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Download A level factsheet

What are A levels?

A levels allow you to study a particular subject in more detail and they are the main route into higher education. An A level is made up of two parts, AS and A2, which are usually completed over two years.

AS and A2 are level 3 qualifications. Most learners take four AS levels and – depending on their progress, what they want to do after Year 13 and the advice of their school/college – often continue with three A2s, giving them three full A levels and one AS level after two years. Some learners will choose to take more AS levels and more A2s.

You may need at least 5 GCSEs at grades A*–C to do the A level you would like to do. There may also be particular subject requirements; these will vary based on the courses taken. Check with your school or careers advisor to see what you may need.

How are A levels assessed?

Courses are made up of units or modules. All courses are assessed differently, but courses are mainly assessed using written exams and coursework. Practical skills are assessed in subjects such as Art, Theatre Studies, Music and Science. AS and A2 are graded A*–E.

Where can A levels lead?

A levels are one of the main routes into higher education. Universities have entry requirements linked to grades in certain A level subjects or an overall level of performance. You can also go into employment using your A levels.

Didn't get the results you expected?

AS levels

If you didn’t get the results you were hoping for, don't panic! There are other options and lots of  help available to you. Speak to staff at school or college - you may be able to re-take exams, have papers remarked or pick up new subjects. If not, there are other options. You may be more suited to a different type of course or qualification, apprenticeships or work with training.

A2 levels

If you didn’t get the results you were hoping for, don't panic - there are lots of other options! If you have applied to university and you have been unsuccessful with your firm or insurance choice, the university may offer an alternative 'changed course offer' which you need to accept or decline.

If not, there may be courses advertised through clearing, see UCAS or The Telegraph. Clearing is a service offered by UCAS if you have no university offers. This may be because: you’re exam results were not as expected as you didn’t meet the conditions of your offer, you applied after June 30th, or you chose to decline all your offers. The clearing service allows you to see which courses still have places available for you to apply for.

If your results are better than expected and exceeded the conditions of your firm choice you may be able to swap your university through adjustment, see UCAS for more information about this.

If you are not going to university or are unsure, there are many other options, such as apprenticeships, work with training or a gap year. If you want to discuss your results and plans for the future, there may be someone to talk to at your school on results day or you can access help and support from an advice centre in York:29 Castlegate (located next to Fenwicks in town). They are open Monday to Friday, 11am–4pm. You can call them on 01904 555400 to make an appointment, or just drop in!

Where can I find out more?

Colleges and schools give you full details of their range of A level courses through their prospectuses, websites and open evenings. You can also speak to your careers advisor at school, they will have lots of helpful information and advice.

Steps to Success

Download this guide for parents/carers and young people in Year 11, to help you plan your future post-16