Media Studies
A level

Media studies discusses the political, historical, social and economic contexts of a wide range of media industries including newspapers, TV, film, music, magazines, online and gaming.  It involves close analysis of print and audio visual texts through which you will develop your understanding of how they are constructed to create meaning and appeal to their target audience, as well as their ability to reflect the discourse of wider culture.  This analysis is underpinned by the theoretical framework of media language, representation, industry and audience and their associated theorists.

The course is an academic study of the world of the media in all their many forms and across the two years of the course, you will study a wide range of different media industries via the texts they produce.  Through this, you will develop an understanding of how and why media texts are created, the theories that explain how they carry meaning as well as the ways in which they may be interpreted by audiences. 

You will explore and debate how different groups are represented in society, media coverage of key  events, as well as their wider implications.  As part of this study, you will explore a foreign language text, independent/alternative media and historical texts in addition to contemporary examples.

All of this will develop and enhance your research, analytical and evaluative skills.

It is also helpful to know that our exam board specified set texts are currently:

  • Swedish/Danish TV crime drama The Bridge (series 3, episode 1)
  • the website for Attitude magazine (a gay male lifestyle magazine)
  • The Daily Mirror Newspaper 
  • The Times Newspaper 
  • Vogue Magazine from July 1965
  • The Big Issue Magazine from 17 to 23 October 2016 - the 25th Anniversary edition
  • Late Night Woman's Hour a radio programme from BBC Radio 4
  • Video game franchise 'Assassin's Creed' 
  • vlog and blog by Zoella
  • Beyonce music video for the song Formation
  • film poster for the 1963 vampire  film Kiss of the Vampire  
  • music video from Vance Joy for the song Riptide
  • TV advert for Paralympics Superhuman
  • 1950s print advert for Tide washing powder
  • film promotion and marketing for the film Black Panther  
  • film promotion and marketing for the film I, Daniel Blake
  • British TV crime drama Life on Mars (series 1, episode 1)

You will be encouraged to engage with a wide range of texts, developing skills of observation, critical analysis and personal reflection, as well as developing your creativity and practical skills in desktop publishing, film making and editing.  You will have the opportunity to put your knowledge and understanding into practice via a coursework unit.

You will undertake tasks individually, in groups and sometimes as a whole class with discussion on a range of issues requiring you to think, question and challenge your own ideas as well as critiquing the theories you have studied.  You will also develop essay writing skills and research skills.

Examination 70%

There will be two exams at the end of the two year course.

Component 1:    2 hours 15 minutes

Component 2:    2 hours 30 minutes

They will include:

  • Component 1 contains a mixture of stepped and extended essay questions and will include two unseen texts as well as asking you to use texts you have studied in your answers.
  • Component 2 consists of three sections: Television in the Global Age, Magazines and Media in the Online Age with an essay question on each.
  • Component 3 consists of options such as: producing a range of cross media products for a new film, music band/artist or magazine with two required tasks one of which will be creating a website.

Both papers will offer an opportunity to explore meanings created within media texts and analysis of the representations they contain as well as the application of theoretical concepts to media texts.


Coursework 30% (internally assessed and externally moderated)

You will have the opportunity to put your knowledge and understanding into practice via a coursework unit which requires you to construct a cross media production, informed by detailed research.  The briefs will be set by the exam board each year and might include options such as producing a range of cross media products for a new film, music band/artist or magazine with two required tasks, one of which will be creating a website.

Media studies sits comfortably alongside a wide range of humanities, social sciences and creative subjects.  As an academic subject, it naturally complements other similar subjects including politics, history, English literature, English language, philosophy and film studies.

The course does contain an element of creativity via the coursework and may be suited to those students wishing to further develop in this area, or combine it with other creative courses such as graphic design and photography.  However, this is not a vocational course.

Students often find that their studies in media augment their understanding in their other subjects and vice versa - it is a popular subject if you are not yet sure what career path you want to pursue.

With results consistently above the national average and equipped with a deep understanding of the influence the media has on all areas of life, students who leave the course will often pursue a career or higher education in a media related field.  However, the diversity of skills make it a welcome addition to your application to a broad range of different HE courses.  Having developed not only excellent academic, creative and technical skills, students will also confidently demonstrate a wide range of other transferable skills sought by employers such as critical thinking, communication, teamwork, project management and digital competencies.

Popular career paths and HE courses include; journalism, marketing, web design and digital communications.  ‘Createch’ jobs are a growth sector and according to official data from the DCMS, in 2018 creative industries were adding roles at twice the rate as the rest of the economy!  Whether you are going on to university, an apprenticeship or a job, A level media provides lots of inspiration about what your future can bring.

Please see below for careers and labour market information for media studies - use the refresh buttons to find out about different courses and careers, and use the left and right arrows to view more detailed information.

You can find the prep work for this course at

Q: What is the difference between the vocational and A level media and film courses?
A: Both the Cambridge Technical in digital media and the A level media courses provide you with knowledge and understanding of the media industry, its products and audiences, as well as developing practical skills through coursework projects. However, the A level is 70% exam and 30% coursework; the Cambridge Technical is 50% exam, 50% coursework on the single award course and 30% exam, 70% coursework on the double award course. 

Another difference is the focus; while the A level is about WHY media products contain particular content, the Cambridge Technical in media is about HOW media products are produced and varying factors that influence a product such as institution, audience and genre.  You can’t study both the Cambridge Technical and A level media together, as they equate to the same qualification however, lots of students choose to study film studies alongside one of the media courses.

Q: What is the difference between the A level media and A level film?
A: Both A level film and A level media are academic subjects and both are assessed via 70% exam and 30% coursework.  There are some similarities in the initial analytical skills you develop, but thereafter the subjects are quite different.

Film studies focuses on developing your understanding of how films reflect the time and place in which they were made and where they sit within a broader film history and this knowledge is used to shape your coursework production of a short film. 

Media studies explores a wide range of media texts considering
how they are constructed to create meaning and appeal to their target audience, as well as their ability to reflect the discourse of wider culture.  We employ a diverse range of theoretical ideas under key conceptual areas of media language, representation, industry and audience.  Through the close analysis of examples from a broad spectrum of industries, we discuss political, historical, social and economic contexts and how these shape the way the media is constructed.

Q: I want to get into a creative career - would you recommend A level media or the vocational course?
A: Both courses provide you with knowledge and practical experience to help prepare you for industry.  However, if you already know you definitely want to pursue a media career but want to develop purely technical skills, we would recommend the double award (Diploma) course.  For those with a keen interest in the media but want a more diverse programme of study with perhaps other academic subjects, the A level may suit you better.  There are more diverse skills developed on the A level course, with an opportunity to develop academic, technical and creative skills which would prepare you for academic study at university.

Q: Do I need to buy my own kit or software in order to complete coursework?
A: Although some students choose to buy their own equipment and software, this isn’t an expectation.  The department is equipped with enough resources for all students (cameras, tripods etc.), as well as having four computer spaces with access to the Adobe Suite (Premiere Pro, Photoshop etc.).  You will, however, need to buy your own SD card and headphones to use for coursework projects.  We will advise on what is suitable.

To find out the latest information from the department, follow us on Instagram and Twitter, @f6mediafilm. 

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Exam Board


Entry Requirements

  • You should have at least a grade 4 in both GCSE English language and GCSE English literature.
  • Ideally you should have a grade 4 in at least one other essay based subject and at least one creative/art subject

Employability Skills

  • Analysis skills
  • Literacy and language skills
  • Managing time and resources
  • Practical and creative skills
  • Presentation and teamwork skills
  • Insight into different ideological attitudes and values

Course Resources


10x speed SD card

SD card reader

Print credit - £5 initially but further top ups will be needed throughout the year

A USB stick