The generic term applied to the General Certificate of Education advanced level examinations taken by some students in Years 12 and 13 of their schooling, and by others, including adult learners, through other educational institutions, such as colleges of further education. It is the most usual entrance requirement for higher education, each A level grade achieved carrying a number of ‘points’, which, added, must achieve the total specified for entry. Until 2000 the candidate would normally choose two or three subjects to study from a wide range of options. Following the reforms of Curriculum 2000, the A level curriculum is now divided into two stages. During the first year, candidates are encouraged to choose four or five subjects to study at Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS level), and to narrow their choice down to two or three in their second year, following the assessment of their achievement at AS level. The final assessment is now known as A2, to distinguish it from the AS stage of the curriculum. The intention of this structural reform was to broaden the post‐16 curriculum. Both students and teachers have reported that the increased number of assessments and examinations, as well as the additional subjects for study, are proving onerous.
Schools and students receive the results of the A level examinations in August, an annual event widely covered by the national press. For 21 consecutive years the results have shown an improvement in performance overall, with more students achieving top grades each year. Perhaps inevitably, this has led to accusations by some of falling standards, and the suggestion that perhaps the A level examinations themselves are becoming easier, rather than students’ performance improving year by year. Others argue, however, that such accusations at that juncture each year are ill‐judged and do not give sufficient credit to successful students for their hard work and achievement. The debate over this issue of performance and standards remains unresolved. See also Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
http://www.dfes.gov.uk/qualifications/mainSection.cfm?sID=43&ssID=213 Current information about A level choices.