre-Course Information

As far as Spanish AS is concerned, it's a step up from GCSE, but it's only a step. Although it relies on you having a better grammatical knowledge than GCSE, and the days of tick boxes come to an end, it's nothing more than an 'intermediate stage'. Don't take that as a reason to sit back though, because that's how the mighty fall.

The majority of the work in A-level Spanish is based around the culture of Spain rather than the language itself. What you learn language-wise, is based on building up how you comment on cultural and historical aspects of Spain or a Spanish speaking country. In my exam board, themes were meant to be thought-provoking, but able to provide an easy comparison with Britain; they included simpler themes at AS, like Drug Abuse, Tourism, and Leisure Time, and deeper themes at A-level to do with politics, such as Unemployment, Immigration and the Environment. The themes you study will all depend on your school's language department, but they must fall into specific overall themes (e.g. "Young People Today")

AS Spanish

(As I studied WJEC, I'll be taking that point of view)

AS Spanish used to have 3 exams, listening, written communication and an oral exam. However, the specifications are due to change; now, there is the examiner-led oral, and a synoptic of the themes studied in AS.

Oral: roughly a 10-20 minute discussion with an external examiner on unseen topics through the use of a visual aid or prompt cards. The candidate is given preparation time before the discussion begins. This is followed, or preceded by, a short general conversation about personal interests etc.

Synoptic: A 2 1/2 hour long synoptic exam covering the themes studied. The exam will contain a listening element, along with a short essay. There will also be a translation from Spanish to English, and a comprehension text, along with some basic grammar tasks. From the sounds of this, the WJEC qualification has become easier. Each component is worth less than the current A-level ones separately, but the exam as a whole weighs in at a over half the AS.

Edexcel Specification:

Oral - 10-12 minute presentation including questions from examiner on a prepared topic.

Listening & Writing - 1 hour paper which involves listening to extracts on a cassette. The candidate has control over the recordings - you can listen as many times as you like unlike in GCSE languages where you have to answer the questions continously.

Reading & Writing - 2 hour paper including a written section on a certain topic (for example, sport) worth half the marks.

A-Level Spanish

For a full A-level, you really do have to put in the work. Here's where the harder grammar comes in. There will be words thrown about that you'll be expected to understand, like "the Subjunctive mood", the "imperfect tense", and "past participles", but if you put in the effort, these will become as easily memorized as the past tense or the cardinal numbers.

Again, A-level Spanish for WJEC will follow the same lines as AS. There used to be an Oral exam, a written coursework, and a synoptic. In the new specifications, the coursework has been removed in favour of the oral and synoptic elements.

Oral: roughly a 10 minute topic based discussion with the examiner on an unseen topic. The examiner allows around 20 minutes preparation time, along with basic notes to be used, such as key words, but no paragraphs or full sentences. There is also a 10 minute expose element, where the pupil takes a topic of choice and speaks about it, leading on to a debate with the examiner. Here, grammar is key, as the examiner wants to see what you know; they will be looking for subjunctives, use of the perfect tense, and word order. Culture is also important, but it holds nowhere near as much weighting as grammar.

Synoptic: the synoptic element is roughly the same as its AS counterpart, except that the translation is now from English to Spanish, with use of complex grammar in English, meaning there are no smaller grammar tasks. The essays are designed to provoke an argument, with positives, negatives and solutions.


  1. If you want to do well with Spanish, persevere with your grammar - it's the keystone to a good grade.
  2. In perseverance can be fun - check out Spanish bands to help you with your listening skills. Get a band's album, get the lyrics, and try to see how a native speaker sounds (be warned - Andalucian hip-hop is not the easiest thing to start with; try something from Madrid and work outwards)
  3. Repeat everything - never think you know something. Always repeat it until you get it locked up. If you know your subjunctive off by heart, then you need never panic about this language ever.
  4. Go on holiday - seriously, splash out between GCSE and AS, or AS and A-level, and book a trip to Spain. Force yourself to speak to natives; you'll really improve your oral skill, even if you only go for a 3 day city break to Barcelona.
  5. Dictionaries are your friend - use them. Although a word looks English, use a dictionary and check - Spanish is full of 'false friends'.
  6. Spend some money on grammar books. Get something substantial, and it'll pay off come exam time, whether its a simple book of Spanish Grammar, or the humongous 501 Spanish Verbs.

Simply put - put in the effort, and your Spanish qualification will pay off. Plus, if you put in enough effort, you can use it after your finished with exams.

Why Spanish?

If you've read the rest of this wiki, there have been people giving the idea that their language is 'better'. In fact, they're all about the same in terms of a career in Britain; if you can speak a foreign language you are highly valued because you have the skills needed by employers. If you can speak a language at a level higher than A-level, then you're really something.

But why Spanish? Spanish is fast becoming one of the most spoken languages in the world. It's spoken in Europe, South America, the USA, the Caribbean, parts of Africa, and areas of the Far East. Very few languages have this much coverage. As a basic, in detail, list countries include: Spain, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, all countries in Central America, and all South American countries with the exceptions of Brazil and French Guiana.

Once you take that into account, you can then look at the bigger picture. America is constantly talking about the 'problem' of being 'flooded' with Latin American immigrants. Experts predict that in the next century, Spanish will overtake English as the most spoken language in the USA; surely that has to mean something. Professional jobs in the USA will require people to speak Spanish; politicians will need to know it well enough to represent their constituents, newspapers will need to print in it or lose their audience, hoteliers will need to know it or lose their custom. It's all a big cycle.

And even if you want to look at it on a less 'deep' level, where are you likely to go on holiday? Yes, you may speak GCSE Spanish, and that'll get you by, but A-level Spanish will really get you places. You can go beyond the English bars and the places that understand "Dos Cervezas Por Favor". That opens up places in Spain that you'd never think to go to normally; to the places where the real action is, in areas that have culturally rich history.

Finally, if that hasn't sold it for you, Spanish really opens up the world as far as languages are concerned. Spanish is a very basic romance language of the Italo-Western group. That means, if you understand a word in Spanish you're likely to understand it in French, Portuguese, Italian, Latin and even Romanian. You'll even understand lesser known dialects and 'local languages' like Catalan, Galician, Walloon, Venetian, Sicilian, Neapolitan, Piedmontese, Sardinian and Occitan. You're really opening up the far flung corners of the world to yourself. Simply put, almost everywhere from Venice west is yours for the taking as a linguist.


Turkey is a beautiful country and as such speaking Turkish gives you masses of opportunity for travel to Turkey, but also to Cyprus and parts of Western Germany.


Offered by Edexcel, a link to the specification is found here: http://www.edexcel.org.uk/quals/gce/mfl/as/8643/

Why Urdu? You probably wouldn't find this A Level offered in many places where there is not a strong Pakistani community but perhaps you would like to study it in your own time as a native speaker, for example. The case is clear, the region of Pakistan is diverse in geography and culture, and offers some amazing foods! If you are a native speaker or are learning from family, for example, you will already understand the importance of studying part of your cultural heritage. If you wish to learn for interest's sake, the same would be said - the Pakistani community in the UK is huge and as such speaking Urdu and understanding the Pakistani culture is a definite boon.

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