AS Levels 2024
What are AS levels?
An AS Level is an advanced qualification that students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can study after finishing their GCSEs.
In 1989, they were initially called Advanced Supplementary exams, and studied over the course of two years, often alongside A Levels. Due to the difficulty of the course, they were only worth half the UCAS points of a full A level.
In 2000, AS levels were renamed Advanced Subsidiary exams. While they were still worth half the UCAS points of a full A level, but were only studied for a year. Students were also given two options:
- they could drop their AS subject after a year, having achieved the standalone AS qualification or
- they could ‘bank’ their AS results and continue their studies, sitting an A2 exam at the end of their second year. They could then combine their AS and A2 scores to form a final A level grade.
In 2015, AS levels changed to the current system, and where you live has a major impact on how AS Levels contribute to your A level grades.
Do AS levels count towards my A level grades?
If you’re taking AS Levels, you can still choose between dropping your AS subject at the end of Year 12 or continuing your studies in Year 13. However, if you’re studying in Wales and Northern Ireland, your AS results will now only contribute 40% to your A level grade.
If you’re studying in England, your AS results will no longer count at all towards your final A level grade. Instead, your A level grades depend completely on the exams you take at the end of Year 13.
How are AS levels graded?
As with your A Levels, AS exams are graded ‘A’ through to ‘E’. However, there is no ‘A*’ classification.
AS grades can also be converted into UCAS points as follows:
A = 20 points
B = 16 points
C = 12 points
D = 10 points
E = 6 points
How popular are AS levels?
The popularity of AS levels has gradually declined in England, now they no longer count towards your final A level grade.
According to Ofqual, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation which regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England, 281,600 17-year-olds took one or more AS Levels in 2015.
Just three years later that figure was only 64,810.
Should I bother taking AS levels?
In England, where AS results can’t be used towards your A level grades, it might not seem worth taking them. You also need to consider the impact of taking on another subject at a higher level of study when you could be focusing on your A levels.
However, for English students AS Levels can still benefit your A level studies and even support them, particularly if they’re similar or related subjects. This could then lead to better grades at A level.
If you’re undecided between different subjects, completing a year of study in each one might help you decide which ones you want to complete a whole A level in and, ultimately, which subjects may give you the highest final grades.
Your AS Level results could also help shape the predicted grades your teachers will submit as part of your university application. Remember that if you have an AS level qualification, and the university you’re interested in bases its entrance requirements on UCAS points, it might contribute to the total UCAS points you need.
Are AS levels the right option for me?
When making your A level choices, think carefully about your strengths; the subjects you’re best at and the ones you’re most enthusiastic about.
Read through the course content and consider the academic demands of each A level course before making a final decision.
You should also ask for advice from your teachers, parents and friends whether they believe AS Levels will benefit you and help you land a place at university (if this is what you'd like to do).
Will I lose out if I don't take AS levels?
If you’re applying to university you won’t be at a disadvantage if you don’t have AS Levels. Universities base their entrance requirements for UK students on A Level grades and Scottish Highers, and most ask for specific grades at A Level rather than UCAS points.
Universities are increasingly looking at more than just grades and academic achievement, too, when it comes to assessing applications, and will take into account your references, your personal statement and, for certain degrees, portfolios of work, interviews and assessments.
They want to know how passionate you are about studying a certain subject, if you have any relevant experience, and what your plans are for the future.
Take a careful look at the marks for each module under all subjects you have taken.
Do any of them seem extremely low compared to what you were expecting?
Have you missed the next grade up by only a handful of marks for any subject?
If any of these are the case, you may wish to request a re-mark of your paper(s).
This has to be done through your school or college – you can not make a request yourself directly to the exam board.
It’s important you speak to a teacher on results day – don’t leave it until later, as all remark requests have to be submitted by 20th September.
Also, the earlier you make the request, the sooner you will get your mark back.
There is a fee of around £40 per module for a remark, but this is usually paid for by the school or college, and is refunded if there is a change in your grade.
Don’t forget that your grade can go down as well as up if you get your paper remarked, so have a think about it and talk it through with a tutor first before asking them to request a remark.
If you feel the marks you’ve received are fair, or do not want to request a remark of your papers, you might consider re-sitting one or more of your exams.
Speak to your subject tutor either on or shortly after results day, and see what they have to say.
If they agree re-sitting a paper is worthwhile, then they will submit you for a resit in the summer.
I’ve taken 4 or more AS levels – how many and which ones should I carry on to A2 level?
This will only apply if you are taking an unreformed A Level subject.
Our first piece of advice if you are in this situation is to at least carry on with all the subjects that are required for your degree entry.
If you have applied to study Physics at university for example, you may have been asked to hold an A2 in both Physics and Mathematics.
In this case, it’s important you carry on with these subjects, otherwise your chosen university (both firm and insurance, if applicable) may no longer choose to accept you onto their course.
This helps you to narrow down your choices by 1 or 2 subjects. However, if your degree does not require you to hold A levels in any particular subject(s), then the decision becomes a little more difficult.
We recommend you think about the subjects you actually enjoy studying – is there a subject you took just because you thought it might be interesting? Or felt pressured into taking it?
If there is, you may want to consider dropping it – there’s no point carrying on with a subject that you’re not really all that enthusiastic about.
This means you won’t be so bothered about studying for the exam, and working hard on the coursework, etc., potentially resulting in a lower grade than had you carried on with a subject you enjoy.
What if I enjoy all the subjects I’m taking?
If you are studying for 4 or more A levels, and are enjoying all of them, it may be tempting to carry on with all of them to A2.
However, this is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
Remember that subjects become harder at A2 level, and will require more input and effort than at AS.
Do you feel you could handle the workload?
Many students who have taken 4 or more A2 levels have found it stressful, and some wish they had only taken 3 when they received their results and realised they had achieved lower grades than expected in 1 or 2 of their subjects.
So think about this carefully before taking the plunge – as well as all the extra work you will have to do compared to just doing 3 A2 levels, consider the impact it will have on your social life and hobbies over the next 12 months.
Talk to your teachers and see if they think you’ll be able to cope with the demands of the workload.
Take a look at your AS grades and your individual module marks – are you likely to average the required grade after the A2 exams? Will you have to re-sit one or more of your AS papers to achieve the grades you need to get into university?
If the answer is yes, you may want to consider dropping the subject(s) where it is less realistic you will gain the required grades.
Re-sitting an AS paper will also mean more work on top of your A2 studies - do you feel you could cope with this extra work?
Another factor to consider is the helpfulness of your subjects. If you have applied to study English Literature for example, and you are currently taking the following AS levels:
you might find it more useful to carry on with the first 3 subjects, as they are more essay-based and concerned with writing, than Art.
This will prepare you better for when you start university and begin working towards your degree.
Also remember that you only need 3 A levels to get into university, so best to only take that extra subject if you really enjoy it, or will benefit you at university.
Universities should list these subjects on their website, so you can check whether taking one of them may harm your chances of being accepted on to your course.
I'm still not sure which subjects to take
If you still can't decide which ones to carry on to A2, we suggest you speak to the universities you are applying to directly.
They will be able to advise if taking one subject over another will place you in a better position or be detrimental to your chances of being accepted.
For more tips and advice, please see: