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What is it about at sixth-form level?

What is real? How should we live? What can we really know? Questions as broad and deep as these have fascinated people for centuries. As a philosophy student, you will start thinking about them and explore ideas and thinkers from across the ages. In one lesson, you might be walking with Socrates in ancient Athens as he argues that we are born with knowledge; in another, you might be back in the modern day wondering whether computers could ever experience love or sadness. You will meditate with Descartes on what sort of thing you are and you will address in detail what philosophers have said about the perennial puzzle of whether God exists.

Philosophy attracts those who like journeys, not destinations. This does not mean that philosophical questions have no answers. For whether they do or do not is itself a philosophical question! The questions are fascinatingly simple yet profound and they invite us to explore what they mean and what the ‘philosophical landscape’ looks like in which we would hope to find the right path.

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Lower Sixth
Upper Sixth

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Philosophy is an old and much-respected discipline, attracting thinkers from around the world and from a spectrum of backgrounds. Their contemplations and debates upon the nature of our reality are at once both abstract and personal, shedding light upon the nature of our thoughts and our status as thinkers. Philosophy will introduce you to new ways of thinking about both new and familiar subjects as well as providing tools for examining the theories and presuppositions underpinning other academic subjects. We will explore classic questions such as the existence of the external world, what it means to know something, and whether or not these questions can be meaningfully answered.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You will need to have obtained at least 5 GCSEs at 9-4 including a grade 6 in English Language. You should be aware that the course requires a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a capacity for logical thought and open-mindedness.

How is the course assessed?

A level

The A level is assessed by two three-hour end-of-year examinations. The first is on the Epistemology unit and the Moral Philosophy unit. The second is on the Metaphysics of God unit and the Metaphysics of Mind unit. For each unit, there will be a set of compulsory questions requiring answers of different length: three short-answer questions, one medium-answer question and one long-answer question. Each paper is worth 50% of the A level.


To be confirmed at the start of the course

AQA A-level Philosophy Year 1 and AS:
Epistemology and Moral Philosophy

By Jeremy Hayward, Gerald Jones, Dan Cardinal
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1510400269

Meditations on First Philosophy
By R. Descartes
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521558181

AQA A-level Philosophy Year 2: Metaphysics
of God and Metaphysics of Mind

By Jeremy Hayward, Gerald Jones, Dan Cardinal
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1510400269

Philosophy: Themes and Thinkers
By J.W. Phelan
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521537421

Exam Board and Specification Codes

 A level: AQA 7172

"I have really enjoyed my time èAV 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 èAV: A*AA Progressed to: Exeter University (International Relations)

"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 èAV were fully met."


Grades achieved at èAV: AAB Progressed to: Southampton University (Business Innovation)

"I have definitely made the right decision to come to èAV - my grades have gone from averaging Es to straight As. Teaching at èAV 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 èAV: AAA Progressed to: Warwick University (Chemistry)

"As a dyslexic student who initially got CCEE for my AS, I was convinced that I could not achieve any higher. My time at èAV 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 èAV I can emphatically say that going to èAV was the best decision I ever made."


Grades achieved at èAV: AAA Progressed to: Nottingham University (Philosophy)

"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 èAV: A*AA Progressed to: University of York (Law)

"Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined èAV 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 èAV: A*A*A* Progressed to: University College London (Economics)

"International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but èAV surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most èAV 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 èAV: A*A*A* Progressed to: University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

"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."


Grades achieved at èAV: A*AABB Progressed to: King's College London (International Relations)

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