GCSE Drama and A level Drama - A Complete Guide

 A Complete Guide to GCSE Drama and A level Drama

GCSE Drama - A Level Drama

Students taking GCSE Drama or A level Drama can expect a course which is varied and stimulating, but also challenging.  No matter which syllabus your school follows the courses test a similar variety of skills. Besides acting ability students must demonstrate that they can research a role or topic, work well in a group, manage their time effectively, reflect on and evaluate their own work and that of others, and analyse live productions.  This is not an easy GCSE or A-level, but it is extremely rewarding and students can expect to gain much in terms of self-confidence and teamwork skills, as well as developing their dramatic ability and understanding of theatre and performance. 

Universities and employers look favourably upon students who can demonstrate a wide range of skills, and Drama can contribute much towards creating a "well-rounded individual" for those who are prepared to work hard at it.  

GCSE Drama

There are a variety of exam boards that offer GCSE Drama and each course is slightly different. You will be told which course your school takes. An outline of the AQA specification is as follows:

Coursework = 60%

Two of the following 14 options are available for the practical component of the course; only one may be based on design skills:

  1. Devised thematic work             
  2. Acting*
  3. Theatre in Education
  4. Improvisation*                            
  5. Dance                                        
  6. Set                                             
  7. Costume                                    
  8. Make-up
  9. Properties
  10. Masks
  11. Puppets
  12. Lighting
  13. Sound
  14. Stage Management


Written Paper = 40%

A two hour paper; a choice of two questions based on two sections:

A. Set plays - a choice of six

B. Response to a live production which has been seen and studied during the course.

Coursework Details

Candidates offer two practical options for assessment. Whichever option is chosen, it will be divided into three parts for the purpose of assessment. Parts 2 and 3 are assessed entirely through practical work. These parts are allocated a total of 50 marks from the 60 available for each practical option.

Part 1

This incorporates the new requirement for candidates to explore relationships and comparisons between work of different times and cultures, for example, in terms of theme, style and genre. Candidates must include written evidence of approximately 500 words for each option. This component can earn up to 10 marks.

Part 2

Work in progress: analysis and evaluation of the candidates work during both the preparation period and after the presentation of work. This component is worth 20 marks.

Part 3

Final Presentation: demonstration of ability and knowledge and understanding of practical skills necessary for the presentation to an audience whilst working constructively with others. This component is worth 30 marks

AS/A2 Drama and Theatre Studies

Most schools will also offer a  course in sixth form. It could be a BTEC in performing Arts or a A-Level in Drama and Theatre Studies.

The brief outline of the AQA Drama and theatre studies course is as follows: It is designed for pupils to; develop their interest and enjoyment of drama and theatre, both through experience as audience members and through development of their own theatre skills; develop their knowledge and understanding of the social and cultural contexts of drama and theatre, through detailed study of dramatic texts (in their context), and of the work of a theatre practitioner; develop their ability to respond critically and sensitively to a range of drama texts and to theatre in performance.

In the first year of A level Drama the students will study two texts chosen by their school, they will also study the work of a theatre practitioner. They will be asked to create and perform in a devised theatre and write a portfolio detailing the process. The written exam includes questions on their set texts, the practitioner and a question asking about plays they have seen during the course. In the second year this process is repeated with different texts and a new practitioner and instead of a devised piece of drama they will produce a scripted performance. Along with the questions from the first year the students will have to answer a question on an unseen piece of text in their final written exam.

Vocational Courses BTEC

Many Schools now also offer more vocational drama courses in the form of a BTEC. The Performing Arts BTEC  offers a more practical, work related programme unlike those offered by GCSE Drama and A level Drama.

Your school or college could offer you a variety of different courses, each offering a different qualification. For example, first certificates, first diploma, national diplomas etc.

BTEC First Certificate is equivalent to 2 GCSE qualifications. A* - C

The BTEC National Award is equivalent to one A level

The BTEC National Certificate is equivalent to two A levels.

The BTEC National Diploma is equivalent to three A levels.

BTEC Firsts carry UCAS Points in line with their A level equivalents.

To find out more about the BTEC courses available please use the following link.


Information on AS/A Level coursework