To its advocates the A' Level is the gold standard for post-16 education. To its detractors, it demands too much focus, too early.
There is no doubt as a qualification it delivers the goods when it comes to university entrance. The exam is widely accepted and widely respected at tertiary institutions around the world.
Students normally sit three A' Levels, but some sit four, and others as few as two. This would still deliver the points required for some UK universities - and pretty much every UAE institution which often accept lower level GCSEs and AS Levels.
A Level students tend to choose subjects of a similar type, usually split between humanities (English, History, Economics...) or sciences (Maths, Physics, Chemistry...). Languages tend to sit fairly easily within both camps.
Largely as a result of this specialisation, over the last five years the International Baccalaureate has begun to nip at the A' Levels heels. You can read more of IB versus A level in articles across the site, but the key to which one to choose lies with the student: Does he or she want to specialise, or does he/she enjoy and perform equally well at science, art, languages, and social science?
IB students take six subjects, three at higher level and three at standard level. These subjects are studied for two years and are examined at the end of that two year period.
New AS and A levels have been taught from September 2015. The first results for the new AS levels came in 2016, and for the A levels will come this year (2017). Further subjects will be introduced over the following two years.
The new A' and AS levels move the qualifications closer in many ways to the original A' Level examination, and is part of a process to allow greater differentiation between the most able students.
The main features of the new qualifications are:
Assessment is mainly by exam, with other types of assessment used only where they are needed to test essential skills.
AS and A levels will be assessed at the end of the course. AS assessments will typically take place after 1 year’s study and A levels after 2. The courses will no longer be divided into modules and there will be no exams in January.
AS and A levels will be "decoupled" – this means that AS results will no longer count towards an A level, in the way they do now. Under the old system AS Levels were studied in Year 12 with exams taken in May-June. They were worth 50% of your overall A Level qualification.
NOTE: This is NOT the case for the international A' Level where the AS Level will continue to count towards the A' Level.
In many countries, including the UK, both UK and International A Levels are offered - although more rarely within the same school. Those with higher numbers of students from the UK tend to offer the UK A' Level. Those whose demographic is more international tend to offer International A' Levels.
AS levels can be designed by exam boards to be taught alongside the first year of UK A levels - meaning AS Levels can be gained during the course of studying the A Level exam. An AS Level is an examination in its own right, and therefore still has value of its own.
Timetable for the new A' Levels
|New AS and A level to be taught from:||First AS results will be issued in:||First A level results will be issued in:||Subjects|
|September 2015||Summer 2016||Summer 2017||art and design
English language and literature
|September 2016||Summer 2017||Summer 2018||ancient languages (classical Greek, Latin)
drama and theatre
modern foreign languages (French, German, Spanish)
|September 2017||Summer 2018||Summer 2019||accounting
design and technology
government and politics
history of art
|Bedales||Petersfield||South East England|
|Cheltenham Ladies College||Cheltenham||South West England|
|Downe House||Newbury||South East England|
|Eton College||Eton||South East England|
|Frensham Heights||Farnham||South East England|
|Harrow School||Harrow on the Hill||Greater London|
|Hurtwood House||Dorking||South East England|
|King's School Canturbury||Canturbury||South East England|
|Lancing College||Lancing||South East England|
|Marlborough College||Marlborough||South West England|
|Roedean School||Brighton||South East England|
|St Paul's||Barnes||Greater London|
|The Hammond School||Chester||North West England|
|Tonbridge School||Tonbridge||South East England|
|Tring Park School for the Performing Arts||Tring||East of England|
|Warwick School||Warwick||West Midlands|
|Wellington College||Crowthorne||South East England|
|Westminster School||Westminster||Greater London|
|Winchester College||Winchester||South East England|
|Wycombe Abbey||High Wycombe||South East England|