AS and A-level Reforms

Now the AS and A-Level reforms have had a few years to bed in, it’s worth looking again at how this changes are continuing to evolve in terms of how they affect you, and how we can help you make the right choices for you.

Over the past seven years or so, A Level students have experienced changes in the ways the courses are delivered, and also how they are assessed in terms of awarding grades at the end of their studies.

The changes have been staggered, and not every course was subject to change at the same time.

The first A Levels to see reform were art and design, sociology, biology, psychology, business studies, physics, chemistry, history, computing, English literature, economics, English language and literature, and English language.

These courses started in September 2015, leading to the first examinations in Summer 2017.

The next set of reformed courses started in September 2016, with new A Levels in ancient languages, religious studies, dance, physical education, drama and theatre studies, French, Spanish, and geography.

These courses were first examined in Summer 2018.

The next set of revisions, starting in September 2017, included accounting, statistics, ancient history, philosophy, archaeology, music technology, classical civilisation, media studies, design and technology, maths and further maths, electronics, law, film studies, history of art, geology, and government and politics.

The first examinations were in Summer 2019.

Updated assessments

The new, restructured courses differed from the old system by removing the requirement for examinations at the end of Year 12 and Year 13.

The new requirement was for a single examination at the end of Year 13, worth 100% of the marks for the final grade. This incorporated the plans to remove the majority of the coursework, and to make assessments largely examination-based.

This decision was taken due to the perception that coursework and practical examinations were too easy to cheat, and that examinations laid out a more level playing field for all students, and gave all students a fair chance at the highest grade available to them based on their ability level and retention of information.

The grades remained the same; A* to E, with a U grade awarded to any papers which didn’t achieve a pass mark.

What has happened to AS Levels?

Although AS levels haven’t disappeared, they no longer count towards final pass marks. However, they may be a useful ‘trial run’ at the end of Year 12 to gauge how a student is doing, and as valuable practice at exam conditions.

Some institutions may prefer to concentrate on final exams at the end of Year 13, so if this is important for you, you may wish to take this into consideration when choosing where you study your A Levels.

Although AS levels no longer count towards A Levels, they still offer valuable UCAS points, being equivalent to 40% of an A Level. In terms of grade predictions, GCSEs have become more important.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some subjects no longer exist for examination, either because of their similarity to other subjects, or because they were classed as being too simple for examination at A Level.

These are:

  • anthropology
  • world development
  • applied art & design
  • use of mathematics
  • applied business
  • travel & tourism
  • applied information & communication technology
  • statistics
  • applied science
  • science in society
  • citizenship studies
  • science
  • communication and culture
  • quantitative methods
  • creative writing
  • pure mathematics
  • critical thinking
  • moving image arts
  • economics & business
  • media: communication and production
  • engineering
  • leisure studies
  • general studies
  • information and communication technology
  • global development
  • humanities
  • health and social care
  • human biology
  • home economics
  • food
  • nutrition and health.

If any of these subjects feel important in terms of your future studies and career path, please research which courses are felt to cover the same material.