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Art A Level at Birchwood High School

Course description

The Advanced GCE in Art and Design Fine Art course consists of two components, component 1 the Personal Investigation which is 60% of the total qualification and component 2 the Externally Set Assignment which is 40% of the total qualification.

Component 1 incorporates three major elements: supporting studies, practical work and a personal study of a minimum 1000 words of continuous prose.
These elements should be seen as integrally connected. Supporting studies may combine investigation and research for both the practical work and personal study, however, the personal study must be presented as a separate outcome.
Work produced will be based around themes developed from given starting points and personal starting points. The purpose of the Personal Investigation is to develop a portfolio of practical work and a minimum 1000 words of continuous prose that shows critical understanding in relation to the practical portfolio.
The course begins with given starting points set by the school, building on skills acquired during GCSE. As the course develops so does the students ability to work on areas of personal interest and in a more independent fashion.
The personal study will consist of a critical and analytical written piece of a minimum 1000 words continuous prose, making links to the student’s own practical investigations, supported by contextual research. The personal study comprises 12% of the final qualification and is marked out of 18. Through the personal study, students will demonstrate understanding of relevant social, cultural or historical contexts. Students will also express personal interpretations or conclusions, and use technical and specialist vocabulary.
The focus of the personal study can be any concept, movement, person, people, artefact(s), or other source of reference. However, it must be related to their own ideas, investigations and practical work.

Component 2
This component incorporates two major elements: preparatory studies and the 15 hour period of sustained focus. The Externally Set Assignment represents the culmination of the GCE Qualification allowing students to draw together all the knowledge, understanding and skills developed throughout. The Externally Set Assignment consists of one broad-based thematic starting point to which students respond by developing a portfolio of practical work and final outcome(s).
The Externally Set Assignment comprises an externally set theme with suggested starting points. Students will need to develop their own personal work from this theme and related starting points.
The Externally Set Assignment will be available from 1 February of each year when students will begin their preparatory studies, culminating in the final 15 hour period of sustained focus under examination conditions. The Externally Set Assignment is internally assessed, and externally moderated.

Special Requirements
The course requires an enthusiasm for the Visual Arts, imagination and an enquiring mind. Students are encouraged to express their own artistic identity, and are expected to work with a high degree of independence and creativity, taking creative risks and exploring their own interests. There is a distinct step up from GCSE in terms of content and skills to study Art and Design at A level.
Students will be required to make frequent trips to museums and galleries making links between their own work and that of relevant professional artists and to record first-hand information using sketchbooks and cameras. Students are expected to commit to five hours a week working independently on their coursework. This may include making visits and time spent in the department developing coursework. All work submitted will be marked by the course teacher and moderated by the examining board.

Career and Progression Opportunities
With a qualification in Art students could go on to higher education, Art Foundation or work in the Art industry. This could include a career in Graphic Design, Product Design, Fashion, Textiles, Ceramics, Glass, Theatre Design, Animation, Computer Aided Design, Architecture, Furniture Design, 3D Design, Digital Media, Fine Art, Photography, Advertising, Interior Design , Prop design and making, set design and many more.

Entry requirements

Grade 6 in GCSE Art or Graphics.


Component 1: Advanced level Art and Design Coursework Portfolio 60%.
Submission of an essay study of a minimum of 1000 words. Linked to the Personal Investigation and the practical outcomes.
Component 2: Advanced level Art and Design Externally Set Assignment (15 hours exam) 40%.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Birchwood High School directly.

Last updated date: 03 May 2018
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