What are A-levels? (20 characters)?

I'm American so I don't know what they are, other than that they have to do with school, and they're important?

Are there other levels besides A-levels? What is an A-level for? Why are they so important?


I wasn't sure where to post this but I figured there'd be UK folks in this section who could answer my question...the first time I asked I didn't get any answers.

Update 2:

Thanks Maxi. Do you get a GCSE when you turn 16, no matter what? If a student decides to do A-levels, how long does that last? Two years?

5 Answers

  • .
    Lv 5
    7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    in england we we have national exams at 16, and 18- consisiting of coursework & sat exams. we dont have GPA or SATS etc.

    if youve read your harry potter, youll know they had OWLs at 16, and NEWTS, at 18. that's how the uk's exam system works : )

    they used to be called O levels (ordinary level exams- in HP, ordinary wizarding levels), and A, advanced, levels, but O levels were replaced by GCSEs.

    so... at 14 we choose the what GCSEs we'll sit, besides the core of maths, a science, a language, english etc. they last for 2 years, you usually do about 10.

    each one is a separate qualification~ if you fail one, you still get passes in for the rest.

    at 16 we can do 3 or 4 A levels~ again, each is individual. joyously, we choose- i was liberated from maths! i did philosophy, history, art and sociology.

    A levels are done over 2 years; you sit an exam at the end of the first year, and if you pass, you get an AS level, which is a qualification in itsself. if you want to continue the course, the 2nd year is harder, and you do more coursework, and another exam at the end of the year, to get a full A level. OR~ you can choose to do another set of subjects in your second year, and come away with a total of 6 (3 in first yr, 3 in second yr) AS levels- just like NEWTS.

    results for all exams, as in HP, are delivered in the summer break, though sadly not by owl. its traditional to meet up with friends and get very drunk : )

    because we study usually 3 subjects for 2 years, we study them in depth, though from different angles and a wide syllabus.

    we can also chose to stay on for A levels at school, or leave and go to a 6th form college. school years, what you call grades, used to be called forms here, and the name stuck. its where i preferred. you call your tutors by their forenames, dont have to wear a uniform, and have more freedom than at school. the uk series skins is set in a 6th form college.

    they are important, as its the final exams of our education. entry to uni is based on both, but mainly A levels.

    we apply to university (and we dont have CCs, so most people leave home and go away to university) before christmas, so only have our predicted grades, based on the first year and coursework. unis then offer you a place. if you get better or worse grades, or change your mind you can reapply to places last minute in the summer, though its hectic and not reccomended, as there are only a handful of places left. some people opt to retake a subject, or do extras, if they're dissapointed, or simply want an extra year.

    at uni we have no compulsory subjects, also no major/minor- like A levels, we choose what we're interested in, and study it broadly and in depth. its really different to american schooling, but if you just keep HP in mind, you wont go far wrong : )

    (i dont know how to fit this into 20 characters, though ha ha)>

    i wrote an answer in more depth ages ago, about english school and exam systems~ http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=Ao...

    Source(s): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr3eZTI00oA vid, for the tv series skins : ) enjoy ~and one of the most loved characters in the first series is called cassie : )
  • 7 years ago

    They're the Advanced Level examinations of the General Certificate of Education (GCE), which are the exams you take at the end of secondary education when you're 17 or 18. They're important because the grades you get at A-level determine whether or not you get accepted onto a particular university course (you may have been offered a place conditional on you achieving a A and two B grades at A-level, for example. Since my day they've introduced an A* (A-star) grade which is higher than A). Employers will also want to know what you did at A level.

    Until about 1988 there was also an Ordinary Level examination of the GCE (O Levels) which were exams you took aged 15 or 16, when you were about ready to reach the minimum school leaving age (16 since the early 1970s, 15 since the 1940s), and in my day (1974) quite a few people left school and got a job after O Levels, so the O Levels were an indication of what you knew. In the late 1980s the O Levels were combined with the Certificate of Secondary Educatioin (CSE) which was taken by less academically able kids, to form the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) which is the qualification most kids get aged about 15 or 16.

    A level courses take 2 years. This explanation does not apply for Scotland, where they've got a different system of exams.

    The usual pattern of education is something like:

    Start primary school at 5 (possibly playschool/kindergarten earlier).

    Transfer to secondary school in the September after your 11th birthday.

    2 years general education

    2 years O Level / GCSE course (more restricted number of subjects - I did 10)

    -------> possibility of leaving education (not common nowadays)

    2 years A Level course (max 3 subjects in my day, some do 4 now), or vocational training

    --------> possibility of leaving education (about 50% do)

    3 years bachelor's degree (optional gap year first)

    -------> end of education for most who've got this far

    Higher degree / Doctorate / specific professional course

  • Maxi
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    Compulsory schooling in the UK is up to 16 years old and they take each subject exams before they leave called GCSEs which is General Certificate of Secondary Education in English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, History, Geography etc etc ...and they are graded so they may have 5 GCSEs or 7 GCSEs.... if they wish to stay on at school and get a better education or to go onto University they need to do A levels, which is Advanced level GCSEs again these are graded and in individual subjects, so they may need 3 A levels at grade A or B to get into the University to do their degree................

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    The reason they're called A level is that it stands for Advanced level and there used to be a lower level of exam called Ordinary level or O level, but they were replaced by GCSE which stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. Sorry to say No, you don't get a GCSE automatically when you turn 16. In Britain we have no equivalent of 'graduating from high school' in the US. It's perfectly possible to leave school at 16, which is the legal minimum age to leave school, with no qualifications at all if you are lazy and / or stupid. You take GCSE exams in quite a lot of subjects, the maximum is usually ten, the minimum to get taken seriously by an employer or college is five. If you stay on at school for another two years until 18 you take A levels in three or four subjects. Universities admit on the basis of your grades at A level. The weakness in this system is that it forces students to specialise in either sciences or humanities too early. There are some advantages in the US system where you take a broader spread of subjects for longer, at the expense of being at a lower level in all of them when you start university.

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    4 years ago

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