What Are A-levels?

Advanced Level qualifications, A-levels, are a UK subject-based pre-university academic qualifications earned by high school students. A-levels are the next academic qualifications after GCSEs, IGCSEs or GCE O-levels.

A-levels are studied after GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education exams), IGCSEs (International General Certificate of Secondary Education exams) or GCE O-levels (General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level exams) in UK and other Commonwealth countries. Students choose A-level subjects they want to study based on their grades at GCSE, IGCSE or GCE O-levels. A minimum of five GCSE, IGCSE or GCE O-level subject passes are usually required for a student to be accepted into A-level.

A-levels are usually studied over a period of two years. At the end of the two years of A-level, a student sits for a minimum of 3 subjects that will determine the course they will be accepted for in university.

Though A-levels are UK-based, they are offered in many countries as a high school qualification. A-levels are recognised as entry qualifications into universities and other higher education institutes even in countries that do not offer them.

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What subjects are offered at A-Level?

An A-level student is allowed to take a minimum of 3 related subjects of their choice. There are generally no compulsory subjects at A-level. However in some countries students also take a compulsory communication based subject that does not contribute to their final grades. In Zimbabwe, this subject is known as “General Paper” and is meant to improve the students’ English oral and writing skills.

Read more: Should you take more than 3 subjects at A-level?

Students usually choose subjects that benefit them in their future studies or careers. There are more than 40 different A-level subjects on offer and they are usually grouped into combinations of related subjects, such as sciences, commercials, arts (also known as humanities).

Sciences include:

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Computer Science

Commercials include:

  • Business management
  • Economics
  • Management of business

Arts include:

  • History
  • Literature
  • Divinity

There are also all round subjects like Geography that fit into all combinations.

Read more: Best A-level Subjects Combinations To Guarantee You A Place In Top Universities

Which exam boards do A-levels use?

Depending on the country, there are several different examination boards that assess A-levels. Most countries use Edexcel or CIA (Cambridge International Assessment). Zimbabwe has its own independent examination board known as ZIMSEC (Zimbabwe School Examination Council). Though ZIMSEC is a local examination board, it is internationally recognised.

Read more: Facts About Zimsec Certificates

Categories: Education

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.


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