a level

A-Level: The Subjects, Exams, and Secrets You NEED to Know!

A-Levels, the academic crossroads for 16 to 18-year-olds in the UK. Flexible, respected globally, and a gateway to university or the workforce.

Join us as we explore the essentials—subjects, exams, and the pivotal art of choosing your academic path. Welcome to Understanding A-Levels.

Understanding A-Levels

What are A-Levels?

A-Levels, or Advanced Level qualifications, are subject-based qualifications students in the United Kingdom typically study between the ages of 16 and 18. 

They are equivalent to the first year of university study. A-levels can lead to university, further study, training, or work. Students can typically study three or more A-Levels over two years.

A-Levels are highly respected and recognized by universities and employers worldwide. Most higher education institutes require a minimum of 3 A-level subjects. 

A-levels are also recognized as a qualification for entry into professional bodies and some apprenticeships.

A-Level Subjects

A wide range of A-level subjects are available, covering various disciplines. Some of the most popular A-Level subjects include:

  • Art
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Economics
  • English
  • English Literature
  • French
  • Geography
  • History
  • Law
  • Maths
  • Physics
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Spanish

Students can study any combination of A-level subjects, depending on their interests and career aspirations. Selecting A-level subjects relevant to the degree or career path the student wishes to pursue is crucial.

The Importance of A-Levels

Advanced Level qualifications, also known as A-Levels, are subject-specific credentials commonly pursued by students in the United Kingdom during their late teens, typically between the ages of 16 and 18.

The primary purpose of A-Levels is to prepare students for university, providing them with in-depth knowledge in specific subjects and developing their critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

A-Levels are essential for those who wish to pursue higher education. Most universities in the UK require students to have A-level qualifications to gain admission to their degree programs.

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A-Levels are also recognized worldwide, making them an attractive option for students who want to study abroad.

A-levels are not only crucial for higher education but also for future job prospects. Employers often look for candidates who have A-level qualifications as it demonstrates their ability to learn and apply knowledge.

A-Levels can also be used to gain UCAS points, which are used to determine a student’s eligibility for university admission.

Choosing the proper A-level subjects is crucial as they can significantly impact a student’s future career. Some A-level subjects are more vocational than others, providing students with the necessary skills and knowledge for specific jobs. 

For example, employers in those fields highly value A-levels in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

A-Level Examination and Assessment


A-Levels are primarily assessed through written exams, which are held at the end of the two-year course. The exams are set and marked by external examiners appointed by the exam board. Each A-level subject typically comprises two or three exams, each lasting between 1.5 and 3 hours.

Evaluating a student’s comprehension and application of subject matter, exams are structured to test their analytical and evaluative skills, along with the ability to construct a cohesive argument.

A-Levels follow a grading scale from A* to E, with A* being the highest attainable grade. The exam board establishes the grade boundaries for each subject based on overall student performance.


In addition to exams, some A-level subjects require students to complete coursework as part of their assessment. Coursework can take many forms, including essays, research projects, and practical assignments.

Coursework is typically completed throughout the two-year course, with deadlines set by the school or college. The coursework is marked by teachers and then moderated by external examiners appointed by the exam board.

The coursework component of an A-level subject is designed to test a student’s ability to research and analyze information and apply their knowledge and understanding to real-world situations.

It is worth noting that not all A-level subjects have a coursework component. The exam board decides to include coursework based on the requirements of the subject and the skills that need to be assessed.

Choosing A-Level Subjects

When choosing A-level subjects, there are several factors to consider. The most important criteria are the student’s strengths, passions, and abilities. 

A-level subjects are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, further study, training, or work. Therefore, choosing the proper subjects that align with the student’s interests and career aspirations is crucial.

One of the essential things to consider when choosing A-level subjects is the entry requirements for the university course or career that the student is interested in pursuing. 

Researching the entry requirements for the desired university course or career is crucial, and choosing A-level subjects that meet those requirements is vital. Some universities may require specific A-level subjects, so checking the conditions before choosing the subjects is essential.

Another vital factor to consider is the student’s ability in the subject. A-level subjects are rigorous and require a lot of hard work and dedication. Therefore, choosing subjects that the student is good at and enjoys is crucial. This will make it easier for students to stay motivated and perform well in their A-Level exams.

When choosing A-level subjects, it is also essential to consider the available subjects. Some schools and colleges may offer a broader range of subjects than others, so it is necessary to research the available options and choose the subjects most relevant to the student’s interests and career aspirations.

Studying A-Levels

A-levels are subject-based qualifications that you usually study for two years, starting in Year 12 and finishing in Year 13. People often choose A-levels if they want to go to university or enter professional fields.

In School

Many students choose to study A-Levels in school. This option provides the benefit of face-to-face interaction with teachers and classmates and access to school resources such as libraries and study spaces. 

In school, students can receive guidance and support from teachers, who can help them stay on track and provide feedback on their progress.

Furthermore, studying A-Levels in school provides structure and routine, which can benefit students who thrive in a more traditional learning environment. 

A variety of subjects is typically available in school-based A-Level programs, enabling students to customize their studies based on their interests and career aspirations.

Distance Learning

Distance learning is another option for students who wish to study A-Levels. This option provides greater flexibility and independence, allowing students to study at their own pace and on their schedule. 

Distance learning programs often offer online resources, tutor support, and other assistance to help students succeed.

Distance learning can be beneficial for students who thrive on self-motivation and can manage independent work. Yet, if you need more guidance and support in your studies, more suitable alternatives might be available.

A-Levels and University Applications

A-Levels are an essential part of the university application process in the United Kingdom. Most universities require applicants to have completed A-Levels or equivalent qualifications and use them as a primary factor in determining admission.

A-Levels are also used to calculate UCAS points, which are used to determine eligibility for university admission. Each A-Level is worth a certain number of UCAS points, with higher grades earning more points. The number of UCAS points required for admission varies by university and degree program.

When applying to university, students must submit their A-Level grades and application. These grades are used to determine eligibility for admission, as well as for specific degree programs. For example, some universities require specific A-level subjects for admission to certain programs, such as mathematics for engineering.

Completing A-Levels is also an essential step towards earning an undergraduate degree. A-Levels provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in university-level coursework and are often a prerequisite for admission to specific degree programs.

Some universities, such as Cambridge, require applicants to have completed specific A-level subjects to be considered for admission. For example, applicants to the mathematics program at Cambridge are required to have completed A-Levels in mathematics and further mathematics.

A-Levels and Career Paths

A-levels are considered one of the most prestigious and rigorous qualifications students can achieve and are highly valued by universities and employers. A-levels provide students with in-depth knowledge in specific subjects and develop their critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

A-levels can open up a wide range of career paths for students. Students who complete A-levels can choose to go to university, pursue an apprenticeship or higher apprenticeship, or enter the workforce directly. Employers highly regard A-levels and can help students stand out in a competitive job market.

A-levels are an essential requirement for students who choose to go to university. A-levels are required to enter most undergraduate degree programs and are highly valued by universities. 

Students who complete A-levels in certain subjects may be advantageous when applying to specific degree programs. For example, students who complete A-levels in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects may have an advantage when applying to degree programs in these fields.

A-levels can also lead to apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships. Apprenticeships allow students to learn a trade or skill while working and earning a wage. 

Higher apprenticeships are similar but at a higher level and provide more advanced training. A-levels can be a valuable asset for students who want to pursue an apprenticeship or higher apprenticeship as they demonstrate a high level of academic achievement and the ability to learn and apply knowledge.

A-levels can be a valuable asset for students who enter the workforce directly. A-levels demonstrate high academic achievement and the ability to learn and apply knowledge. 

Employers value these skills and may be more likely to hire students who have completed A-levels. A-levels can also provide a foundation for further work-based qualifications and career development.

Retaking A-Levels

Retaking A-levels is common for students who still need to achieve the desired grades on their first attempt. There are several reasons why a student may choose to retake their A-Levels, including:

  • To improve their grades and increase their chances of getting into their preferred university or course
  • To study a different set of A-level subjects that are required for their desired course or career
  • To fulfill the entry requirements of a university or course that they were unable to meet on their first attempt
  • Deepening one’s comprehension of the subject matter is essential for enhancing overall knowledge and skills.

When retaking A-Levels, there are a few things that students need to remember. Firstly, they must consider whether they want to retake all of their A-Levels or just specific subjects. 

Secondly, they need to decide whether to retake their exams in the same year or take a gap year and retake them the following year.

It is important to note that retaking A-Levels can be a challenging and time-consuming process. 

Students must be prepared to put in much hard work and dedication to achieve their desired grades. They may also need additional support and guidance from their teachers or tutors to help them prepare for their exams.

Regarding subject selection, students should consider their strengths and weaknesses when deciding which subjects to retake.

They may also want to consult their teachers or career advisors for the most relevant subjects for their desired course or career.

A-Levels in the United Kingdom

A-Levels, or Advanced Level Qualifications, are subject-based qualifications students in the United Kingdom pursue post-GCSEs. Typically taken over two years, A-Levels provide students with in-depth knowledge in chosen subjects, which often help shape their future academic and career choices.

In the United Kingdom, A-Levels are usually studied in sixth-form colleges or schools catering to students aged 16 to 18. Students can choose to study three or more A-Levels, depending on their interests and future aspirations. Most higher education institutes in the UK require a minimum of three A-Levels for admission.

A series of examinations typically concludes A-levels, marking the culmination of a two-year course. Alternatively, students may opt for AS Levels, standalone qualifications commonly pursued after the first year of A-Level study. These AS Levels also contribute to the overall A-Level grade.

A-Levels stand out from various other graduation credentials because they don’t have rigid subject prerequisites.

Students have the flexibility to select from a wide range of subjects, including core academic areas like Mathematics, English, and Science, as well as practical fields such as Business, Law, and Media Studies.

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