To secure top grades in A-Level politics, it is vital that students confidently engage with contemporary political debates and themes. In this blog, Politics tutor Eddie sets out four great ways of accessing current political events, knowledge of which can then be applied to the course.
All politics students know that keeping up to date with current affairs can build their knowledge and understanding of contemporary politics. But with the enormous variety of media sources on offer, and the 24/7 bombardment of a relentless news cycle – how can students effectively and efficiently use current events to improve their grades? Here are some top tips for students aiming to boost their grades:
It is easy to get sucked into the latest government scandal or twist in the Brexit drama. TV channels and newspapers thrive on keeping their readers fixated on the latest development, and will often spin events as being of greater importance than they actually are. As political scientists we have to try to stay more detached and not get caught up in the media maelstrom. When you are reading an article think – “What new information am I getting from this source?” If it’s a rehash of an ongoing story with a new twist – move on!
Newspapers and TV news will often have an analysis segment. If you know the broad details of the political story it’s the analysis you should focus on – it is going to put this current event in context and tell you what it means. If you focus on the analysis you can efficiently find out what we have learned from the story, rather than getting embroiled in the intricate detail.
It’s tempting to stick to one newspaper, blog or news channel that you trust and enjoy. But it’s important to break out of the comfort zone and read viewpoints other than your own. Every question in the A-level Politics course asks you to analyse and evaluate different views on a political debate. Sometimes newspapers will offer varied opinion, but more often than not it is varied opinion rooted around the political position of the editor. Therefore, when possible, expose yourself to views that you may disagree with. Remember to focus on analysing the strengths and weaknesses of all opinions – as this is what you will be required to do in the exam.
Utilise your free time to deepen your knowledge. Podcasts are a great way of learning while you are travelling, doing exercise or relaxing at home. However, it is useful to note afterwards the main points you have learned, or a crucial piece of evidence you discovered, which will boost your grades in an essay question.
There are such a plethora of podcasts it can be difficult to decide what to listen to, so I have listed a few recommendations below:
1. Analysis, BBC Radio 4 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006r4vz
This programme examines the ideas and forces which shape public policy in Britain and abroad, presented by distinguished writers, journalists and academics.
2. Steve Richards “Leadership Reflections” https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08flwk7
Political journalist Steve Richards gives a series of half-hour unscripted talks on the theme of leadership, focusing on six of the most significant prime ministers of the last fifty years.
3. The Political Party Podcast http://mattfor
3. The Political Party Podcast http://mattforde.com/
A more relaxed and entertaining approach to politics – but with leading politicians and political scientists as guests, it packs a punch.
4. NPR Politics https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510310/npr-politics-podcast
The weekly round up is particularly recommended. Condenses and analyses the weeks key developments into less than thirty minutes.