A level Art and Design

Exam Board: AQA

What will I study in Art and Design A level?

Art and Design is about looking, learning, thinking and communicating. It offers opportunities to explore and develop pupils’ creativity to express themselves. Pupils will develop their understanding of creative processes, their ability to observe, to think, to solve problems and communicate using a visual language.

Art and Design requires engagement with aesthetic and intellectual concepts through the development of your skills and ideas. Pupils have the opportunity to use both traditional and digital media, materials, techniques and processes to create personal, imaginative and expressive work. Pupils will develop their independent research skills and knowledge of other artists’ work as well as through the exploration of materials.

Art allows pupils to consider and reflect on our place in the world, both as individuals and collectively. It allows us to question, communicate and explore ideas around perceptions and preconceptions around society, identity and visual language.

Course Overview:

We offer the AQA Art and Design specification which offers the freedom to explore a wide range of materials and techniques. Teaching and learning takes place within small groups, supported by one-to one guidance. This allows pupils to discover their own strengths and explore and develop ideas of particular personal interest.

Coursework is worth 60% of the final grade, with the Externally Set Assignment being worth 40%. (This is an extended practical project culminating in 15 hours of work conducted under supervised examination conditions)

There are four main Assessment Objectives:

  • AO1: Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.
  • AO2: Refine work by exploring ideas, selecting and experimenting with appropriate media, materials, techniques and processes.
  • AO3: Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses.
  • AO4: Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and demonstrates understanding of visual language.

The AQA Art Course aims to help pupils develop their:

  • intellectual, imaginative, creative and intuitive powers
  • investigative, analytical, experimental, practical, technical and expressive skills, aesthetic understanding and critical judgement
  • independence of mind in relation to developing their own ideas, refining their own intentions and personal outcomes
  • an interest in, enthusiasm for, and enjoyment of art, craft and design experience of working with a broad range of media, including traditional and new media technologies
  • an understanding of the interrelationships between art, craft and design processes and an awareness of the contexts in which they operate
  • experience of working within relevant and real frameworks and, where appropriate, make links to the creative industries
  • knowledge, understanding and application of art, craft, design and media and technologies in contemporary and past societies and cultures
  • an awareness of different roles, functions and audiences and consumers of art, craft and design practice.

Course Structure

Lower Sixth

The first two terms are seen as an opportunity for pupils to develop their skills and creative practise further without the pressure to conform to the requirements of the examination assessment objectives.

Term 1: The Formal Elements:

This project allows pupils to develop their use of visual language through the exploration of new processes and technical skills.

It consists of a series of short, experimental workshops in a variety of materials and techniques to allowing pupils to develop confidence though doing and making.

Term 2: Critical and Contextual Studies:

Here pupils are encouraged to consider the role of Art in society, through practical engagement with the work of artists, designers, photographers and makers. They are encouraged to respond to work of personal interest through a practical project, producing resolved outcomes.

Term 3: Introduction to the examination - Component 1 : The Personal Investigation:

This is an in-depth practical response into a theme, artist or concept of personal interest. Pupils will start to gather information, create initial drawings, studies and complete photoshoots.

The practical work is supported by a written element or analysis (usually an illustrated essay) of 1-3,000 words.

Upper Sixth

Term 1: Pupils will focus on the development of the Personal Investigation. This will take the form of sketchbook research alongside larger, more ambitious pieces outside the sketchbook and ambitious, resolved, personal responses. The written element complements the practical investigation and is completed alongside it.

Terms 2 - Component 2: Externally Set Assignment:

Pupils receive the Examination paper Feb 1st and will choose one question to explore and develop into an extended practical project. Sketchbook work and further research completed during lessons. The final responses are completed over a 15 hour supervised period, under exam conditions.

Skills required

We would expect pupils to have achieved a level 6 in GCSE Art or DT.

A portfolio demonstrating the pupil’s ability will also be considered.

  • An ability to draw. Drawing, in its many forms is an essential part of the course, as an essential part of the development process from initial idea to finished work. It is also vital in the development of pupils’ visual understanding. Pupils will be encouraged to explore a variety of tools and materials and techniques to develop confidence and a personal visual language
  • An enthusiasm and interest in the visual arts
  • A positive, can-do approach
  • A willingness to experiment and explore materials and techniques, learning from mistakes.
  • Determination, resilience and independence of mind.
  • Curiosity, imagination and an openness to new ways of doing/ thinking
  • An ability to communicate your own ideas whilst respecting the views of others.
  • The ability to analyse and write about images.

Where might it lead?

The Cultural and Creative Sectors are some of the UK’s most successful industries. More people work in the creative industries than in the finance and they are one of the UK’s big success stories.

Areas such as Software and Gaming, Publishing, Fashion design, Graphic design Television, Architecture, Film and Digital Media are set to be of central importance to the county’s future economic well-being. Art and Design develops the visual awareness required in this field, as well as the transferrable skills of creativity, innovation, problem-solving, adaptability and resilience which will be required in the jobs market of the 21st Century.

For those pupils who want to take their studies further, we provide guidance and assistance in selecting appropriate courses, putting together strong and relevant portfolios, help with UCAS personal statements and interview practice.

The usual pathway is to apply to an Art Foundation Course where pupils have the opportunity to build up a portfolio which is geared towards the specific course they wish to apply for.

Some pupils do apply directly to degree courses and a considerable amount of our pupils have gained places to study the Visual Arts, Architecture, Games Design, Photography, Illustration and Art History at some of the most highly regarded universities and Art Colleges.

If you choose not to continue with your studies, the transferable skills you will gain will still be valuable. Problem-solving, creative thinking, investigation, research, communication and teamwork skills and gain the ability to develop and present ideas. Employers and universities regard all of these very highly.


We organise at least one visit to London per year to visit the major galleries and current exhibitions as well as inviting practising artists to give one-off workshops. We visit local galleries where relevant.


  • AQA Art and Design Student Handbook.(Nelson Thornes)
  • The Story of Art, Gombrich, E.(Phaidon)
  • The Shock of the New, Hughes, R.(BBC)
  • Art Today, Smith, E.L,(Phaidon)
  • Art Now, Grosenick, U,(Taschen)
  • The Power of Art, Schama, S.(Penguin)
  • Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing, Southern, J, (Black Dog Publishing)
  • Vitamin D2: New perspectives in Drawing Perry, Kashdan & Krause,(Phaidon)