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A Levels

What are AS and A levels?

AS and A levels are the most common qualifications offered by schools and colleges for 16-19 year olds. In the most part, they focus on academic subjects, but there are some which are work-related.

AS levels are a qualification in their own right, but often form part of an A-level course. AS levels are usually done in Year 12 and then the AS exams and coursework in year 13 make this up to a full A-level qualification.

These qualifications are valued by universities and employers alike.

If your son or daughter does want to go on to a specific higher education course at university, you’d be wise to check what A levels they require, as this might influence the choices they make on which subjects to study.

Who can study for AS and A levels?

Since 2014, all young people completing year 11 are expected to continue in education until their 18th birthday. This is all part of something called 'Raising the Participation Age (RPA)'.

It means that after they finish their GCSEs at school they will have a few choices. Studying AS or A Levels at a school sixth form or a sixth form college is one of these options.

In fact, anyone can study for an AS or A level. There are many adult learning courses that cover these qualifications, but usually, young people will choose whether or not to study for AS or A levels when deciding on their options in Year 11.

Where can you study for AS and A levels?

Most young people do these in a school sixth form or at a local college.

How long do AS and A levels take?

Normally, a young person taking an A level in more than one subject would take two years to complete the qualification.

Your son or daughter may choose to do four or more AS levels in Year 12 and then drop a couple to specialise in two or three A levels in Year 13.

Once your son or daughter has left school, they could choose to study A-levels part-time or study one subject exclusively to complete the qualification in 12 months.

Costs associated with studying AS and A levels

There are no fees for studying AS or A levels if you are under 18 years old and are studying full time at school or college.

You might need to consider travel costs if your son or daughter chooses to attend a local college, which is likely to be further from home than their school. We run a young persons travel card to help with the cost of this.

How do you apply to study AS and A levels?

Your son or daughter’s school teachers will ensure that they have a place on the courses they choose, whether this is in a school sixth form or at a local college.

Where to next?

AS and A levels are one of the main routes into university and higher education. They can also be useful if your son or daughter wants to go straight into a job, such as office administration or trainee accountancy.

How to choose your A-Levels? Tips from Which? University

AS and A Level Reform

From September 2016 new AS and A levels will be taught in schools. This means a range of new subjects for your son/daughter to choose from leading to more options. 

The main features of the new qualifications are:

  1. Assessment will be mainly by exam, with other types of assessment used only where they are needed to test essential skills.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. AS levels can be designed by exam boards to be taught alongside the first year of A levels.
  5. The content for the new A levels has been reviewed and updated. Universities played a greater role in this for the new qualifications than they did previously.

Further information

More information on the changes can be found at Get the facts: AS and A level reform on the Gov.UK website.

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