The Complete Guide To A Levels In The UK (2024)

The A Levels is the gold standard for admission into top-ranking universities in the UK and also around the world. Prepare for academic success with our comprehensive guide to A Levels. Learn about the A Levels course, choosing subjects and the grading structure, exam preparation tips, and more.

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Table of Contents

What Are A Levels?

The A Levels, short for Advanced Levels, are academic qualifications commonly pursued by students in the United Kingdom after completing their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs). Typically taken at the age of 16 or 17, at the end of their post-16 education (end of Key Stage 5), A Levels hold substantial importance and are frequently a prerequisite for higher education or employment opportunities.

The A Levels evaluate a student’s proficiency and expertise in their chosen subjects through a blend of coursework, controlled assessments, and final examinations. These qualifications are graded on a scale from A*, the highest, to E, with a passing grade usually considered to be A* to C.

The grades attained in A Levels may impact a student’s prospective academic and career pathways, as they are often evaluated by the university or higher education institution during applications and in certain job recruitment processes.

How To Choose A Level Subjects?

Your chosen A Levels subjects will often determine the trajectory of your education journey and potential career pathways. While there is no one right formula to choosing A Level subjects, here are a few guidelines which will help you make better choices.

Consider your career goals: Reflect on your long-term career aspirations. Some professions or university courses may require specific A Level subjects. Research the entry requirements for your desired career path and ensure you choose subjects that align with those requirements.

Consider Your Interests: Start by thinking about the subjects you genuinely enjoy and have a passion for. Think about which topics you find intriguing and engaging. Your interests will play a significant role in your motivation and success.

Assess Strengths and Weaknesses: Be honest with yourself about your academic strengths and weaknesses. Consider subjects in which you excel and those that may be more challenging. Striking a balance between subjects you’re skilled in and those that challenge you can be a good approach.

Seek advice: Seek advice from your teachers, school counsellors, parents, or career advisors. They can provide valuable insights into your academic abilities and suggest subjects that align with your goals.

Explore University Requirements: If you have specific universities in mind, check their entry requirements. Some universities may have subject prerequisites for particular courses. Ensure that your A Levels choices meet these requirements.

Research A Level Content: Take the time to understand the content and structure of the A Level subjects you’re interested in. This will help you determine if the subjects align with your interests and goals.

Consider Future Flexibility: Keep in mind that your interests and career goals may evolve. Choosing a mix of subjects that offers flexibility can be beneficial in case you decide to change your academic or career path later on.

A Levels Subject Choices

Your choice of A Levels subjects will often depend on the degree you wish the pursue and the universities you are interested in. For example, if you are considering a career in Pharmacy, universities that offer Pharmacy degrees might have entry requirements for subjects such as Chemistry or Biology. It is important to do research to find out what the mandatory subjects are for the course you wish to pursue.

The difficulty of A Levels is much higher than GCSEs, so if you did not perform well for a given subject in GCSEs, you may want to reconsider taking it at the A Levels. Over the 2 year A Levels course, students can take up to five A Level subjects but most will typically choose three. 

If you are unsure about what to study yet, it makes sense to choose a few facilitating subjects for your A Levels. Facilitating A Level subjects are a set of A Level subjects that are commonly preferred by universities in the United Kingdom because they are considered to provide a strong foundation for a wide range of degree programmes. These subjects are:

  1. Mathematics
  2. English Literature
  3. Physics
  4. Biology
  5. Chemistry
  6. History
  7. Geography
  8. Modern and Classical Languages (e.g., French, Spanish, Latin)
If you are unsure about what subjects to choose, you can contact us for a free consultation.

A Levels Course Structure

In the past, A Levels was divided into 2 years – AS and A2. In the current UK A Levels course model, there are several key changes.

Linear Structure: The 2-year A Levels are now entirely linear, with all content assessed at the end of the course. The old A Levels were modular, with AS and A2 modules counting towards the 50% A Level grade respectively.

Standard of Difficulty: The difficulty level is designed to be similar to the previous modular A Levels, but some subjects may be tougher due to content reviews.

Exam Types: Exams now include a greater variety of question types, including more synoptic questions and multiple-choice questions.

Reduced Coursework: Coursework has been reduced in subjects like English, History, and Computer Science, from 40% to 20%. The assessment of practical work in Science does not not contribute to the final A Level mark but is reported separately in a certificate of endorsement.

Grading: A Levels are graded from A* to E, similar to the previous system

A Levels Grading Structure

The A Levels grading structure in the United Kingdom typically follows the A* to E grading system. Here’s a breakdown of the grades and their meanings:

  1. A* (A star): This is the highest grade achievable and indicates exceptional performance, demonstrating in-depth understanding and mastery of the subject matter.

  2. A: An A grade signifies a very strong performance, showing a thorough understanding of the subject and excellent application of knowledge and skills.

  3. B: The B grade indicates a good performance, with a solid understanding of the subject and a good level of knowledge and skills.

  4. C: The C grade represents a satisfactory performance, demonstrating an acceptable level of understanding and competence in the subject.

  5. D: The D grade signifies a marginal pass, showing a basic level of understanding and competence in the subject but with room for improvement.

  6. E: An E grade is the lowest passing grade, indicating a minimum level of performance required for a pass but with significant room for improvement.

  7. U (Unclassified): A U grade means “unclassified” and is given when a student’s performance does not meet the minimum requirements for a pass.

A common way of looking for schools with great academic performance is by checking the A Levels league tables. The league table ranks schools by the percentage of students who scored the highest A*-A grades for the year.

UCAS Tariff Points

UCAS tariff points is a way to quantify the level of achievement in the A Levels qualifications for the purpose of university admission in the United Kingdom. UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) assigns specific tariff points to A Level grades as follows:

  • A* (A star) is worth 56 UCAS tariff points.
  • A is worth 48 UCAS tariff points.
  • B is worth 40 UCAS tariff points.
  • C is worth 32 UCAS tariff points.
  • D is worth 24 UCAS tariff points.
  • E is worth 16 UCAS tariff points.
  • U (Unclassified) is worth 0 UCAS tariff points.

These UCAS tariff points are used by universities and colleges as part of their admission process to assess and compare applicants’ qualifications. When students apply for higher education courses through UCAS, their A Level grades are translated into UCAS tariff points, and the total points earned are used to determine whether they meet the entry requirements for their chosen courses.

 

A Level GradeUCAS Tariff Points
A*56
A48
B40
C32
D24
E16
U0

UCAS Tariff points are just one part of the puzzle. As mentioned earlier, some degree courses may require you score a certain grade in specific subjects as part of their entry requirements.

What Is The A Levels League Table?

The A Levels league table showcases schools based on the academic performance of their students in A Level examinations. It serves as a valuable tool for comparing schools, fostering transparency, and aiding informed decisions. Parents and students can analyse schools’ A Level results to gauge their academic prowess, spot patterns, and make choices that align with their educational aspirations. High rankings incentivise schools to maintain high standards, while also shedding light on educational disparities, sparking conversations about addressing inequalities in education.

Explore the most recent A Level results of schools in the UK by referring to our A Levels League Table.

What Are The A Levels 2024 Exam Dates?

The timetable issued by the Joint Council for Qualifications indicates that A Level examinations are scheduled to commence on May 13 and conclude on June 25, 2024.

A Levels Results Day

Students can expect A Level results to be released on Thursday, August 15, 2024. Schools and colleges will receive the results one day earlier, on Wednesday, August 14, 2024.

What Are The Requirements To Take A Levels?

  1. Subject Prerequisites: Depending on the subjects you wish to study at A Levels, you may need to meet certain subject-specific prerequisites. For example, to study A Levels Mathematics, you may need to have achieved a good grade in GCSE Mathematics.

  2. GCSE Results: In most cases, schools and colleges will consider your GCSE results when admitting you to A Level courses. Different institutions may have varying entry requirements, with some requiring a minimum number of GCSEs at certain grades.

  3. Specific Course Requirements: Some A Level courses may have specific requirements beyond GCSEs. For example, certain science subjects might require a strong background in science at GCSE or additional qualifications.

  4. English Language Proficiency: If you are an international student or a student whose first language is not English, you may need to demonstrate English language proficiency through tests like IELTS or TOEFL.

A Levels Exam Preparation Tips

Here are our top 10 tips for preparing for and acing the A Levels exams.

  1. Develop a Study Plan: Create a comprehensive study schedule that covers all your A Level subjects. Allocate more time to subjects or topics that you find particularly challenging.

  2. Utilise Past Papers: Past A Level papers are invaluable for understanding the exam format and practicing your knowledge. Work through past questions under timed conditions to simulate the exam experience.

  3. Engage in Active Learning: Move beyond passive reading and embrace active learning methods such as summarising, teaching others, or participating in group discussions to deepen your understanding.

  4. Visualise with Mind Maps: Use visual mind maps to connect complex ideas and concepts. Visual representation aids comprehension and enhances memory retention.

  5. Take Regular Breaks: Incorporate short breaks into your study sessions to prevent burnout. Avoid marathon study sessions and prioritise quality over quantity.

  6. Frequent Review and Revision: Consistently revisit your notes and revisit previously covered topics. Repetition is essential for reinforcing your understanding.

  7. Study Partners: Collaborate with a study partner or group to enhance your learning. You can quiz each other and clarify doubts collectively.

  8. Seek Guidance: Don’t hesitate to reach out to your teachers, tutors, or classmates for assistance when facing challenging concepts. Clarifying doubts promptly is crucial.

  9. Mock Exams: Conduct mock exams to replicate real exam conditions. This practice will familiarise you with the exam environment and time constraints.

  10. Stay Informed: Stay up-to-date with any changes in exam formats or syllabi. Be aware of exam regulations and requirements to ensure you’re well-prepared.

Remember, consistency is key and try to avoid cramming in everything last minute!

Summary

In summary, A Levels are a crucial component of the UK education system, representing a significant step in a student’s academic journey. Your A Levels performance plays a pivotal role in university admissions and career prospects, so selecting appropriate subjects and preparing diligently are paramount. If you require guidance or assistance regarding  A Levels, don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a proven track record of helping 1000s of students pursue their academic goals in the UK, and we are here to support you in your educational journey. Get in touch with us today to explore your options!

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