A Level Chinese


What is it about at sixth form level?

 Learning a modern language for GCSE is a matter of taking your first steps to learn rudimentary grammar and vocabulary that leave real conversations still beyond your reach. It is at the sixth-form level that you will deepen your grammatical competence and broaden your vocabulary so that you can converse about and debate real-world issues, and immerse yourself into the culture, literature and arts of the country. Even though we live in an age where it seems English is spoken everywhere and where Google Translate will help you where it is not, there is nothing like the experience and satisfaction of being able to step inside a different way of speaking and seeing the world.

Learning a language spoken by one fifth of the world’s population will open the door to one of the world’s oldest and richest cultures. Exposure to Chinese, a language which is entirely different to all European languages, will provide one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life. By looking at media, books and film you will to develop the knowledge and skills to enable you to understand the unique values, struggles, sensibility, joys and sorrows of the Chinese people.

Lower sixth

In the AS year, you will focus on four major topic areas. The first is Food, Diet and Health where you will be talking about sport, diet and leading a healthy life. The second is Transport, Travel and Tourism which covers popular tourist destinations and the development of the tourist industry in China. In Education and Employment, you will look at schools and the workplace in modern China. Finally, in Leisure, Youth Interests and Chinese Festivals, you will learn about some Chinese traditions and examine both the customs and traditional of different Chinese festivals and the interests of modern Chinese youth.

Upper sixth

In the A2 year, you will deepen your knowledge of the AS topics and cover a fifth one (Environment) which looks at energy use and environmental concerns. You will also choose one topic from four areas of study for your research-based essay exam. The first area is Modern History (1911-1976) and you can choose from: Warlords in China; The New Cultural Movement; The Nationalist and Communist Parties; The Great Leap Forward; and The Cultural Revolution. The second is Geography, which covers the development of one of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong or Taipei. The third area is Society, where you can look at: Han nationality traditions; Women’s issues; or youth issues in modern China. The fourth and final topic area is Films and Books. Here, you can choose from the films Nan Hai 13 (Mad Phoenix) and Han Yan Cui (Mist Over Dream Lake) and the books Gu Xiang (My Hometown), Chun (Spring) and Cheng Nan Jiu Shi (Memories of Peking: Southside Stories).

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Knowledge of a foreign language is ever more valuable in an increasingly connected world. Many employers look for knowledge of at least one other language across a wide range of jobs. Understanding a language is a first step to understanding a people and a culture. Another language enables you to enjoy everything from a casual conversation to a classic novel as it was meant to be read. It also provides a means by which to reflect upon your own culture and gain a deeper understanding of your mother tongue. An A level is typically a prerequisite for studying the language at university.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You should ideally have an A or A* at GCSE. If it is your mother tongue or a second language, you will need to be able to speak and write it proficiently. You will also need an interest in other cultures and a willingness to work hard on a language which is totally different to all European languages.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are two exams. Both exams test your competency with respect to the four major topic areas you have learned. The Unit 1 exam (Spoken Expression and Response in Chinese) is an oral exam that requires you to demonstrate your ability to speak Chinese. The Unit 2 exam (Understanding and Written Response in Chinese) will test your listening comprehension  skills, your comprehension of written Chinese and your ability to write in Chinese using correct grammar and syntax. The Unit 1 exam is worth 30% of the AS level (15% of the A level) and lasts around 20 minutes (15 minutes of preparation time, 5-6 minutes of speaking). The Unit 2 exam is worth 70% of the AS (35% of the A level) and lasts 2 hours 30 minutes.

A2 level

For the A2, there is a single exam: the Unit 3 exam (Understanding, Written Response and Research in Chinese). It covers all five general topic areas and has four sections. In Section A, you will read a piece of Chinese text and answer questions on it in Chinese. In Section B, you will translate a short passage of written English. In Section C, you will write an essay of 250-500 characters in response to a title linked to the text in Section A. In section D, you will write an essay of 250-500 words of about a subject you have researched. It must relate to Chinese culture or society and to a specific topic area, film or book from the prescribed list. The exam is worth 100% of the A2 (50% of the AS) and lasts 2 hours 45 minutes.


Edexcel Chinese for AS
By M. Tate et al
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-0340967843

Edexcel Chinese for A2
By M. Tate et al
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-0521770002

Chinese for A-Level
By Xiaoming Zhang
Published by Cypress Book Co, ISBN 978-1845700119

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: Pearson-Edexcel 8CN01, A2: Pearson-Edexcel 9CN01 (legacy) 

Ana Abad Jara
Head of Department