Always Learning

 A level 

A levels - sometimes called General Certificates of Education (GCE) or Advanced level - are normally studied after GCSEs or International GCSEs. You can also take them if you want to gain a qualification in a subject you are interested in, at any age.

A levels – what are they?

The qualification mainly involves studying the theory of a subject combined with some investigative work.

They are usually studied full-time at school or college. You will start with the AS level, which is the first half of an A level and a qualification in its own right. If you enjoy the subject and want to learn more, you can continue studying at the A2 level.

Students usually take 1 year to complete the AS and a further year to complete the A2 - so a full A level usually takes two years.

Find out exactly what an A Level qualification is from Hayley Read, Operations Manager.

To study A levels, you'll normally need five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grade C or above, although mature students may be accepted without the normal entry requirements.

A levels are at level 3 on the National Qualifications Framework.

Why take A levels?

A levels are highly valued by schools, colleges and employers. They are the first step in providing access to a range of careers or further study. A levels have been used as a benchmark to judge student ability for more than 60 years.

What subjects can you study?

A levels are subject-specific qualifications. A levels are available in over 30 subjects ranging from Business Studies to Music Technology.

For some subjects there is an ‘applied’ alternative allowing you to relate your study to the world of work.

You can see what A level subjects are offered and what each course covers by reading the course details, which you can download from our A level specifications page.


How are A levels graded?

A levels are graded A* to E. The A* grade was introduced to differentiate the highest performing students from other A grade candidates in 2008. If you don’t get enough marks to pass with an E, you will be awarded a U, which means ‘unclassified’.

How will I be assessed?

A levels are assessed and marked in a variety of ways. All A levels contain exams, which you will take throughout the course in either the January or Summer exam sessions.

You may also be assessed through coursework, which can include research, essays, projects, investigations, artwork, fieldwork, experiments or other practicals. Your teacher will plan when you complete your coursework but it can be completed at any point throughout your course.

The course specification will tell you how that subject is assessed.

Does it matter what subjects I take?

Many courses at university or college will require you to take A levels in certain subjects. If you have a particular aim in mind you should check the requirements for that course and take the appropriate subjects.

What can I do once I've taken my A levels?

Getting A levels can provide you with a variety of options, for example, work, further study or an apprenticeship.

Options for further study could include applying to university, a BTEC Higher National, NVQ, a BTEC Apprenticeship or a mixture of these qualifications.

If you are applying to a UK university you are likely to apply through the University and College Admission Service (UCAS). You can find out more about UCAS and how A levels are valued by Further and Higher education institutes on the UCAS website.