A-level classes are subject-based qualifications awarded by the educational bodies of England, Wales and British Crown dependencies to students who are completing secondary or pre-university education. They provide an alternative to the International Baccalaureate and offer potential university access if grades are satisfactory.
Students choose three, four or five subjects, and often combine them to create a curriculum that matches the requirements for their desired degree. In some cases, this is the only way they can meet the academic demands of the university they are hoping to attend and many universities will make it clear on their websites what they require for entry.
Typically, A-levels are examined over a two-year period with examinations at the end of both years. However, reforms in the 1980s and 1990s led to a more modular approach with many subjects being examined at AS level (half credit) after one year and then going on to full A level the following year. This was criticised for creating a culture of “resiting” A levels and was replaced with a system of’synoptic assessment’ in 2015.
Some students opt to study more than three A-levels because they love the subject and want to challenge themselves intellectually. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s important to understand what you are trying to achieve by taking the additional subjects. For example, if you are hoping to study medicine at university you will need at least three closely linked A-Levels so you can demonstrate you have the required academic and scientific skills.