• Aba Amponsa

How to get an A/A* in A-Level Classics

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Although I never had the opportunity to study Classics at A-Level, It sounds like such an interesting subject that covers the literature, social constructs, philosophical thoughts and more of the Ancient Greeks.

Here are some top tips from a friend to help you succeed if you were lucky enough to study this subject at A-Level!

1) Do as much extra reading and research as possible – I would just suggest going where your interest takes you, of course sticking closely to your course but I feel like immersing yourself more in the world of Classics will enhance the experience you have when you write essays. In the OCR spec I had to refer to ‘Modern Scholars’ in my 30 mark essay writing, many of the references to scholarly work was handed to me by my teachers but from experience it is even better if it is you who finds extra scholarly ideas. You can do this through documentaries, podcasts (you can find so many of them on the BBC).

2) I feel as though Classics really enabled me to intertwine my own ideas with the literature and contemporary cultural aspects of Antiquity that we studied, therefore my other tip would be to not shy away from your own interpretations. Even though in most essays you cannot really state “My opinion is…” you can still find scholarly works that fit in with your own interpretation of the topics and themes you study. This often allows you to come up with more complex and in depth answers to the questions you are given. So even if you have an abstract idea it is always best to think outside of the box and see where that will lead you, in context and relation to the topics you are studying of course.

3) In regards to the visual sources you will receive (e.g. photographs of vases, structures, paintings) I recommend that you over analyse every single source given to you on the specification. This is simply due to the fact that these sources are not only used to test you on the smaller band questions (1, 2, 4, 10 or 20 marks) but also for the big 30 mark essay questions. Learn every detail of the source (even the date for the 1 or 2 marker) to make sure that you can secure every mark possible. A vague description will not really get you into the depth needed for the best answer.

4) In your essays ALWAYS include an introduction and conclusion – I know that this might be fairly obvious but for the 20 and 30 markers it is essential, without them your whole argument may seem invalid or lessened by the lack of a beginning or finality (even if you run out of time it can honestly be a couples sentences.) You could risk being marked down without them. Classical essays are not simply about the content, it is also important to structure your essays coherently so I also advise a PLAN so you do not lose sight of the question.

5) This kind of links to my first point but as a Classist you have to be aware of how important CONTEXT is – in every single Classics essay you do it is so important to mention the historical context in relation to the Ancient Athenian festival you are writing about for example or the psychological and physical journey of a Greek hero like Odysseus. You have to often see beyond the topic and really delve into the real life people who created the literature you are reading or the partook in the society you are describing, the insight you gain from this is key to understanding the Classical world. You can do this through not only studying in class but the secondary work I mentioned previously. Even step out in the modern context and visit a museum (e.g. the British Museum in London) to understand how much Classics relates to contemporary society!

These tips are not here to guarantee you an A/A* in your exams but to help you structure your revision and just general A-level studies from the get go to help you work towards achieving those higher grades!

Hi, I'm Aba and I started The Student Scope to give other students advice on their academic journey. Have a look around and enjoy!

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