A Levels

What are A Levels?

Ben Maples  · Feb 16th 2022

It may seem strange to think that some people do not know what A Levels are, but you’d be surprised just how many people don’t know what A-Levels are or what their functions are.


Though A Levels are not necessarily a prerequisite to be able to study at university, there are very few universities who will accept students into their university without an A-Level, A-Levels equivalent or some sort of international equivalent.

But what are A-Levels? How do they work and do you absolutely need them for university? We take an in-depth look at A Levels and how they work.

A Levels

What are A Levels?

A Levels are subject-based qualifications that are part of the General Certificate of Education. It is a school-leaving qualification that is offered by a number of educational bodies in the UK. A Levels are usually studied at sixth-form level and Key Stage 5 levels. This is where the state of education that you receive is more intense, challenging and difficult than other forms of qualifications like GCSEs.

The A in "A" Levels stands for Advanced Level.

What level are A Levels?

So what level are A Levels?

Well, A-Levels have different qualification levels depending on the framework they fall into. These levels for A Levels in the UK fall into four main categories, which have their own marking criteria.

The frameworks and the grades that A Levels fall into are:

  • Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF)/Qualifications and Credit Framework (CQFW): 3
  • Framework of Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ): N/A
  • Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF): 6

This means that A Levels have equivalents across the UK, so if you find yourself applying for university in Scotland, then you will have an equivalent grade for Scotland.


How many A-Levels can you take?

Students will usually work on A-Levels for around two years. Most students tend to take three or four subjects at AS Level and then drop one subject when they get to their second year, where you will study your A Levels subjects in more depth.

When do A Levels finish?

Most A Level exams will begin in May and will end in June. This obviously depends on the courses you're studying and will depend on the school in question. Not every A Level start and finish date is the same. A Levels are rarely the same as the year as before etc.

Can I take online A Levels?

A Levels can be taken online if needed. While many people will most likely refer to this as online A-Levels, or A Levels online, they are more commonly referred to as “Distance learning A Level Courses”. This is not just for students from England, students all around the world can study them, whether this is international students looking to study in the UK or it’s UK students who want to study their qualifications online.

After you complete these, you will be given your certificates (assuming you pass the exams) by your awarding bodies like Edexcel, OCR or even AQA.

What are A-Levels?

Are A-Levels for adults?

A-Levels for adults exist and you can sit them anytime you like, there are no restrictions. Mature students can also study A Levels.

A Levels for adults are a great idea, especially if your employer needs you to improve your A-Levels in order to progress further in your job. Make sure you have a look into A Levels for adults.

Can I retake my A Levels?

Yes, A Levels can be retaken at any point.

When it comes to retaking A Levels or resitting A Levels, students should speak to their school or education provider and find out what their policy is regarding retakes; chances are it will be the same as it is for students looking at retaking GCSE exams.

When it comes to A Levels, they usually can be re-sat in the summer, which gives you a year or so to revise.

Where can I retake my A-Levels?

You can resit your A Levels either at your school or college or at a local facility that is accredited by the awarding body.

You can also sit your retakes at specialist independent colleges, however, this will cost you money and the fees vary depending on the facility you're studying at.

What are A Levels?

When to start revising for A Levels?

Revision is a funny thing and knowing when to start revising and when to stop can be a tough decision to make.

Most teachers will tell you to start around four or five months before the beginning of your first exam, but sometimes starting earlier than that is a good idea.

We recommend starting revision as soon as you can, but your revision timetable should start with a low revision load to begin with and then get steadily more intense as you approach your exams.

What to do after A Levels?

Plenty of students decide to go on and study a degree at university, in fact, many students have already begun the process of thinking about going to university when they apply for A-Levels in the first place.

You can also go straight into the world of work as well! Plenty of students look at the possibilities of becoming a full-time employee at a company, which can be a great way of learning more about the world of work and of furthering your career opportunities, as well as making some great connections early on.

How hard are A Levels?

The difficulty of A Levels depends on the quality of the teacher, the quality of the educational provider, the course you're studying and most of all, you.

A Levels are ranked as some of the hardest qualifications to attain at the age-level they’re usually studied at, but if you revise hard and work hard, then you may find them easier. If you find yourself struggling with A Levels, don't worry! You're not alone, plenty of students struggle with A Levels, but you can always ask for help or you can use some past papers to revise.

You can also look up some helpful how-to-videos and articles as well. You will be able to find plenty of articles like how to write essays: a step-by-step guide for all levels, with sample essays, that will help you out.

If you're interested in going to university, you need to check the campus out and what better way to do that than by going to a uni open day? Check out our useful guide here to uni open days.

How to choose A Levels?

The simplest solution for you is to pick the subjects that you are passionate about. The more passion you have for a subject, the easier it is to learn and the easier it is to focus on it. If you enjoy performing and theatre, then studying a Drama A-Level might be a good shout for you!

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