When moving from secondary school education to further education, it can be hard to figure out what the difference between these stages of education are and if one is better than the other. To try and figure this out, it can help to compare the most prominent qualifications that you can get at each of these stages, GCSEs, and A-Levels, in order to work out how they are different and if one is more important.
Continue reading to learn more about how A-Levels compare to GCSEs and if they’re more important. This article will consider their difficulty and usefulness compared to GCSEs as well as if it can increase your employability more than GCSEs.
Disclaimer: Please note that this topic is highly subjective, and any judgement reached as to whether A-Levels are more important, better, or harder than GCSEs is my personal opinion, and you may feel differently.
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Are A-Levels more important than GCSEs?
Deciding whether A-Levels are more important than GCSEs can feel impossible as they are pretty different qualifications. However, when considered in terms of increasing your future opportunities, such as continuing education or getting a job, it is easier to come to a conclusion.
For continuing into higher education, A-Levels will generally be more important than GCSEs. This is because at a minimum, universities will require you to have at least 2 A-Levels or an equivalent further education qualification. To learn more about this, check out this article by The Complete University Guide.
Moreover, as students only take 3 or 4 A-Levels, they are able to go into much greater depth with these than at GCSE level. This increased specialisation is continued at university, where students only study 1 or 2 subjects. When looking at university courses myself, I’ve found that it’s also common for students to need specific A-Level subjects to be able to study their specific subject at university.
However, for getting a job, the importance of A-Levels is more limited. This is because it will depend on the type of job.
For post-university jobs, your degree will be most important, although employers may still want to know about A-Levels or GCSEs. To learn more about this, check out this guide by UCAS.
For other jobs, such as apprenticeships and school leaver jobs, your GCSEs are likely to be most important. While employers will typically want to see a range of passing GCSE grades, they will particularly want to see solid GCSEs in maths and English. For more on this, check out this article by Success At School.
There are also jobs you can get without having any GCSEs, making neither more important. For more about these jobs, check out this Think Student article.
Do employers look at GCSE or A-Level results?
As mentioned above, depending on the job you apply for, either GCSEs or A-Levels may be a requirement. This means that for jobs, such as these, the employer will look at either your GCSE or A-Level results, depending on what they have required.
Employers are also able to check the GCSE (and A-Level) results that you have put on your application to make sure that you’re not lying about the grades you said you got. It is also likely that employers will check this and so it’s important that you don’t lie on your CV or job application. To learn more about this, check out this article by Think Student.
However, it is still possible for you to get a job without having done any GCSEs or A-Levels. This is because certain jobs just won’t require you to have done either qualification at all. Due to this, they have no reason to look at your results or to check if you did get the grades you said on your application.
To learn more about jobs that you can get without doing GCSEs, check out this Think Student article. You can also check out this Think Student article, which can give you some ideas on how to get work experience, which may be needed in the place of qualifications, such as GCSEs or A-Levels.
Should you include A-Levels or GCSEs on your CV?
If you’re familiar with writing a CV, you know that you need to put your education history on there. However, which qualifications you need to put on there will depend on the point of education you’re at and what job you’re applying for.
You will only need to put your GCSEs or A-Levels on your CV if it’s your first job after school, you don’t have a degree or if the employer has stated specific GCSE or A-Level grades. When putting GCSEs or A-Levels on your CV, make sure that you put the most relevant grades to the job that you’re applying for first.
Are A-Levels better than GCSEs?
What makes one qualification better than another? Depending on how you answer this question will depend on whether you think A-Levels or GCSEs are a better qualification to have.
GCSEs are generally taken at the end of secondary school, meaning that they can lead to a wide range of paths as you decide what you want to do in the future. As they are a common entry requirement for sixth forms and colleges, apprenticeships, and jobs, it could be argued that they’re the better qualification to have.
However, A-Levels are a higher-level qualification at level 3 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland rather than GCSEs, which are level 2 qualifications. As a higher qualification, it could be argued that A-Levels are better. This is especially as they can lead to more opportunities, such as getting a degree, a more advanced apprenticeship, such as a Higher Apprenticeship or a Degree Apprenticeship, or a more skilled job.
Having A-Levels as well as GCSEs can also be seen as better as it shows that you’re more academically advanced. However, in situations where this isn’t important, GCSEs may be equally as important or even more so than A-Levels.
To learn more about the qualification levels mentioned, check out this Think Student article that will talk you through the British education system.
Are A-Levels harder than GCSEs?
Having experienced both A-Levels and GCSEs, I would personally say that A-Levels are harder. This is for various reasons, including the amount of content, the depth of content, the exams and coursework that you may have to do.
To begin with, while it will depend on which subjects you choose and even what exam boards, they’re from, A-Levels tend to have a lot more content that is also a lot harder. For example, as a Year 13 student myself, I take A-Level Business and previously took GCSE Business Studies. Unlike at GCSE level, there is much more content that you need to learn as there are specific theories and formulas that you would never come across at GCSE.
To further increase the difficulty, humanities subjects will often require you to do some kind of coursework. For example, I also study A-Level History and did GCSE History. From my experience, studying the OCR A-Level History course, students have to complete a 4000-word essay on a specific topic.
This will need to be done independently and will generally be very different to anything you’ve done before, even if you did a GCSE that required coursework previously. If you would like to learn more about which GCSEs do require you to do coursework, check out this Think Student article.