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St Colman's High & Sixth Form College, Ballynahinch

Government & Politics

Examination Board: CCEA 

Specification: AS & A LEVEL Government and Politics

Why study Government & Politics? 

Is it possible to understand the world we live in without studying Government and Politics? In an era when political earthquakes like the election of Donald Trump as US President, the Brexit referendum and the collapse of government in Northern Ireland affect us all, it is important to be well informed and to understand how such decisions come about. The aim of this subject is to give students a deeper and more informed insight into the political systems, institutions and party conflicts in Northern Ireland, the UK & the United States of America.

What will I learn about?

The Government and Politics of Northern Ireland

This unit would be of interest to anyone wanting to find out what has been happening in this part of the world over the last two decades. We will be looking at the system of government established under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and how it has worked – or failed to work – in practice. The political conflicts between the main parties – Sinn Fein, DUP, SDLP, UUP, Alliance etc will be examined along with the performances of the Assembly and Executive at Stormont.

The British Political Process

This unit is concerned with what goes on in Westminster. We will examine,  how the Prime Minister maintains power in relation to the role of the Cabinet, Government and other parts of the Executive. The role of Parliament, both Commons and Lords, will be studied along with issues such as party conflict, law making and scrutiny. Also the role of judges, including the Supreme Court, in modern political life is analyzed. We will also consider the impact Brexit is having on the British political process.

A Comparative Study of the Government and Politics of the United States of America and the United Kingdom 

This unit compares the rather youthful United States political system to its older counterpart in the United Kingdom. We will be developing our knowledge of the United States Constitution and the Role of the President, US Congress and Judiciary within it. Students will be able to apply the knowledge gained at AS level (British Political Process) to compare these bodies with their opposites in the UK. 

Political Ideas 

This Unit is delivered in two sections. In section A, students focus on the study of the three key texts associated with a major political ideology – Mill’s On Liberty, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. In Section B, students explore the three main political ideologies of liberalism, socialism and conservatism.

How is it taught?

We use textbooks and specially written booklets with past questions to impart knowledge and understanding of the political world. Much time is dedicated to teaching correct technique for answering the variety of questions with relevant examples used effectively. Pupils who enjoy keeping abreast of current affairs and debating and arguing about issues will find this subject most enjoyable. Class time is often spent in discussing and debating significant contemporary issues and how they can be used to illustrate points we learn about in the course. A number of educational visits will be arranged including to Stormont, Westminster and other locations. We will compete in the EU mock Parliament held in Stormont and there are opportunities to participate in other activities of a debating/research nature.

How will I be assessed?

The full Advanced GCE award is based on students’ marks from the AS (40 percent) and the A2 (60 percent). A detailed breakdown of assessments & weightings is in the table below. 




AS 1:  The Government  and Politics of  Northern Ireland 

External written examination with one source and four questions


1 hour 15 mins 

40% of AS 

16% of A Level 

AS 2:  The British  Political Process 

External written examination with five questions 


1 hour 45 mins 

60% of AS

24% of A Level 

A2 1: A Comparative Study of the Government and Politics of the United States of America and the United Kingdom 

External written examination with one source and six questions 


2 hours 15 mins 

35% of A Level 

A2 2:  Option B: Political Ideas 

External written examination with one source and five questions

1 hour 30 mins 

25% of A Level 

Pathways to future careers/courses 

Politics is an excellent subject for a variety of career paths. It is particularly suitable for those seeking to study Law, History or Journalism. It is relevant for jobs in Management, Teaching, Public Relations, Business, Publishing and the Civil Service. It imparts skills of reasoning, analysis, evaluation and empathy – all vital for today’s labour market.

Links & Support

The following resources are available to support this course:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between this specification and the previous one?

The revised specification retains the content popular with teachers and students and also introduces new material. There is greater flexibility for teachers and students in Unit AS 2: all students must answer the questions in Section A, but they can then choose between Section B: The British Judiciary and Section C: Pressure Groups in the UK. 

How many externally assessed units are there?

There are four externally assessed units. There is no coursework component.

How is quality of written communication assessed?

We assess quality of written communication in responses to questions and tasks that require extended writing.

What do students require in the way of prior attainment?

Students do not need to have reached a particular level of attainment before beginning to study this specification. However, we recommend that they should have attained at least a grade C in GCSE English.

When are the first examinations available?

It is possible to resit individual AS and A2 assessment units once and count the better result towards an AS or A level qualification.

Can students resit any assessment units?

It is possible to resit individual AS and A2 assessment units once and count the better result towards an AS or A level qualification.

What range of grades can students achieve in GCE Government and Politics?

We award AS qualifications on a five grade scale from A to E, with A being the highest. We award A level qualifications on a six grade scale from A* to E, with A* being the highest.