What is Ancient History?

Ancient History involves the analysis of the distant past, but allows students to see the beginning of ideas such as democracy, autocracy and what constitutes dictatorship. It also allows students to see how Greek and Roman influence spread throughout Europe and the wider world.

A Level study will involve students reading secondary materials and learning how historians have explained and interpreted events. Understanding will be mainly assessed through essays: these give students a sound grasp of how to create and support arguments and counter-arguments to reach a clear and convincing conclusion.

Ancient History also allows students to explore a range of historical interpretations and other evidence drawn from classical literature, Greek and Roman historians, and archaeological data available in museums and online.

How is it studied?

History is taught in small groups, and students are given the opportunity to build sound subject knowledge as the course develops. Tutors then encourage students to explore and use this knowledge in class debates, analysing contemporary evidence and historians’ interpretations of the past. This means that students are constantly encouraged to both cement their knowledge and challenge it with alternative perspectives. Essays, source analysis and an understanding of historiography all form part of the overall assessment, and these skills are built throughout the course so that students are well prepared for AS or the full A Level.

Three depth studies are available for each of the papers and these will be selected in consultation with the students.

How is A Level Ancient History assessed?

Unit Modules Weighting Format
1 Greek Period Study (Relations between Greek states and between Greek and non-Greek states, 492–404 BC) and Depth Study 50% (AS assessed only on Period Study) External Exam: 2½ hours: Essays,  source analysis and interpretation
2 Roman Period Study (Julio-Claudian Empires) and Depth Study 50% (AS assessed only on Period Study) External Exam: 2½ hours: Essays, source analysis and interpretation



Exam Board: OCR

What do I need?

You do not need to have studied GCSE or IGCSE History, although the familiarity with interpretation of sources that is gained by studying at this level can help. To do well in Ancient History, you need to have a strong interest in the past and a willingness to read and note-take effectively. Success relies upon building sound knowledge and using it to analyse events thematically, so an organised approach is helpful – as is an awareness of how to build and support arguments. As the course involves interpreting the content, style and tone of sources, in addition to a good deal of essay writing, it is useful to have a strong command of English.

What should I study with Ancient History?

Ancient History combines well with all other subjects. Some students will add other Humanities subjects, Classical languages (Greek or Latin) or Social Sciences. However, an interest in Ancient History cuts across the full range of disciplines and many students have successfully combined Ancient History with Mathematics and Sciences. There are no incorrect combinations with Ancient History, so you can be extremely creative in your options!

What can I do with A Level Ancient History?

Ancient History at A Level is a widely accepted course and many universities view it as showing that a student can think and work independently. The ways in which Ancient History builds the ability to question, argue and counter-argue make it a very good preparation for courses in Law, Politics, Philosophy and Business, as well as more creative courses in Film, Media or Art. It can also support Science applications, as it shows a different way of thinking and the ability to argue at length in an essay format.

Questions about the course

Can I take Ancient History in one year?

It is possible, but students need to be aware that the range of skills required in the final exam make it a major task to complete the course in just 12 months.