Why choose A Levels?
A Levels and AS Levels are Level 3 qualifications that you can choose to take after your GCSEs (there are lots of other options too - check them out on the Qualification Planner).
You can take A Levels in schools, sixth form centres or at some Further Education Colleges. They are very well regarded by universities and employers.
A Levels will give you a chance to find out about your GCSE subjects in greater depth or you can choose to study one of the subjects that many schools and colleges only offer at A Level such as Law, Economics or Psychology. They are good preparation if you are thinking of going onto higher education or if you are not sure of your career plans, as they can keep your options open.
Changes to A Levels
The changes to A level courses and exams will be complete by 2017. These changes mean A level courses now have more exams than course work and the AS qualification no longer counts towards the A level. If you want to find out more about these changes you can read about them here.
How many GCSEs will I need to start an A Level course?
To study A Levels you will need to have done well in your GCSEs. Most schools and colleges will expect you to have gained A*-C grades (9-4 in new grades) in your GCSEs with a minimum of grade 4 in English Language and maths. Specific requirements can vary from four passes to six passes, so you should check with each institution. Often you will need a GCSE at grade 6 or above in a subject if you want to go on to study it at A Level.
How long does an A level course last and how many should I take?
A full A Level qualification is achieved after 2 years of study. How many you take depends on how well you have done in your GCSEs and what the school or college suggests would be best for you. Some students with very high GCSE grades take 4 A levels, but most students take 3 subjects. Different schools and colleges will offer a different range of subjects and a different combination of options so it's best to research what's on offer and what will suit you.
AS level qualifications
AS qualifications attract UCAS points, but no longer contribute towards an A level and are independent qualifications. Some schools and colleges will offer these as part of their offer, but not all, so you will need to do your research. You might want to consider a school or college which can offer you AS levels if you are not entirely sure that you want to continue in full time post 16 education for 2 years. If you opt for an A level course and decide to leave at the end of the first year, you will not have any additional qualifications unless you have taken an AS.
Vocational qualifications alongside A Levels
It is possible to combine vocational qualifications such as BTEC Level 3 qualifications or OCR qualifications with A Levels. These qualifications attract UCAS points in the same way as A Levels do.
After A Levels
Both universities and employers really value A Levels.
After AS or A Level qualifications, many students continue their study or training through an apprenticeship, vocational qualification or a higher education course at a university or college.
Grades and points
A Levels are graded A*-E and these are all regarded as pass grades and gain UCAS points towards entrance to higher education. The points awarded for A Levels, AS Levels and other qualifications are sometimes called 'tariff points' or UCAS points (after UCAS, the admissions service for higher education).
Different universities and colleges and different courses require different amounts of UCAS points. When you apply to university, your offer may be based on points or on grades. You can find out more about which courses want which points in the 'Find and compare courses' section.
Some employers now specify a required number of UCAS points for some of their jobs or apprenticeships.
To see just how many points you could gain for grades and qualifications look at the Tariff tables on the UCAS website. If your qualification does not appear, contact the Admissions Department at the university or college that offers the course you are interested in to check whether it will be considered. You can also calculate your tariff points on the UCAS Tariff calculator.
Changes to UCAS Tariff in 2017
In 2017, the University Central Admissions Service (UCAS) introduced a new tariff (points awarded for different qualifications) which takes into account the changes to AS and A Levels. As UCAS says, the change to the new UCAS Tariff points will not in itself change entry requirements for university or college courses. UCAS are just changing the numbers they use.
Below you can see what UCAS tariff points you will get for each A level depending on your grade under the new system (from 2017).