How Are A-Level Qualifications (Advanced Level) Different?

by Ignite Training Institute

Looking to know everything about A-Level & AS-Level? You’re at the right place! In this blog, you’ll find all the details about this curriculum that you must know to begin & fulfill your academic objectives duly. So, in case you’re eyeing any of the top universities like Ivy Leagues, stop right there, & start reading ahead. 

To start with, there are nearly so many options available for high schoolers to dive in, learn & earn excellent college credits. This is surely for building a great career around your interests & passion. However, the commotion is still mostly about what to choose at this point – IB or AP, or potentially A-Levels. This puzzles most students. And therefore, we’re here to take away this doubt by explaining what sets A-Levels apart from other international curriculums. 

Ignite Training Institute offers full academic support for A-Levels & beyond. Connect with our academic counselors for more information. 

What Are A-Levels? 

A-Levels (Advanced Level Qualification) are UK-based qualifications that are subject-specific and specifically for students 16 & above. The main objective for any student to choose A-Levels is the vision to step in for higher education & clear entrance to universities in the UK or worldwide. The two-year program has been honored for over 70 years & is an extensively popular academic pathway amongst students.

A-Levels are both offered privately to homeschoolers & school-going students. The curriculum is offered by internationally recognized exam boards. Such as Cambridge, Edexcel, AQA & OCR. 

As per the strategic categorization, the A-Levels are further divided into AS-Levels (for ages 16-17) & A2 Levels (for ages 17-18). However, the updates issued between 2016-18 confirmed that the AS Levels will be considered a separate qualification. Though, it is still regarded as the first year of the two-year program. 

With immense international recognition & so many A-Levels to choose from, the curriculum prepares students for the real world. It helps inculcate skills that are necessary for the future & excellent knowledge that is required for pursuing higher education. Developing such proficiency ensures success & adds value to your college applications. 

What Are AS-Levels?

AS-Levels (Advanced Supplementary Exams) also popularly regarded as the 1st year of A-Levels is an advanced qualification first introduced in 1989. Students opt for AS Levels right after their GCSE curriculum completion and get into this 1-year program. Both AS & A-Levels qualifications are a step ahead of specializing in subjects as per one’s interests & career approach. 

Further, students that usually opt for AS-Levels can also study one subject to qualify for the program independent of the A-Levels. As an extra AS-Levels subject studied in the first year always helps focus completely for A-Levels later in the second year. Else, the AS-Levels subject can also be taken forward in the second year to ensure full completion of A-Levels. 

Therefore, AS-Levels can stand alone as a separate qualification or can be extended to the next year A2. It is done to fully complete & achieve A-Levels qualifications. 

Which A-Levels Subjects To Choose?

A-Levels offers no compulsion when it comes to students picking up different subjects. They are free to choose the subjects as per their interests from a large range depending upon what your school has to offer. These choices also go in hand with GCSE allowing one to carry on with similar subjects. 

Therefore, as students typically have to study 3 subjects at this stage, it’s important to make the right decision. You can also choose the 4th subject to expand your academic options. 

Subjects like Economics & Psychology have also gained popularity recently. However, the best idea is to follow the subjects that you’re really interested in at the moment. It would also be wise to check in advance the subjects your institute has on offer.

Amongst the popular A-Levels subjects, here are a few that might match up with your career aspirations –

  1. English Language 
  2. English Literature
  3. French
  4. Maths
  5. Biology
  6. Physics
  7. Chemistry
  8. History
  9. Geography
  10. Psychology
  11. Economics
  12. Art & Design
  13. Information Technology/Computer Science

Moreover, here are a few tips that you can follow to choose your subjects wisely –

  • Explore your interests in various subjects & speak to your educator 
  • Seek career advice concerning the university entrances in the future
  • Learn about the subjects you are least aware of & study their scope
  • You can pick up 3 subjects & 4th one to widen your choices if required
  • Create a well-balanced combination of subjects reasonably

How Do A-Levels Work?

A-Levels examinations are analyzed by two main parameters; written assessments & coursework. A comprehensive grade is taken out as an outcome after putting together the individual grades for both criteria. Furthermore, the coursework is carried out only for a few subjects & not all. 

As the AS/A-Levels grade boundaries range from A* to U. At the time of college applications, both AS-Level grades & A-Level grades are combined & converted into UCAS points. These points are required at a university entrance level depending upon the course & grades you’re willing to pursue. 

Why Should Students Study A-Levels?

The following reasons compel most students to take A-Levels & pursue their academic goals duly with it – 

a level

1. International Recognition

AS/A-Levels programs are globally recognized amongst top universities worldwide. Most students take upon this program to become college-ready & gain qualifications for securing admission to their dream university.  All UK universities & thousands of others accept this program qualification in their entrance procedures, thereby a chance for you to get in. 

2. In-Depth Knowledge 

The AS & A-Levels are very specialized qualifications designed for students to excel in subjects as per their interests. Most students start with 4 or 5 subjects in their first year & cut down to 3 in the second year. This gives ample time to master each subject matter & gain in-depth proficiency & skills like critical thinking, reasoning skills, & much more. 

3. Flexible Learning Approach

There is a large range of subjects that an A-Levels student can opt from & study to develop proficiency in them. This helps students carry forward their interests & career goals simultaneously. It’s up to them to mix & match subjects that best suit their passion. However, only some universities require students to study 1-2 particular subjects. 

The Cambridge AS & A Level Program

The Cambridge International AS & A-Levels program is a two-year qualification for 11 & 12-grade students. It is highly recognized by the world’s top universities & specifically caters to the requirements of global education. Some students start at Cambridge International AS-Levels & take it forward to Cambridge International A-Levels for full completion. 

The AS/A Levels course is for students between the ages of 16 – 19 & offers a very customized approach to learning. It is a highly specialized program where students are free to opt for subjects as per their interests. However, most learners study 4 subjects and some may occasionally take 5 as well. The program runs on a vision for students that advance critical thinking skills & promotes in-depth knowledge. 

The syllabus of A-Levels subjects has been strategically subdivided into two parts: AS & A2. The AS syllabus content for various subjects is covered in Grade 11, which is the first half of it. Moving forward, the other half of the syllabus is covered in Grade 12, which is commonly known as A2. This elastic approach allows students to sit for AS qualifications first at the end of Grade 11 & A2 qualifications lately at the end of Grade 12. 


1. Which Are The Most Difficult A-Levels? 

A-level subject coursework is generally considered challenging by students. Students must study from the best of resources & seek additional support for thorough preparation. The difficulty level for any of the A-Levels subjects also varies as per the student’s learning style, interest, & hard work. Yet, most students still prefer subjects like maths & sciences & consider foreign languages difficult. 

2. What Are The A-Level Grades?

A-Levels grades range from A* to U. Students cannot score A* in AS-Levels qualifications alone. The highest grade is an A for AS-Levels. However, when this is combined with A-Levels, candidates can score the highest grade as A*. 

3. How Many A-Levels Do You Need For University? 

Generally, students taking three A-Levels subjects is enough to stand out & present a competitive application for college admissions. However, you can take up to five A-Levels but you won’t be rewarded extra credits for this. That said, some schools & colleges don’t offer more than three A-Levels to their students. This is also because some candidates coming with international qualifications don’t require more than three A-Levels to qualify for entrance. 


a level

Advanced Levels or A-Levels qualifications are a great academic choice for students willing to secure admission to top universities. It presents an opportunity to study in-depth specific subjects as per your interests. With curriculums like International Baccalaureate (IB), it is not possible to focus on particular subjects. Instead, it offers a collective approach to education. Therefore, A-Levels help focus on a student’s strengths & interests efficiently. 

Connect with our expert consultants for academic support for A-Levels.