The stupid questions we won’t miss from the General Studies A-Level

‘Discuss how easy it is to be a good citizen’

With all the drama around them trying to bring back grammar schools, you might’ve missed that the government has done something good to the education system. They’ve killed General Studies.

Everyone’s favourite A-Level timewaster has fallen victim to government plans to get rid of so-called (and correctly-called) “soft subjects,” along with other “Studies” like Media, Leisure, and Citizenship.

For those not familiar, the General Studies A-Level asks students to contemplate humdingers like:

“At the 2010 General Election, candidates stood for the Citizens for Undead Rights and Equality Party (CURE) and for the British National Party (BNP), as well as for the parties represented in Parliament. Discuss the importance of having different political parties.”


“The government requires people applying to become British citizens to take a test to show they understand about life in the UK and how to be good citizens. Discuss how easy it is to be a good citizen.”

These evoke forgettable segments on the One Show and patronising dinner table conversations. Questions you could blurt out an answer to if someone asked you at 3am in a freezing smoking area. How can I be a good citizen? Pay your taxes and try not to kill anyone, perhaps.

The exams were literally four hours long

I went to one of only two colleges in Hampshire to force this farce upon its unwilling students. Sitting through a whole hour of vague ramblings every week was compulsory. It was perhaps the loosest lesson of the week – rumours swirled of people doing keys just to get through it – but this didn’t make it worthwhile.

Each week a different member of staff would glibly glide through a bland PowerPoint, resenting every second of their duty. Not a person in the room wanted to be there, and it showed. Revision, we were assured, would be covered simply by reading a newspaper every so often. Difficult stuff.

It’s supposed to broaden your skills. However, there aren’t many subjects that don’t focus on essay writing. And perhaps those stuck in their Science-y, Maths-y bubble don’t need two years to learn “Intro, for, against, conclusion.”

It’s meant to broaden knowledge and help you “focus on contemporary issues.” This is a noble goal. Unfortunately, an unenthusiastic hour every week isn’t enough to light a spark in someone’s head over whether the BBC truly fulfils its goals of informing, educating, and entertaining.

It helps you get easy UCAS Points. You can’t really knock it for this, and it has helped a lot of people make it to university. It was just frustrating that it was forced upon all of us, and there are clearly more interesting ways to get some extra UCAS points.

Here’s a selection of some of General Studies’ best bits. Try to remember them, in case you need to seem interesting in a conversation:

“‘With widening inequalities between the rich and the poor, the UK is on the verge of a class war.’ Examine this view and say how far you believe it to be true in 2013.”

‘”Stereotyping can be hurtful and insulting.’ Discuss whether stereotyping might be an acceptable generalisation about people.”

“‘The trouble with technology is that it lets you down.’ How far do you agree that technology has improved our lives?”

“The well-known 19th century poem and song Jerusalem has the words, ‘…in England’s green and pleasant land’. How far is that description valid today?”

“Young people are often told to act in a mature and responsible way. Discuss whether society expects young people to grow up too quickly.”

“‘We must have rules and regulations in order to maintain a civilised society.’ Argue in favour of the above statement.”

“Explain the adverse medical effects that smoking is likely to have on the health of individuals.”

Are we headed for a class war? Is smoking bad for you? ARE STEREOTYPES BAD? We may now never know the answer to any of these.

We can mourn the loss of Critical Thinking, History of Art, and Engineering, but let’s let General Studies rest in peace, shall we?