JACT Ancient History A Level: the new specification

Robin Osborne

The JACT Ancient History Committee has been working on revisions to the existing JACT Ancient History A Level Syllabus for the past four years. Successive revisions have had themselves to be revised as Government requirements have changed. Under the rules as finally settled, all A levels will be made up of two parts, AS and A2. In each subject the A level examination is required to consist of six equal units, three examined at AS and three at A2. The A2 units will examined at the end of Year 13; the AS Units may be examined either at at the end of Year 12 or at the end of Year 13, or both, at the candidate's discretion.

The JACT Ancient History Committee has taken advantage of these new constraints to construct a syllabus which maintains the traditional emphasis on encouraging A level Ancient History students to grapple directly with ancient sources of high quality, but which provides much more precise guidance than has been given in the past about what students are expected to study. The syllabus, which will be the only Ancient History A Level syllabus on offer nationally, covers most of the same ground as is covered by the current JACT syllabus, but the material will be examined in different ways, with more explicit emphasis on the understanding of specified ancient texts (particularly in Units 1 and 4 which will be examined by questions on extracts from ancient sources) and on the understanding of change over a lengthy period of time (particularly in Unit 3 at AS and Unit 6 at A2). A new set of papers on Late Antiquity has been added to the syllabus.

There will be three groups of papers, Greek History, Roman History and Roman World. Candidates will be required to offer at AS a Document Study (Unit 1), a Source-based Study (Unit 2) and a Thematic Study (Unit 3) all chosen from a single group, and at A2 a further Document Study (Unit 4) and Thematic Study (Unit 6) along with either a further Source-based Study (Unit 5) or a piece of coursework (Unit 7, Individual Study), all chosen from a further, single, group. While it is recommended that candidates follow sets of co-ordinated Document Study, Source-based Study, and Thematic Study at both AS and A2, opportunity is also given to mix and match units to form alternative sets within groups (i.e. one could do 1.2, 2.1 and 3.3). The table below shows in detail both the papers and the papers that will be available.

GroupUnit 1 AS
Unit 4 A2
Unit 2 AS
Unit 5 A2
Unit 3 AS
Unit 6 A2
Set 11.1/4.1
Herodotus on Persia
The Conflict of Greece and Persia 499-479 B.C.
The Culture of Tyranny
c.600-479 B.C.
Set 21.2/4.2
The Athenian Empire
450-410 B.C.
Greek History
446-413 B.C.
Sparta in the Greek World
520-400 B.C.
Set 31.3/4.3
The Trial of Socrates
The Culture of Athens
447-399 B.C.
Athenian Democracy
508-399 B.C.
Set 41.4/4.4
The Catilinarian Conspiracy
Roman History
81-44 B.C.
The Growth and Government of the Roman Empire 133-30 B.C.
Set 51.5/4.5
Augustus and Augustan Propaganda
The Age of Augustus
31 B.C.-A.D. 14
The City of Rome
33 B.C.-A.D. 117
Set 61.6/4.6
Roman History
A.D. 14-68
Emperors and Empire
A.D. 14-117
Set 71.7/4.7
Britain through Roman Eyes
Roman Britain A.D.
The Romanisation of Britain
A.D. 43-415
Set 81.8/4.8
Diocletian and Constantine
A.D. 284-337
The Christianising of the Roman Empire A.D. 284-395
Part of what differentiates the new A levels from A levels in the past is an insistence that candidates at A2 display synoptic assessment, that is that they draw together what they have learned in the A level course as a whole. In the case of history a high degree of pulling together of skills of historical analysis is required in every answer, but candidates will be particularly required to use knowledge and skills gained throughout the AS and A2 Units in answering questions in Unit 4 and Unit 6. The full syllabus will be available in printed form from OCR in January, but in the meantime the draft syllabus can be consulted on the OCR website.

Robin Osborne
for the JACT Ancient History Committee

Corpus Christi, Oxford

CUCD Bulletin 28 (1999)
© Joint Association of Classical Teachers 1999

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