Peter Symonds College

Study at PSC

History is one of the most popular courses at Peter Symonds. Students study three exam units over the two years on the A Level course as well as writing a 4,000 word piece of coursework. Our students have a choice of three History routes, each of which leads to an A Level History qualification. They will be taught and examined in the same way and you should make your choice on the basis of which period you think will interest you the most.

Course Content

Year One:

  • Unit 1: Breadth Study – The USSR, 1917-1991
    In this breadth study students will consider the ways in which the communists governed every aspect of life in the Soviet Union, from the establishment of control under Lenin, through the purges of the 1930s and the attempts at reform under Khrushchev, all the way up to the crumbling of the economy and with it the authority of the government under Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s.
  • Unit 2: Depth Study – Mao’s China, 1949-76
    This unit looks in some depth at the ways in which the Chinese Communist Party, under Mao Zedong, sought to develop and modernise China following their victory in the civil war in 1949. The scale and diversity of China as a country in combination with the backward nature of the economy were huge challenges that Mao only partly overcame and students will have the chance to evaluate the extent to which he was successful in transforming the country by the time of his death in 1976.

Year Two:

  • Unit 3: The Wars of the Roses and the Establishment of the Tudors
    In the second year, the exam unit focuses on the dramatic century of crisis, upheaval and rebellion that led to the defeat of Richard III in 1485 and brought Henry VII and the Tudor dynasty to the throne. You will learn about the personalities and characters that were key to the Wars of the Roses and consider the wider lessons about how kings controlled (or failed to control) their realms in early modern England.


  • Coursework Option
    The coursework unit is an opportunity for students to engage in real historical debate. You will be required to take three contrasting opinions on a particular historical issue and weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments using your own research and evidence. Route C Students will focus on either the Abolition of the Slave Trade or the origins of the Cold War for their coursework.

Methods of Teaching

A variety of methods are used to teach the course, including class discussion and debate, group work, and presentations. This year we also ran a one-day conference on the Stuarts involving a range of academics and authors.

The nature of the course also means that students will engage with evaluating contemporary sources and will be required to research events and analyse different historical interpretations with some degree of independence.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

  • Unit 1: Written Examination
    2 hours and 15 minutes (30% of total A Level mark)
  • Unit 2: Written Examination
    1 hour 30 minutes (20% of total A Level mark)
  • Unit 3: Written examination
    2 hours and 15 minutes (30% of total A Level mark)
  • Unit 4: Coursework Assignment
    4000 words (20% of total A Level mark).

Where Could It Take Me?

History is useful for any career which involves researching and analysing information and expressing arguments based upon evidence. Good examples of this are careers in the Civil Service, banking and accountancy, politics, social and business administration, teaching, journalism and law management.

Financial Implications

Students are required to purchase text books for the units that they study. They will also be given the opportunity to participate in educational visits and trips. We currently run overseas trips to Paris and Berlin as well as one day visits to the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the National Portrait Gallery and Chalke Valley History Festival. The College has a Student Support Fund for anyone who has difficulty meeting these costs.

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including Mathematics and English.

It is not a requirement to have studied History at GCSE provided you have an interest in the subject.

Most Recent Results

Below is a summary of the most recent set of results for this subject:

Grade: A* A B C D E U Total
Total: 13 33 55 22 8 5 1 137
Percentage 9.5 24.1 40.1 16.1 5.8 3.6 0.7