A Level Russian


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 Russian A level will introduce you to real Russian in real situations. You will look at the media, literature and film to acquaint you with and develop your knowledge of Russia, her language and culture from past to present.

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 mobile phones to relationships and sex. 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 Russian-speaking world. Finally, in Education and Employment, you will cover the Russian and British education systems 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 in which you will look at the variety of life in the Russian-speaking world as well as the re-birth or traditions and religion in post-Soviet Russia. In National and International Events, you will look at political issues and the contemporary Russian state. Finally, in Literature and Arts, you will be introduced to the long and rich cultural history of the Russians. This will lead to a focused piece of research into Pushkin’s story The Queen of Spades, Romanticism and the lead-up to early revolutionary tendencies amongst the disillusioned Russian intelligentsia in 19th Century Russia.

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 Russian) is an oral exam that requires you to demonstrate your ability to speak Russian. The Unit 2 exam (Understanding and Written Response in Russian) will test your listening comprehension skills, your comprehension of written Russian and your ability to write in Russian 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 Russian) 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 Russian) has three sections: (i) a short written translation exercise;  (ii) an essay in Russian; and (iii) a research-based essay in Russian on Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades. 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.


A Comprehensive Russian Grammar
By T. L. B. Wade
Published by Blackwell, ISBN 978-1405136396

Ruslan Russian 3
By J. Langran
Published by Ruslan Ltd, ISBN 978-1899785407

Compact Oxford Russian Dictionary
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0199576173

A copy of the text/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 8RU01, A2: Pearson-Edexcel 9RU01 (legacy)


Ana Abad Jara
Head of Department