A Level Italian


What is it about at sixth form level? 

Learning a modern language for GCSE is a matter of taking your first steps. You learn rudimentary grammar and vocabulary that enable you to get by but real conversations are 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.

The Italian A level will introduce you to Italian society, history and culture. You will read the Italian press, listen to the Italian news and watch Italian films so as to develop your knowledge not just of the language, but of the country where it is spoken.

Lower sixth

In the AS year, you will focus on four major topic areas. The first is Youth Culture and Concerns, which will cover everything from music and fashion to relationships and modern technology. The second is Lifestyle: Health and Fitness where you will be talking about sport, diet and leading a healthy life. In The World around Us, you will look at travel, tourism and environmental issues such as climate change in the Italian-speaking world. Finally, in Education and Employment, you will cover the Italian education system and the world of work.

Upper sixth

In the A2 year, you will revise your knowledge of the AS topics and cover three more, as well as undertaking a detailed study of a film and its context. The first of the new topics is Customs, Traditions, Beliefs and Religions. You will explore issues such as the role of politics and religion in Italian life, people’s attitudes towards the European Union, and you will discuss a number of ethical questions raised by scientific progress. In National and International Events, you will consider problems such as poverty in Italy and in the world, criminality, immigration, wars and terrorism. Finally, in Literature and Arts, you will be introduced to the long and rich cultural history of the Italians. This will lead to a focused piece of research into the film The Leopard  (Il Gattopardo). Interesting for both its psychological and socio-historical analysis, this film is also admired for its cinematographic techniques. The more advanced students will be able to compare it with the novel by Tomasi di Lampedusa on which it is based.

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 logical mind to cope with the grammar.

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 Italian) is an oral exam that requires you to demonstrate your ability to speak Italian. The Unit 2 exam (Understanding and Written Response in Italian) will test your listening comprehension skills, your comprehension of written Italian and your ability to write in Italian using correct grammar and syntax. The Unit 1 exam is worth 30% of the AS level (15% of the A level) and lasts between 8 and 10 minutes. 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 are two exams that cover all seven general topic areas. The Unit 3 exam (Understanding and Spoken Response in Italian) is an oral exam in which you will defend a stance on an issue of your choice and then engage in further spontaneous discussion. The Unit 4 exam (Understanding and Written Response in Italian) has three sections: (i) a short written translation exercise;  (ii) an essay in Italian; and (iii) a research-based essay in Italian on the film Il Gattopardo. The Unit 3 exam is worth 35% of the A2 level (17.5% of the A level) and lasts between 11 and 13 minutes. The Unit 4 exam is worth 65% of the A2 level (32.5% of the A level) and lasts 2 hours 30 minutes.


Azione Grammatica
By D. Aust, M. Zolb
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-0340915271

Texts to be purchased for Unit 4 will be specified at the beginning of the A2 course.

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: Pearson-Edexcel 8IN01, A2: Pearson-Edexcel 9IN01 (legacy)


Ana Abad Jara
Head of Department