A Level Law


What is it about at sixth form level?

What would it be like to live free of laws in a state of nature? A state of bliss in which we are free to do as we choose? According to the philosopher Hobbes, life in this state of nature would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” It is through a system of law that we ensure order and obtain rights that enable us to live safely and productively. As a student of Law, you will look at where our laws come from and the institutions that supervise and maintain them. You will look at your rights and whether they are indeed well-motivated. Should you have the right to refuse to be stopped and searched by a policeman? Or does the state have a responsibility to protect its citizenry that carries more weight? You will study criminal law in detail and alongside examining actual cases, you will be asked to assess fictional cases too. You will also visit courts to see the law at work.

An A level in Law will give you a profound understanding of the complex mechanisms that maintain this pillar of democracy and an insight into the complexities of legal argumentation.  It is a challenging but well-respected and very rewarding subject.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will study two units. In Unit 1 (The English Legal System), you will look at the following topics: civil courts and other methods of dispute resolution; the criminal process; the criminal courts; the penal systems; the judiciary; the legal profession; lay people in the legal system; and the provision of legal services. In Unit 2 (Sources of Law) you will look at: the doctrine of precedent; legislation; European Union law and law reform.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will study criminal law, which looks at the following topics: principles of criminal liability; preliminary crimes; non-fatal offences against the person; murder and manslaughter; and offences against property. You will gain knowledge and understanding of criminal law and develop a critical awareness of the present state of criminal law. You will develop an appreciation of the role of criminal law in modern society and an ability to relate this to specific issues. The study of this area of substantive law will require you to be particularly methodical and organised in your thinking.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Although it is not necessary to have taken the A level to pursue a degree in Law, it does provide a very useful grounding. The study of Criminal Law in Year 2 is particularly relevant. The A level will develop your skills of analysis and evaluation, and especially the ability to put together a clear and defensible argument. The focus on writing means that you will learn how to present your thoughts clearly and with the proper use of technical vocabulary. These features mean that it works well with subjects such as History, Politics and Psychology and will support an application to study them further.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You will need at least a C in English as there will be a lot of writing.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The AS is assessed by two papers, one on each unit. The Unit 1 exam comprises seven questions from which students choose four. There are two types of question: essay-based and application style. The Unit 2 exam comprises two source-based questions involving analysis, explanation or legal reasoning. Students answer one question. The Unit 1 exam is worth 60% of the AS (30% of the A level) and lasts 2 hours. The Unit 2 exam is worth 40% of the AS (20% of the A level) and lasts 1 hour.

A level

The A2 is assessed by two papers both of which cover criminal law. The Unit 3 exam has three sections. In Section A, you answer one essay question from a choice of three. In Section B, you answer one problem question from a choice of three. In Section C, you answer one Dilemma Board question from a choice of two. The Unit 4 exam consists of questions on source material from criminal law within the context of the development of the law. The Unit 3 exam is worth 60% of the A2 (30% of the A level) and lasts 2 hours. The Unit 4 exam is worth 40% of the A2 (20% of the A level) and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes.


OCR Law for AS Third Edition
By J. Martin
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1444192742

OCR Criminal Law for A2 Fourth Edition
By J. Martin
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1471807060

Unlocking Criminal Law (Unlocking the Law) Fifth Edition
By J. Martin, T. Storey
Published by Routledge, ISBN 978-1138780934

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: OCR H134, A2: OCR H534 (legacy)


Oliver Milton
Head of Department