What Are A-Level Qualifications? Everything You Need To Know About The A-Levels

What Are A-Level Qualifications
Source: https://educationdestinationmalaysia.com/essential-guide/malaysia/a-levels

The Advanced Level, commonly known as an A-Level, is a qualification that UK educational institutions offer. This qualification is what most UK institutions use to determine whether a student is eligible for an undergraduate degree programme. They are usually taken for 2 years.

These exams are often the stepping stone to higher education and can significantly impact career opportunities. Many students also attend an advanced further education college, which offers a wider range of vocational subjects, to study for their A-Levels.

Understanding what A-Level qualifications are, how they work, and their significance can be the difference between feeling lost and having a clear direction.

In this blog, we’ll look into every aspect of A-Levels, from the structure and subjects to their role in college admissions and beyond.

Why It Is Important You Get to Know What A levels Are

By the end of this update, not only will the question “What is A-Level?” be answered comprehensively, but you’ll also be armed with the knowledge you need to make informed choices about your educational journey.

Whether you are a student contemplating your next academic steps, a parent seeking to guide your child, or simply someone keen to understand the British educational system, this blog is designed for you.

In summary, Advanced Levels are more than just exams; they are a pathway to future opportunities. So let’s get started and dive deep into everything you need to know about A-Level qualifications.

See also: What Does A Level Stand For in the UK?

What Are A-Levels?

You may have heard the term “A-Levels” often, but what is A-Level, exactly? A-levels, or Advanced Level qualifications, are subject-focused exams that students in the United Kingdom and other countries often undertake. These tests usually occur in the last two years of what Americans would call high school, often around ages 17 and 18.

A typical A-Level course lasts two years and is divided into two parts: the AS-Level (first year) and the A2-Level (second year). Each part has its own set of exams, and students generally choose 3 to 4 subjects to focus on.

The subjects range from Mathematics and Sciences to Humanities and Arts, offering a diverse academic landscape.

By now, the question “What is Advanced Level?” should be a bit clearer. They’re not just exams; they’re a comprehensive educational experience that prepares students for the academic rigors of university and beyond.

See also: Can You Do A Levels Without GCSE | All You Need To Know

Why Choose Advanced Levels?

1. Flexibility in Subject Choice

One compelling reason to opt for A-Levels is the flexibility they offer. Unlike other educational systems that may require a broad set of subjects, Advanced Levels allow students to specialize early. You can select subjects that truly interest you, making your educational journey more enjoyable and meaningful.

2. Academic Rigor

A-Levels are known for their academic rigor. These aren’t basic tests; they require deep understanding and application of knowledge. This prepares you well for the kinds of challenges you’ll face in higher education.

3. University Admissions

Especially if you’re considering university in the UK, Advanced Levels are often essential. They’re widely recognized and respected by admissions offices, giving you a leg up in the competitive world of higher education.

In summary, the answer to “What is A-Level?” goes beyond just exams. A-Levels offer academic depth, flexibility, and a gateway to opportunities in higher education and career paths.

See also: T Levels vs A Levels: Are T Levels Harder than A Levels

Structure of A-Levels

AS and A2: The Two-Year Journey

A-Levels span over two academic years, often when students are between 16 and 18 years old. The journey starts with AS-Level, the first year of study. AS-Level exams provide a foundation but aren’t as in-depth as what comes next.

After completing AS-Levels, students move to A2-Levels. This second year digs deeper into the subject matter, preparing students for university or the job market.

Exams and Coursework

Each A-Level subject generally includes written exams at the end of each school year. Some subjects also require coursework, or even practical assessments, particularly in scientific or technical disciplines. This multi-faceted approach ensures a well-rounded evaluation.

Grading and Assessment

The grades you earn in your AS and A2 years combine to form your final Advanced Level grade. Each grade is a letter, ranging from A* (the highest) to E (the lowest passing grade).

See also: Are A Level Mocks Important?

Core Subjects

Subjects like Mathematics, English, and the Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) are often top picks among students. These core subjects provide a strong foundation for a multitude of university courses and careers.

Humanities and Social Sciences

Subjects like History, Geography, Psychology, and Economics are also popular choices. These fields offer an understanding of the world around us, human behavior, and societal trends.

Arts and Technical Subjects

Creative minds may lean towards Art, Music, or Drama, while those interested in practical fields might opt for Computer Science, Design Technology, or Business Studies.

Choosing your A-Level subjects wisely can set the stage for your academic and professional future. Keep in mind that some university courses have specific Advanced Level prerequisites. So while selecting subjects that interest you, also consider your long-term goals.

The structure and subject options of A-Levels are designed to offer both depth and breadth, equipping students for the next phases of their educational journey.

See also: Is Maths A Level Hard: How Hard is A Level Maths Compared to GCSE Maths?

Differences Between A-Levels and Other Qualifications

1. A-Levels vs. International Baccalaureate (IB)

The International Baccalaureate is another globally recognized qualification. While both A-Levels and IB aim for academic excellence, they differ in structure. IB requires students to take six subjects, including literature, a foreign language, and sciences, among others.

A-Levels allow more specialization, letting you focus on 3-4 subjects of your choice. IB also includes components like the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge, which A-Levels do not.

2. A-Levels vs. Advanced Placement (AP)

In the United States, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are more common. Like A-Levels, AP courses are subject-specific, but they are usually undertaken along with a broader high-school curriculum. AP exams occur at the end of each course and are graded on a scale of 1-5, unlike the A* to E grading system in A-Levels. AP courses might be shorter, often lasting a year or less, while A-Levels span two years.

3. A-Levels vs. Other National Systems

Other countries have their unique educational systems, like the French Baccalaureate or the Indian CBSE. These systems may offer less flexibility in subject choice and may have different evaluation criteria. For example, the French Baccalaureate includes a wider range of subjects and is generally less specialized than A-Levels.

Finally, while A-Levels, IB, AP, and other systems all aim to prepare students for university and beyond, they offer different paths to that end goal. A-Levels stand out for their depth, specialization, and widespread recognition, especially in the UK. If you’re aiming for a focused, subject-specific study path leading to university, A-Levels are often a good choice.

Understanding the differences between A-Levels and other qualifications can help you make an informed decision about your academic future. Each system has its own merits and limitations, but the choice often boils down to your personal preferences and long-term goals.

See also: How Many A Levels Can You Take (3,4,5)?

A-Level Grading System

How Grades Are Determined

You might be wondering, “What is A-Level grading like?” A-Levels use a letter grading system that ranges from A* (highest) to E (lowest passing grade). Each letter corresponds to a range of marks you can earn on your exams and coursework. For instance, an A* is usually awarded for marks 90% and above.

UCAS Points

If you’re aiming for university in the UK, these grades convert into UCAS points. Universities often make offers based on these points. An A* at A-Level may be equivalent to 56 UCAS points, an A to 48, and so on. UCAS points are crucial in determining your eligibility for specific university courses.

See also: How Many GCSEs Do You Need To Do A Levels?

How To Prepare For A-Levels

1. Study Materials and Resources

So, what is A-Level study like? Preparation for A-Levels is intensive. Recommended resources often include textbooks, past exam papers, and online courses. These materials help you get acquainted with the exam format and the type of questions you’ll face.

2. Time Management

A key to excelling in A-Levels is effective time management. Create a study schedule and stick to it. Make room for each subject and allocate time for revision, practice exams, and relaxation. Find out and make use of revision techniques to pass exams.

3. Extra Help

If you’re finding a subject challenging, consider getting a tutor or joining study groups. Online forums and study apps can also offer assistance and keep you motivated.

Understanding what A-Levels are and how they’re graded can help you prepare more effectively. From study materials to UCAS points, it’s essential to grasp every facet of this qualification.

In summary, knowing what is A-Level grading and preparation can make your journey less stressful and more focused. Effective preparation, coupled with an understanding of the grading system, can significantly enhance your performance and open doors to higher education opportunities.

See also: How Many Hours of Revision A Day For A Levels

Cost of A-Levels

Examination Fees

One of the first questions that come to mind when considering this educational path is, “What is A-Level going to cost me?” Examination fees can vary widely depending on the exam board, the school, and even the country you’re in. Typically, you might expect to pay between £80 to £100 per subject for the exam registration.

Study Materials

Textbooks and other study materials may add extra costs. However, a lot of resources are available online for free or at a lower cost, making it possible to save some money in this area.

Tuition Fees

If you opt for private schooling or tutoring, the costs can increase significantly. Tutors may charge anywhere from £25 to £50 per hour or even more, depending on their expertise and your location.

See also: 15 Tips if You Feel You Are Failing Your A Levels

A-levels Relevance in the Modern World

University Preparation

A frequent query from students and parents is, “What is A-Level’s relevance today?” In the context of university admissions, especially in the UK, A-Levels are invaluable. They’re a gold standard recognized by universities worldwide, not just within the UK. A-Level grades and UCAS points often form the basis of university offers, making them crucial for higher education.

Career Opportunities

Beyond university, A-Levels can also impact your career. The depth of knowledge and the critical thinking skills developed during A-level courses are highly valued by employers. Certain professions may also require specific A-level subjects; for example, a career in engineering may require A-level mathematics and Physics.

Global Recognition

In today’s interconnected world, A-levels are more relevant than ever. Whether you’re aiming to study in the UK, the US, or any other country, A-Levels offer a passport to educational opportunities across the globe.

In summary, if you’re asking “What is A-Level’s value in today’s world?”, the answer is significant. A-Levels not only pave the way for university education but also provide a strong foundation for a rewarding career. The costs associated with A-Levels are an investment in your future, offering both academic and professional dividends.

See also: Do Your A Levels Matter After Uni? Master’s Applications


By now, the question “What is A-Level?” should have a comprehensive answer in your mind. We’ve checked through the structure, grading, costs, and the undeniable relevance of Advanced Levels in today’s educational and professional landscape.

These qualifications offer a rigorous yet flexible pathway to both higher education and career opportunities.

It’s a worthwhile investment of time, effort, and often, money, that can open doors and offer a multitude of opportunities.


What is A-Level’s minimum age requirement?

Generally, students start their A Level courses at age 16, following the completion of their GCSEs.

Can I take A-Levels online?

Yes, many institutions offer online A Level courses, especially helpful for international students or those who prefer remote learning.

How many subjects do I need to take?

Most students take 3-4 subjects, but the number can vary depending on your educational goals.

What is the passing grade for A Levels?

The lowest passing grade is an ‘E’, while an ‘A*’ is the highest attainable grade.



You May Also Like