Plymouth College


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Plymouth College Open Days - Senior Years 10 - Upper Sixth - Thursday 21st March, Preparatory School - Friday 22nd March 1.30pm - 3.30pm To book a place please contact our friendly admissions team on 01752 505120 or at [email protected] or Click here to register your interest. read more

Last updated: 18.03.24

Sixth Form Subjects

Plymouth College has an extensive list of different subject options for the Sixth Form pupils to select when choosing their subjects.  

Whilst we aim to offer a wide range of subjects (as detailed below) some of these may be subject to change depending on the number of pupils that choose them.

A Level Subjects

Art A Level

We offer three qualifications:

AQA A Level Fine Art 7202/C/X

AQA A Level Graphic Communication 7203/C/X

AQA Photography 7206/C/X

In the first year of the course, pupils will be introduced to a variety of experiences, employing a range of media, processes and techniques appropriate to their area of individual study. Their knowledge of Art will be extended through contextual research, experimentation with materials, development of ideas and the realisation of final outcomes. Pupils will be encouraged to recognise and develop their own strengths in the subject. Great emphasis is placed on the individuality of approach and the willingness to take risks with techniques and concepts.

The second year of the course is divided into two key areas:


1.           Personal Investigation (60% of A Level)

A personal investigation in which pupils develop practical work in response to an idea, issue, concept or theme of their choice. The practical work is supported by a personal study of 1000 – 3000 words.

(No time limit)


2.            Externally Set Assignment (40% of A Level)

An externally set assignment based on eight starting points from which pupils will select one. Pupils will work on preparatory studies before producing a conclusive personal response in the supervised time.

(Supervised time: 15 hours)


Both the Personal Investigation unit and the Externally Set Assignment are assessed internally by departmental staff and then moderated by a visiting examiner from AQA.

Biology A Level

Sixth Form classes are small, so there is plenty of time for individual question/answer sessions and clarification of topic material. Each class has two teachers who will cover different topics.

Pupils will spend about a quarter to a third of their time on practical work. Other class and homework time (approximately four hours per week in Lower Sixth and five hours per week in Upper Sixth) may be spent reinforcing knowledge and understanding of the topics studied.

The course follows OCR’s AS and A Level Biology A specifications which cover both animal and plant topics.

Lower Sixth Topics:

Cell structure; membranes; cell division; biological molecules; transport systems in animals and plants; disease and immunity; biodiversity; classification and evolution. At the end of the first year of study, there are no public exams but there will be an internally set school exam to evaluate progress.

In the summer term there will also be opportunity to take the classroom outside on field excursions, including ecological sampling and surveying in the nearby woodland, Warleigh Point, and on rocky shores at Mount Edgcumbe.

Upper Sixth Topics:

Communication and coordination; excretion; the nervous system, hormones, plant and animal responses; photosynthesis, respiration, cellular control, genetics, manipulating genomes; cloning and biotechnology; ecosystems; populations and sustainability.

For the assessment of the final A Level grade there are three written papers: two 2 hours and 15 minutes and a third of 1 hour 30 minutes.

There is a practical skills endorsement completed during class time.

Chemistry A Level

A practical specification

As a subject, Chemistry spans a great breadth of disciplines. A-Level chemists can expect to be studying topics that appear to be quite different from each other yet as they progress through the course discover how they are fundamentally linked. From unlocking the secrets of the periodic table to discovering how modern-day materials give us the functionality required, Chemistry can explain how the world around us is put together.

Why choose Chemistry?

Chemistry is an academic and highly regarded subject by universities and employers alike. Much of the content is extremely relevant to issues we are facing in today’s society, such as green energy, use and disposal of plastics and developing new ways to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections. Pupils with an A-Level in Chemistry will find many doors opening for them and that they have been well equipped for higher education.

Chemistry A Level can lead to careers in environmental law, intellectual property, pharmaceuticals, space exploration, forensic science, medicine, engineering, accountancy, finance and much more!

A-Level chemists at Plymouth College will follow the Edexcel course, which gives thorough and challenging coverage of key areas within physical, inorganic and organic chemistry. There is ample opportunity for practical lessons and with the 16 core practicals, pupils can become highly competent in scientific and investigative skills. Successful completion of the core practicals will result pupils achieving the Science Practical Endorsement certificate.

In the Lower Sixth, pupils study:

  • Atomic structure
  • Amount of substance
  • Structure and bonding
  • Redox and inorganic chemistry
  • Energetics
  • Kinetics
  • Equilibria
  • Organic chemistry
  • In the Upper Sixth, pupils study:
  • Acids, bases and buffers
  • Electrode potentials
  • Transition metals
  • Energetics
  • Advanced organic chemistry
  • Modern analytical techniques

At the end of Upper Sixth, pupils will sit three exams:

  • Paper 1 – Advanced Inorganic and Physical Chemistry
    1hr45min, 30% of the overall marks
  • Paper 2 – Advanced Organic and Physical Chemistry
    1hr45min, 30% of the overall marks
  • Paper 3 – General and Practical Principles in Chemistry
    2hr30min, 40% of the overall marks.

A Level Chemistry pupils at Plymouth College go on to study a wide range of courses at university, including Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, Engineering, and Biomedical Sciences.

Classics and Latin

An A Level in Latin or Classics can set you apart from the crowd. They are highly regarded, and an excellent stepping stone to careers in law, politics, journalism and international relations. 

Once again, Latin is an excellent academic A Level for pupils with a logical brain who may be considering a career in law, or as an enjoyable contrast for those studying two sciences for example, and who wish to study medicine. A recent past pupil currently studying medicine, was complimented at his interview on his choice of Latin A level! Latin also fits very well for pupils studying History, English or Philosophy at A Level.

We also offer Classical Civilisation at A Level; pupils do not have to have studied this previously at GCSE, as it is a complete stand-alone course. We have taught many successful candidates for whom this was their first experience of the classical world; several of whom have gone on to study this subject at university. Four past pupils are currently studying Ancient History at Cardiff University for example.

The current OCR A Level course is extremely broad, and allows us to choose such diverse modules as Bronze Age Archaeology or Greek Tragedy. The modules currently being studied in the Sixth Form are Greek Myth and Religion, (Upper Sixth) and the Imperial Image of Augustus, the first emperor (Lower Sixth). Through an examination of the literature, visual and material culture of the period pupils can examine the ways Augustus tried to “spin” his public image in ways Donald Trump would envy, proving that the study of the classical world is still relevant today.

DT (Product Design) A Level

A Level Product Design is studied following the AQA exam board specification which includes both practical and theory work. Students develop their understanding and practical experience with a range of materials and processes as well as developing 21 st century products and systems while working with real clients.

The course uses the following structure and all areas are examined at the end of the two-year course.

Paper 1Paper 2NEA (Non-exam Assessment)
Technical PrinciplesDesigning and Making PrinciplesPractical application of technical principles and designing and making principles

Written Exam2 hours and 30 mins

120 Marks

30% of A Level

Written Exam1 Hour and 30 mins

80 Marks

20% of A Level

Substantial design and make task

100 marks

50% of A level

Written or Design portfolio with a final prototype

Our newly built Design Studios are equipped with a range of workshop machinery, power tools and
hand tools. We also have a selection of CNC machines including laser cutters, vinyl cutters and 3d
printers. We have our own Computer Aided Design suite with networked computers and a set of
laptops for use.

Design and Technology is all about turning ideas and dreams into reality. We encourage intelligent
design using appropriate 21 st century technologies to make better solutions.

As well as developing subject knowledge and experience during the course you will also develop these key skills that employers and universities are looking for:

  • Creativity and forward-thinking
  • Communication and presentation
  • Planning and organising
  • Problem-solving
  • Dexterity and practical skills
  • Resource and material management
  • Sustainable and environmental awareness
  • Industrial practice knowledge
  • Self-management and teamwork


Some pupils in the Sixth Form need to prepare and take an Academic IELTs exam. This test measures the language proficiency of pupils who want to progress onto higher study in the UK. It uses a 9 band scale to clearly identify levels of proficiency from 1 (non-user) to 9 (expert). The IELTs academic test is suitable for pupils who wish to enter for study at undergraduate or postgraduate level and reflects some of the features used in academic study. IELTs lessons are taught in small, specialist classes. Most pupils study for 3 A Levels so have space and time on their timetable to allow them to attend sessions.

Course Content 

The IELTs test assesses ability in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing and can be completed at a recognised Test Centre on the same day. The test can be taken at a computer or on paper to suit pupils. The Listening and Reading tests are designed to test listening or reading for gist and detail and recognising writers’ attitudes, opinions and purpose. Sources are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The Writing test has two tasks. Task 1 requires pupils to analyse a graph, chart or diagram and Task 2 involves an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The Speaking test involves a pupil talking about a particular topic on a card, addressing all bullet points. All the content is appropriate for pupils entering university level courses.

Economics A Level

Empowering pupils to develop skills of analysis and evaluation though the application of Economic theory. Useful for direct entry into industry or as a well-respected course for university entrance.

At A Level, Economic theory is applied to national and international business. Through the application of knowledge and understanding, pupils are empowered with the ability to explain how and why business operates, how the economy is managed and how we are all part of a globalised world.

Choosing A-level Economics gives pupils the confidence to speak about the national economy, about how and why business decisions are made in the context of the market in which they operate.

Plymouth College follow the Edexcel Economics B course, consisting of 40% Business and 60% Economics. In the Lower Sixth (Year 12), units are investigated entitled 'Markets, Consumers and Firms' and 'The Wider Economic Environment'. In the second year, sections named 'The Global Economy' and 'Making Markets Work' are the subject matter. Throughout the course, pupils are guided on the skills of analysis and evaluation required for the written exam, by teachers who have marked for the exam board, so have outstanding knowledge of the requirements of the course. The A Level is assessed with three separate exam papers, each 2 hours long.

Many of the pupils who study Economics A Level, go on to study Business, Economics and Finance degree courses at university. There are also many pupils who use their A Level Economics for medical, humanitarian and science-based options.  An A Level in Economics is considered rigorous and challenging by all well-established universities.

We enrich our Sixth Form pupils with the opportunity on a Friday afternoon, to study Finance at Level 3 (A-level equivalent diploma). Through the London Institute of Banking and Finance, we teach the fundamentals of lifelong budgeting and financial decision-making. This empowers them to take more proactive decisions with their own finance and gives them the ability to offer others sound financial advice.


English Literature A Level

We offer the OCR A Level in English Literature which “encourages pupils to develop their interest in and enjoyment of a broad range of English literature. They apply their knowledge of literary analysis and evaluation to engage critically and creatively” with a variety of texts.

A linear course, there are two terminal examinations and a coursework portfolio to be completed.

Class sizes are small which afford the opportunity to work closely with pupils and develop an excellent rapport –essential when discussing Literature. Typically, classes are taught by two enthusiastic specialists with teaching mostly conducted seminar-style with pupils expected to bring to class their own interpretations of texts. A willingness to read widely around the set texts is requisite.

It is our custom to tailor the course to the pupils’ interests. In the recent past, the course has looked like this:

Drama and Poetry pre-1900: This is a two and a half hour examination. It is closed book which means pupils must learn the quotations and critical comments for their exam. The texts we commonly consider are Shakespeare’s The TempestWebster’s The Duchess of Malfi and The Collected Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Comparative and Contextual Study: Another two and a half hour exam, this paper requires pupils to demonstrate their expertise in a particular genre. For the past two years, pupils have chosen Dystopia (1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale). Other options include The Gothic and American Literature.

Coursework: Pupils must produce two tasks worth 20% of the overall marks. The first task is a close analysis of a passage from a text. The second is a comparative essay wherein pupils showcase their knowledge of both texts and their contexts. We like to allow for personal choice and interest. Previously pupils have studied The Power, The Crucible, Lord of the Rings, Beowulf or The History Boys, Birdsong, WW1 Poetry. 

Literature pupils leave with an ability to analyse forensically and argue convincingly –key portable skills in the modern marketplace. Indeed, English Literature A Level is considered a facilitating qualification, one which opens many doors of opportunity post 18.

Whilst it is true that some of our pupils go on to study English at university, the possibilities are endless: law, criminology, land economy, MFL, architecture, ppe; these are just a few of the disciplines pursued by our Sixth Formers in recent years.

French A Level

Through the study of A Level French pupils will not only gain valuable skills such as communication and interpreting skills, but will open their future into firms who have international links worldwide, owing to the breadth of French (with around 110 million native speakers).

It is an official language in 29 countries and of the United Nations (alongside Arabic, Mandarin, English, Spanish and Russian) as well as one of the European Union where it is the official language of the three political centres: Switzerland, Strasbourg and Luxembourg City, so is a particularly useful asset to anyone wanting to work within any businesses operating in the European markets.

A Modern Foreign Language not only has the rigour and gravitas desired by universities, but can build communication, interpersonal, intercultural, communication and public speaking skills, otherwise known as ‘soft skills’, which graduate recruiters value. Research suggests that speaking two or more languages leads to a rise in cognitive processing, focus and the ability to multitask. If you work for a big international firm, speaking a language immediately puts you in line for interesting work which otherwise would not come your way.

Pupils follow the Edexcel specification for A level. This consists of two externally-examined papers assessing listening, reading and writing and a speaking assessment. The main text book is ‘A Level French’ linked to Dynamic Learning and endorsed by Edexcel; however, a wide variety of books and contemporary material are also used. The topics studied in year 1 are divided into three main areas and are adapted to fit with French society (family structures, education, the world of work), politics and art (music, media, festivals and traditions) and a film study. The topics in year 2 of the course deal with contemporary issues such as immigration and integration, France under the Occupation and a literary text.

Pupils will not only learn about the topics, but will also become confident to discuss the issues and their opinions through class discussion. Pupils also have a range of new materials to enable and encourage independent study along with books of interest - literary or otherwise - which will assist in preparing them for post-18 education.

Not only does French go well with many other subjects to form a joint honours degree, modern foreign languages are also classified as facilitating subjects, subjects favoured by top universities for a whole range of degree courses, so they are a great option, whatever you want to do!

French alumni have gone on to study single honours degrees in French and joint honours degrees combining French with another Language, Law, International Relations, Business Studies, Linguistics, Music, and Catering at the following universities: Oxford, Bath, Durham, Exeter, Reading, Manchester, Cardiff, UCL, Nottingham and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Geography A Level

A level Geography is a combination of multiple themes equally dispersed between human and physical geography. Pupils study 6 topics over the duration of the course and have to complete their own independent study.

Pupils who opt for geography tend to have a mixture of interests, from the sciences to more financial and ethical disciplines. This varying interest serves them well and many issues across all A levels are incorporated in Geography, from statistical analysis to globalisation and political powers.

Geography pupils find themselves studying at university and thereafter with excellent communication and investigation/research skills. Pupils who are interested in geography can seek employment in a variety of areas, including engineering, accountancy, economics, military, politics, human relations, conservation, preservation and forestry, surveying and meteorology to name a few.

A level geographers will follow the AQA A Level which gives a challenging and thorough coverage of physical and human geography. There is ample opportunity for practical elements within our lessons with four days of fieldwork and investigation. Pupils become highly competent in research interpretation and critical analysis of their data and methods of collection.

At the end of the Upper Sixth, pupils will sit two 2 hour and 30-minute papers both worth 40% each.

  • Paper 1 – Physical - this cover three themes: Natural Hazards, Coastal Environments and a compulsory module of water and the Carbon Cycle.
  • Paper 2 – Human - this covers three themes: Global systems and Global Governance, Contemporary Urban Environments and the Compulsory module of Changing Places.
  • NEA – There is a course work element to A level Geography worth 60 marks = 20% of the A level. This will begin during the summer term of Lower Sixth and be finally submitted at the end of December of the Upper Sixth course.

Geography A level Pupils go on to study a wide variety of courses at excellent universities including: Geography, Economics, Civil Engineering, Coastal Engineering, Biology, Marine Biology, Law, Human Relations, Politics, Development Studies and Teaching.

German A Level

German is seen as a language worth learning for real purposes. The Department seeks to promote German as a vibrant language and the methodology of the Department revolves around communication in all forms for realistic purposes; this fosters a purposeful, relaxed and friendly classroom environment. Our pupils learning German hear the language used between teachers and around school.

The Department follows the Edexcel A Level specification. This consists of two externally-examined papers assessing listening, reading and writing and a speaking assessment. The course builds on IGCSE skills and encourages pupils to engage in more complex issues and develops their skills of Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. The topics covered are more sophisticated, but the fundamental principle remains the same – language for communication.

The A Level course has a strong focus on the contemporary cultural, political and historical context of all German-speaking countries at the heart of modern Europe, whilst always keeping the interests of the young learner in mind. Using a wide range of materials (newspaper and magazine articles, video and audio media, posters, advertisements, internet) pupils discuss and write about topics such as leisure activities, cinema and film, contemporary politics, the environment, education, travel and other related issues.

The course is assessed through external assessment. The pupils complete one oral examination at the end of the course and then sit one paper assessing their Listening, Reading and Writing skills. Both of these examinations are prepared for throughout the two-year course.

Formal homework is set, focusing heavily on preparation for the examination, but pupils are expected to complete their additional self-study in their own time.

The Department has successfully run trips to the German-speaking world, most recently Vienna (2012) and Berlin (2014 and 2017). These trips are essential for the pupils to truly experience another culture – an essential aspect of both departmental and school-wide educational aims.

German alumni have gone on to study single honours degrees in German and joint honours degrees combining German with another Language, Law, International Relations, Music at the following universities; Oxford, Exeter, Reading, Manchester, UCL and Warwick.

History A Level

History is one of the most popular A Level subjects at Plymouth College. We follow the OCR A Level History syllabus, and study two units in the Lower Sixth and two units in the Upper Sixth.

Why study History?

History is a highly regarded academic subject that can open up a wide range of career opportunities. It helps pupils to develop skills that are highly prized by both universities and employers alike, such as the ability to analyse, make judgements and to select and organise information. History is an excellent foundation for a number of well-respected degree topics including Law, Journalism, International Relations, Politics, Teaching, Banking and Accountancy. History is also one of eight A Level subjects regarded as ‘a facilitating’ subject by the Russell Group (a group of the top 24 UK universities), for its ability to provide access to a wide range of academic degrees.

Course content and assessment

We follow the OCR A Level History syllabus. This consists of three examined units (all examined at the end of the Upper Sixth Year), and a 4,000 word coursework assignment completed in the autumn of the Upper Sixth year.

Lower Sixth: In the Lower Sixth pupils study two modules.

  1. The first module considers the development of democracy and dictatorship in Germany from 1919 to 1963. Pupils will consider crucial issues such as the rise of the Nazis and the division of Germany after the Second World War. Why did German democracy collapse in just 10 short years? How was Hitler’s brutal dictatorship able to survive for 12 years, and how did the outcome of the Second World War lead to a divided Germany that would become a Cold War flashpoint? 
    This module is examined at the end of the Upper Sixth Year and accounts for 15% of the total A Level mark.
  2. The second module considers the early Tudors, 1485-1558, and examines the trials and tribulations of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary. From the machinations of Wolsey, to the pursuit of status by the competing factions, the course gets to grips with the power and ambition at the heart of Tudor England. Who can we trust? Was anyone out for the greater good? 
    This module is examined at the end of the Upper Sixth year and accounts for 25% of the total A Level mark.

Upper Sixth: 

  1. The first module in the Upper Sixth year consists of a 4000 word coursework assignment which expands on the two modules taken in the Lower Sixth. This assignment allows pupils to investigate a topic they have found particularly interesting and undertake wider research and reading, building up skills that will prove crucial at university. 
    This assignment is completed in the autumn term and accounts for 20% of the total A Level mark.
  2. The second Upper Sixth unit is an examined course looking at civil rights in the USA from 1865 to 1992. This unit covers a broad spectrum of topics including women’s rights, labour rights, and the struggle for greater civil rights by Native Americans and African Americans. This unit therefore allows pupils to gain an overview of a fascinating period of American history. 
    This module is examined at the end of the Upper Sixth Year and accounts for 40% of the total A Level mark.


Many pupils go on to study History or a related subject, such as Law or International Relations, at university. Recent destinations for some of our A Level historians include, reading Law at Exeter University, History at Imperial College, London, and Politics and International Relations at Nottingham University.

Trips and extracurricular activities:

In the past we have organised A Level trips to London to visit key sites linked to the Tudor unit of study, such as Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London. Pupils have also had the opportunity to attend academic lectures on different aspects of the A Level course. We are hoping to organise an A Level trip to Germany to help deepen pupils’ understanding of the rise of National Socialism and the impact of the Cold War on German politics and society. Pupils who are particularly interested in Politics are able to join the Drake Society as part of their Sixth Form enrichment. This society tries to resolve some of the big issues facing the modern world, using an historical perspective.

Maths and Further Maths

Mathematics is one of the most popular subjects at Plymouth College. It is a subject highly valued by employers and universities and the department has a track record of consistent success.

Pupils are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning and to make the most of a supportive and committed group of teachers. There is a strong emphasis on algebraic and problem solving skills.

The new Mathematics A Level started nationwide in September 2017 with our first exams in May 2019. Two sets of pupils in each year group study the subject with another group doing Further Mathematics. All papers are sat at the end of the Upper Sixth. 

All pupils will experience Mechanics and Statistics alongside Pure Maths, while the Further Mathematicians learn about the above in greater depth and breadth. The syllabus is now more similar in all exam boards and we follow the Edexcel courses, 9MA0 and 9MF0. Pure Maths makes up two-thirds of the A Level and one-half of Further Maths. Statistics and Mechanics contribute one-sixth each to the A Level and one-quarter each to Further Maths. Three 2 hour exams will be sat at the end of the Upper Sixth with the Further Mathematicians completing four more papers of the same length.

An A Level mathematician currently has six, fifty minute lessons per fortnight shared equally between two teachers and should expect to produce at least 3 hours of homework per week.

In the last three years, our pupils have gone on to study Mathematics at the universities of Cambridge, UCL, Leeds, York and Sheffield. We have helped engineers achieve places at Imperial, Durham, Edinburgh, Bath and Loughborough, while the subject has been a popular choice for those going on to study Medicine and Economics.

Music A Level


A Level Music (Edexcel)

Musicians have an amazing range of skills and are trained as listeners, creators, presenters and team-workers.  They read and write complex codes and learn to understand culture and the thoughts throughout history that influence they way we think today.


GCSE Music grade 6


ABRSM Theory Grade 5 and performing ability on any instrument or singing equivalent to at least Grade 5.



The course will study the following areas

  • Performing 30%
    • Solo
    • Ensemble
  • Composing 30%
    • Free composition (3 minutes)
    • Composition to a set brief (3 minutes)
  • Analysis and Aural work 40%
    • Vocal music
    • Instrumental music
    • Music for film
    • Popular music and jazz
    • Fusions
    • New directions

This is a two year A’ Level course which develops your practical skills alongside your analytical and theoretical work.

You should be having lessons on your instrument or voice in addition to your classroom lessons.

You should also enrich your knowledge and enjoyment of practical music by taking part in our orchestra, choirs and ensembles.  We also love it when students take initiative and starts groups of their own.


Vocal Music

  • JS Bach, Cantata, Ein feste Burg
  • Mozart, The Magic Flute
  • Vaughan Williams, On Wenlock Edge

Instrumental Music

  • Vivaldi, Concerto in D minor, Op. 3 No. 11
  • Clara Wieck-Schumann, Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 17: movement 1
  • Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique

Music for Film

  • Danny Elfman, Batman Returns
  • Rachel Portman, The Duchess
  • Bernard Herrmann, Psycho

Popular Music and Jazz

  • Courtney Pine, Back in the Day
  • Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
  • The Beatles, Revolver


  • Debussy, Estampes
  • Familia Valera Miranda, Cana Quema
  • Anoushka Shankar, Breathing Under Water

New Directions

  • Cage, Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos
  • Kaija Saariaho, Petals for Violoncello and Live Electronics
  • Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring


Contact [email protected] for more details.


PE A Level

Pupils in Lower and Upper Sixth can choose between studying the EDUQAS A Level PE or the EDEXCEL BTEC level 3 extended diploma in sport (outdoor adventure). You do not have to have studied PE at GCSE level to study either of these courses.

The PE A Level course is run as a linear two year A Level.  We follow the Eduqas syllabus. There are five topic areas which are taught throughout the two years and make up 70% of the A level.  These are:

  1. Exercise physiology, training and performance 
  2. Movement analysis, technology and biomechanics 
  3. Sport psychology 
  4. Skill acquisition 
  5. Sport and society 

All five topic areas are examined by two separate papers at the end of the second year.  

In addition to this is the practical element of the A level, worth 30%.  

  1. Improving personal performance in physical education  

Students require one very good practical sport chosen from a wide range of activities and they can be assessed as either a participant or a coach. There are 34 practical options for students to be assessed in, which are:

Amateur boxingAssociation footballAthleticsBadminton
Cycling (track/road)DanceDiving (platform)Gaelic football
NetballRock climbingRowingRugby league
Rugby unionScullingSkiingSnowboarding
SquashSwimmingTable tennisTrampolining
VolleyballPlus several disability specialist activities

Practical performance as player/performer (15%) - learners must demonstrate and apply the relevant skills and techniques required for the sport/activity.  All activities should be played under competitive/formal conditions. 

Analysis and evaluation of performance (15%) - the analysis and evaluation should help the learner to improve personal performance as a player/performer or coach.  It must be linked to the chosen practical activity and contain research into appropriate theoretical subject content. The students will also be required to produce a written piece of coursework (the Non-Examined Assessment).    

Sport Baccalaureate

Physics A Level

Physics is a fundamental subject that drives our technology-rich society.  The department’s aim is to reflect this energy in our teaching. The department aims to build on the academic excellence of the past, constantly enhance the use of up-to-date teaching methods and employ quality resources to engage pupils and help them achieve to their highest potential. We will provide a coherent educational experience for our pupils which will enable them to acquire sufficient knowledge and understanding to become confident citizens in a technologically-driven world, able to take or develop an informed interest and opinion in matters of scientific importance.

Most importantly, we wish to develop in our pupils:

  • A sense of wonder in, and awe of, the natural world.
  • An appreciation of the explanatory and predictive power of science.
  • An enjoyment and satisfaction in solving problems using scientific techniques, including practical investigations.
  • An understanding of some applications of science, of the work of scientists, and how science works.
  • The ability to learn independently, to locate and use relevant information themselves and to develop a desire to read outside the curriculum.
  • The ability to communicate their work, both in writing and by other methods.

At A level we follow the AQA syllabus. The Lower Sixth course consists of topics in particles, mechanics, waves and electricity, and the Upper Sixth course comprises further mechanics, thermal physics, fields and nuclear physics, plus an optional topic, usually Astrophysics but this depends on the wishes of the particular cohort. AS exams are no longer taken in the linear A levels, so all the assessment is at the end of the two-year course.


Physics A level is taught by three specialist teachers. We have 3 fully-equipped Physics laboratories clustered around an office and pupil support room.

Our teaching employs modern methodology including a wide range of teaching strategies to ensure that all types of learner are able to access the lessons. This includes the use of technology in appropriate forms, active learning, group work and experimental work, whist also integrating traditional teaching techniques.

We pride ourselves on our open-door policy for 1:1 support for all our pupils.

We run a trip to the CERN high energy Physics research facility in Geneva every few years, which is open to Sixth Form and Year 11 pupils who are interested in post-16 Physics. In the past few years, we have also run gifted and talented workshops, and we are involved in various STEM related projects in school and beyond. 

In the Sixth Form, Physics is a popular option and we have two groups who follow the AQA A level course. This is a very good course not only for further development in the subject, but also as preparation for scientific and other technical degree courses. Many of our pupils go on to study Physics, Engineering and Mathematics at very good universities.


Psychology A Level

Psychology continues to be a popular choice in the Sixth Form at Plymouth College.

Pupils studying the course enjoy this novel and fascinating subject which has applications to real life and is relevant for all future education and career paths. As well as gaining an insight into a variety of topics within this vast science, pupils develop valuable and transferable skills. These include being able to analyse research and theories in terms of their strengths and limitations; being able to apply their knowledge of Psychology to scenarios and novel situations and, of course, developing a deeper understanding of why humans behave the way that they do.

Psychology pupils learn about what memory actually is, why we forget and whether it is reliable when giving an eyewitness testimony. Other areas covered include the attachment between a child and a caregiver and whether disrupting this can have negative consequences.

Further topics include types of conformity and why we feel the need to conform; the reasons behind why people obey even when they know that their actions will cause harm; definitions of and explanations for abnormal behaviours (for example, phobias) together with therapies to treat these abnormalities.

The specification followed is AQA and for the full A Level qualification, three exam papers need to be completed in the Summer of Upper Sixth.

RE & Philosophy A Level

In the Sixth Form pupils can study Philosophy at A Level. This course helps to enhance analytical and evaluative skills thus supporting the ability to reason. Presenting ideas logically, questioning and clear headed thinking are useful in so many professions.  A Level Philosophy may also particularly appeal to pupils that studied RE at GCSE.

We enhance our learning by attending Philosophy conferences. Our lessons are fun, reflective and thought-provoking and take students on a journey of intellectual discovery. Many of our former cohorts  have gone on to study Philosophy, Theology or Religious Studies at university.

As a vibrant and committed department we work hard to ensure that our pupils are able to unlock their potential. Pupils enjoy lessons and are encouraged to think independently, to debate and to analyse. These vital skills will provide an excellent basis for their further education.

Spanish A Level

A Level Spanish is highly respected and valued by universities and employers. Not only does it teach very valuable skills such as communication and interpreting skills, it opens doors into firms who have international connections across the globe owing to the high importance of Spanish (with over 400 million native Spanish speakers). Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, spoken across all continents and in 23 countries as the native language. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations (alongside Arabic, Mandarin, English, French & Russian), and is used as an official language by Mercosur and the European Union.

Spanish not only has the rigour and gravitas desired by universities, but for pupils who are looking for a career using communication skills, interpersonal skills, problem solving, team working, intercultural, organisational and presentational skills and independence, which graduate recruiters value, Spanish will give them excellent job prospects through its valuable practical and transferrable skills whether pupils choose to specialise or combine it with engineering, management and business, hospitality or law among others. Research suggests that speaking two or more languages leads to a rise in cognitive processing, focus and the ability to multitask. If you work for a big international firm, speaking a language immediately puts you in line for interesting work which otherwise would not come your way.

Pupils will follow the Edexcel specification for A level. This consists of two externally-examined papers assessing listening, reading and writing and a speaking assessment. The main text book ‘A Level Spanish’ linked to Dynamic Learning and endorsed by Edexcel; however, further contemporary material is used and available. The topics studied are adapted to fit with changing Spanish society and include the role of the family, tourism, the world of work, politics and art as well as a film and literary study. Pupils will not only learn about the topics, but above all will become confident to discuss the issues and their opinion through class discussion. Pupils also have a range of new materials to enable and encourage independent study, which will assist in preparing them for post-18 education.

Not only does Spanish go well with many other subjects to form a joint honours degree, modern foreign languages are also classified as facilitating subjects -  subjects favoured by top universities for a whole range of degree courses.

Spanish alumni have gone on to study single honours degrees in Spanish as well as combining Spanish as part of a joint honours degree at the following universities; Bath, Exeter, Reading, Manchester and UCL.