A Level Ancient History


What is it about at sixth-form level?

If you think your school life is demanding, spare a thought for the Spartans. At seven, boys left home and entered a public ‘boarding-school’ educational system to produce warriors. Girls, unusually for the ancient world, also received formal education and would learn how to wrestle, throw the javelin and fight with their fists. To toughen them up, boys were expected to steal their food and to sleep on beds made from reeds they had plucked themselves from the riverbanks. They too then had to pass all-important examinations testing their physical resilience, fighting skills and discipline at the age of eighteen.

By studying Ancient History, you will gain a rich understanding not only of Greece and Rome themselves but the peoples of ‘unknown and mysterious worlds’ that they encountered. The course will introduce you to the conflicts between the Greek city-states and between Greece and Persia. You will study the shift from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire and the complex social changes it brought about.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will begin by looking at the relationship between Greek states and non-Greek states, such as Persia and Egypt, in the 5th century BC. You will look at politics of various Greek city states and their military engagements with each other and non-Greek powers in the Peloponnesian wars. You will also look at Ancient Rome and the line of emperors that began with Augustus in 31 BC and ended with Nero in AD 68. You will consider the relationship between the emperors and the various social classes of Rome and the political and social challenges they faced.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will undertake two in-depth studies. The first will focus upon the somewhat unique - even to the Ancient Greeks themselves - society and customs of the Spartans. You will study the roles of men, women and even children in Ancient Sparta, as well as their political structures, conquests and wars. The second in-depth study looks at the events and circumstances leading to the breakdown of the Late Roman Republic between 88-31 BC. This was a period of great political change and violence, that would ultimately usher in the rule of the Emperors.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Ancient History is a rigorous academic subject that is respected by every university. It will develop your analytic and evaluative skills through the study of both source material and the competing historical explanations it has led to. It will teach you how to articulate cogent arguments in a clear written form. These are skills that will benefit you across a range of subjects and beyond.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

A GCSE in History is helpful but not a prerequisite. You will need the ability to read substantial quantities of text with a critical eye and to write clearly and concisely. It is important to bear in mind that at this level it is not a matter of retaining and deploying a lot of information but rather a matter of drawing upon it selectively to construct a persuasive argument.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The AS will be examined by two papers. The first covers relations between Greek states and between Greek and non-Greek states in the period 492–404 BC. The second covers the Julio-Claudian emperors in the period 31 BC – AD 68. In each paper, candidates will be required to produce one mini essay, one answer to a question on printed passages and one out of a choice of two essays. Each paper lasts 1 hour 30 minutes and is worth 50% of the AS level.

A level

The A level will be examined by two papers. The first covers topics relating to Ancient Greece: (i) relations between Greek states and between Greek and non-Greek states in the period 492- 404 BC; and (ii) the politics and society of Sparta in the period 478-404 BC. The second paper covers topics relating to Ancient Rome: (i) the Julio-Claudian emperors in the period 31 BC - AD 68; and (ii) the breakdown of the Late Roman Republic between 88-31 BC. In each paper, candidates will face a mixture of essay questions and questions asking them to analyse sources and historical interpretations. Each paper lasts 2 hours 30 minutes and is worth 50% of the A level.


The Athenian Empire (4th Edition)
By R. G. Osborne
Published by Lactor 1, ISBN 978-0903625173

Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War
Ranslated by R. Warner
Published by Penguin, ISBN 9780140440393

The Histories by HerodotusTranslated by J. Marincola
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140449082

The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus
Translated by M. Grant
Published by Penguin, ISBN 978-0140440607


Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: OCR H007, A level: OCR H407



Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Exeter University (International Relations)

I have really enjoyed my time MPW and would recommend this college to anyone. I learnt how to work more efficiently and revise more effectively thanks to the tutorials and weekly Timed Assignments, which also allowed me to prepare myself mentally for the exams from the first day. My history teacher was phenomenal. He managed to get me to reengage with the subject, as well as giving me all the support and help I asked for and more, giving me the knowledge and exams technique needed to achieve an A*."


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Southampton University (Business Innovation)

The small class sizes proved invaluable for a number of reasons, some of which I did not anticipate. Aside from the obvious individual attention, the size of the class allowed for a lot of students’ questions to turn into a fruitful academic discussion. I have found the atmosphere at the college far more friendly and supportive than I expected. The support I had from my Personal Tutor was very helpful during the application process for university. I could tell that he really did care about my future and wanted to do everything he could in order to help me secure my place at my chosen university. Overall, I am pleased to say that my high expectations of MPW were fully met.


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Warwick University (Chemistry)

“I have definitely made the right decision to come to MPW - my grades have gone from averaging Es to straight As. Teaching at MPW is much more personal and I felt like talking to teachers. They are very good and give you lots of support if you do not understand something. My Personal Tutor took me through the UCAS process step by step. We went through my Personal Statement many times to make sure it was completely perfect. I am very excited about my firm choice.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Nottingham University (Philosophy)

As a dyslexic student who initially got CCEE for my AS, I was convinced that I could not achieve any higher. My time at MPW proved me wrong. Initially I was reluctant to move from my local school in York to a college so far away from home, my parents, and friends. At the end of my first year I was overjoyed to find that many hours of hard work and renewed revision techniques had resulted in me achieving three A's in my subjects. I wanted to continue at A2 as I knew it would greatly improve my university prospects and encourage me to work even harder. After two fantastic years at MPW I can emphatically say that going to MPW was the best decision I ever made. 


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University of York (Law) 

“Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Economics) 

“Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined MPW that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

“International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but MPW surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most MPW Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
King's College London (International Relations)

 “The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do.”