AS LEVELS - The Story So Far
June 2002 saw the first set of students complete the new A-level qualifications in full, having sat both AS and A2 exams.
The Advanced Subsidiary, or AS-level exams, were introduced to address the lack of flexibility in the current post-16 curriculum and to encourage broader programmes of study, encompassing key skills. We at Albemarle supported this move in principle and encouraged most of our lower sixth students to take 4 AS-level courses.
However, we preferred to incorporate key skills into the lower sixth curriculum without compelling students to sit additional exams in key skills or complete key skills coursework. This remains our policy, as our research indicates that key skills qualifications are not compulsory for entry to universities.
The new A-level examination is comprised of two distinct levels - the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) qualification represents the first half of a full A-level and the A2 constitutes the second half.
A-level subjects have six modular units, three examined at AS-level and three at A2 level. The AS units are assessed at a lower level than current A-level modules, in line with the standard expected of students in their first year of A-level study. The more demanding A2 units are assessed at a higher standard.
Universities have indicated that they will consider a student's performance in both the AS-level examination and at GCSE, when deciding whether to offer a place (see right). Some universities expect students to study four subjects at AS-level, and to specialise in three of these subjects at A2 level in the upper sixth.
The views expressed by universities suggest that they will prefer students to have performed well across a broad range of subjects throughout the two years of their course, rather than cramming at the end.
Our lower sixth students currently sit AS-level module examinations at the end of their first year. Most are encouraged to take one of Information Technology, English or a Foreign Language, or Mathematics, generally as a contrast to other AS-level subjects they have chosen.