After you have completed your GCSEs, you will probably be wondering what your next step in education will be. You will probably have heard about taking A-Levels or doing an apprenticeship. However, have you heard of AS-Levels? This term is thrown all over the place during A-Levels. However, many students don’t know what it actually means. Truthfully, AS-Levels were more popular in the past. This means that less students really know about them, and some don’t even think that they exist anymore.
AS-Levels do still exist in 2023. However, they are nowhere near as popular as A-Levels. While they exist for most subjects, there are some that don’t offer them anymore. AS-Levels are qualifications that essentially make up the first year of an A-Level course. As most people continue studying the subject and do the A-Level, there is no need to take an AS-Level. Therefore, you may not have heard of them due to their lack of popularity, but they are definitely still an option.
If you want to discover more about what AS-Levels are and why students take them, check out the rest of this article!
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Do AS-Levels still exist?
Yes! As already stated, AS-Levels still very much exist. However, they are not very popular. This is because students tend to just take A-Levels now.
They are available in nearly every subject, however not everyone, so it is best to research this yourself. Many schools and colleges don’t even offer AS-Levels anymore.
However, schools may be open to offering students AS-Levels in certain circumstances. For example, if a student is struggling to do a whole A-Level.
AS-Levels and A-Levels are different qualifications to each other. They also stand for different things. If you want to find out what AS-Levels and A-Levels do stand for, check out this article from Think Student.
What are AS-Levels?
Put simply, an AS-Level is the first full year of an A-Level. Most students carry on learning the AS-Level subject for another year. The second year is known as A2.
Completing the first year and A2 content in the second year leads to an A-Level qualification. However, you can not have an AS-Level qualification and an A-Level qualification in the same subject.
If you decide to do the full two years, you cannot do an AS-Level exam and will instead sit A-Level exams at the end of Year 13.
However, if you only want to do one year, then you do an exam at the end of this year, to receive an AS-Level qualification. As a result, an AS-Level is basically half of an A-Level.
If you want to find out what the difference between A-Levels and AS-Levels is in more detail, check out this article from Think Student.
How much do AS-Levels count towards A-Levels?
An AS-Level refers to all of the content you learn in Year 12. This means that they contribute to about half of each A-Level.
They are worth roughly half of the UCAS points a typical A-Level grade would provide. More specifically, one AS-Level is worth 40% of the UCAS points of an A-Level. However, you cannot achieve an A* at AS-Level.
You can find out more information about AS-Levels on this article from the Newcastle University blog, if you click here.
You can’t do an AS-Level and A-Level in the same subject. This means that most students do three A-Levels and if they want to, do an AS-Level on the side.
This can allow students to achieve extra UCAS points in Year 12, which can be useful on their UCAS application for university. However, many universities now require specific A-Level grades rather than a set number of UCAS points, so this doesn’t necessarily make Year 13 easier!
How many UCAS points do AS-Levels get you?
AS-Levels can be really useful if you want to take four subjects after GCSE but think that the workload for four whole A-Levels would be too much for you. They can get you extra UCAS points!
This means that if you don’t do well in some of your A-Level exams, you know that you already have some UCAS points in the bag. As mentioned, this can be a great extra qualification to put on your university application.
Check out this useful table to compare the different amounts of UCAS points between AS-Levels and A-Levels from the Uni Guide.
The amount of points may not seem like a lot, however they soon add up!
|Grade||A-Level UCAS points||AS-Level UCAS points|
AS and A-Level reform explained
For 2016 exams and onwards, the government altered how GCSEs, A-Levels and AS-Levels were assessed and changed parts of the content. The reform aimed to increase the rigour of the examinations.
Most subjects were changed to be mostly examination based, instead of the majority of subjects involving coursework. Another change involved the content of subjects being reviewed and updated and this was supported by universities.
How did AS-Levels change in the reform?
Before the reform in 2016 exams, AS-Level exams would be taken at the end of modules throughout Year 12 and the results from these contributed to the overall A-Level. This meant that students were not examined on Year 12 content in Year 13.
However, the reform changed this. Instead, AS-Levels and A-Levels were decoupled. This meant that AS-Level results would not count towards the overall A-Level. Instead of exams at the end of Year 12 and 13, students now only sit final exams at the end of the two years, which make up the whole A-Level grade.
If students want to take an A-Level, they would not be able to take an AS-Level in the same subject. AS-Level exams changed to only being taken at the end of Year 12.
You can find out more information about these changes on the government website, if you click here.
How many students do AS-Levels in the UK?
As AS-Levels are still available to students, there is still a relatively large proportion of pupils who take them. This may be because they feel as if doing full A-Levels would be too much for them.
Alternatively, some students prefer to take three A-Levels and then complete an AS-Level as an extra. This can give them extra UCAS points and will only take one year to complete.
The table below shows the number of students who were enrolled for AS-Levels in 2018, 2022 and 2022. These years were pre, during and post pandemic.
|Year||Number of students enrolled for AS-Levels|
As you can see, the number of students taking AS-Levels has decreased! If you want to compare the numbers, with the number of students who enrolled for A-Levels, check out this table:
|Year||Number of students enrolled for A-Levels|
The table shows how many more students take A-Levels compared to AS-Levels. If you want to discover the Ofqual data in more detail, check out this page from the government website.
A-Levels are much more popular than AS-Levels. Most students take three, however there are specific combinations of A-Level subjects which are more popular than others. If you want to find out which A-Level combinations universities look for, check out this article from Think Student.
Do universities accept AS-Levels?
Most universities convert your grades into UCAS points. There are a specific amount of UCAS points students need to have in order to get onto a course at university. Check out this Think Student article to learn more about university entry requirements.
Therefore, if you have completed an AS-Level alongside your A-Levels, the UCAS points from this qualification will definitely contribute to your UCAS points for some universities. Some universities do accept AS-Levels when they are used for extra points.
Some courses at university actually require students to take AS-Levels as well as A-Levels and see value in this. However, this only applies to a select number of universities.
On university websites, you will see that courses generally ask for three A-Level grades. However, don’t be put off by this. Most of the time, they are converted to UCAS points, meaning that AS-Levels do count.
Some universities don’t consider AS-Levels, as they are aware that some schools don’t actually offer AS-Levels as a qualification. Some universities may also only accept A-Levels or Scottish Highers and specific grades related to these.
However, AS-Levels are still appreciated by all universities and could contribute to the decision of whether you should be accepted or not.
Are AS-Levels important?
Even though AS-Levels contribute less UCAS points and aren’t as widely used today as they were before the reform, the AS content you learn in Year 12 is still very important! You are still examined on this content at the end of Year 13.
Additionally, even if you do not take the official AS qualification, Year 12 exams still help shape your predicted grades. Many schools have internal mocks at the end of Year 12, assessing AS-Level content. Results from these are often used to come up with the predicted grades that go on your UCAS application.
These predicted grades are likely to be very accurate as a result because they are a true representation of how you perform in unseen and fast-paced exams. For more on how predicted grades are calculated, check out this Think Student article.
As already stated, if you take any national AS-Level exam, they are useful in contributing to your UCAS points. This is the case if the universities you are applying to are flexible with their entry requirements.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you understand what AS-Levels are and are aware that they very much still exist!
If you are considering taking an AS-Level to get more UCAS points, or to reduce your number of full A-Levels, talk to your teachers about it and see if AS-Levels are an option for you.
If you are struggling with a subject but still want to take three A-Levels and one AS-Level, consider taking the most demanding subject as an AS-Level. This means that you are more likely to get high A-Level grades, as well as an extra AS-Level grade.
Good luck with all of your exams, regardless of what qualifications you choose!