21 September 2017Last updated

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Ask the expert: what are AS and A levels?

The A-level curriculum is offered in a period of two years

Sanjeev Verma
4 Sep 2016 | 11:36 am

Please explain what are AS/A levels. Also, are they as difficult as everyone makes them out to be?

The A level is a subject-based qualification for school-leaving students conferred by the UK Education Board, and forms the backbone of offers issued by universities.

The results are primarily based on written exams and the qualification focuses on academic subjects, although some are work-related. The General Certificate of Education or Advance Level (A level) comprises two sections/parts; the advanced subsidiary level (AS level) also known as A1 and the advance level (A Level) or A2. The grades are marked in letters, with A being the highest.

The A-level curriculum is offered in a period of two years. They start the first year with four subjects at AS level. In the second year students usually take three subjects and sit for the A-level external exam. The three subjects at the A level would typically be those that’ll assist in admission to university. The choice of subjects need not be between math and sciences or English and humanities; it is possible to mix them.

The selection of subjects is absolutely critical as it will shape your future application to the university and it is advisable to discuss them with your counsellor. Some universities may think a subject does not have the required academic rigour, so be careful in selection. You’ll be required to do extra reading so select subjects you are passionate about and those that are also your strengths.

Schools may differ in the way the programme is offered as the Board is in the process of eliminating the AS-level exam.

It is advisable for students who are making a shift in curriculum to begin with extra preparatory classes. 
This will allow the student to not only become familiar with the unknown but also better acquainted with the new curriculum.

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor