For many, the jump from GCSEs to A-Levels can be a daunting process. Understanding how your GCSEs may affect your A-Level study is important. In addition to how many GCSEs you will need for A-Level study, you may have other questions. What GCSEs will you need? What if you fail your GCSEs? How difficult are A-Levels? In this article, we will go over many of these questions. Hopefully, by the end you will be equipped with the knowledge you require to successfully take the next step from GCSEs to A-Levels.
In short, you need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 4-9 and as a general rule of thumb at least a grade 6 in the specific subject(s) you want to study. These 5 GCSEs must include English language and maths. However, entry requirements will vary between different sixth form colleges with some requiring specific grades for certain A-Level subjects. Therefore, it is important you check with the sixth form college you are applying to.
Although you may only require the short answer, I recommend that you continue to read the rest of this article. If you are interested in doing A-Level study, it is important to understand as much as possible about the impact of your GCSEs.
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How many GCSEs do you need to study A-Levels?
The general requirement is that you have a minimum of five GCSEs to go on to study A-Levels. It is also often a requirement to achieve a grade 6 in the subject(s) you are looking to study at sixth form college. You can learn more on the UCAS website here.
Entry requirements for A-Level study can vary between different sixth forms and colleges. Therefore, it is always best to check individual institutions for their own entry requirements.
Most pupils will take 8-10 GCSEs including English and maths, meaning as long as they achieve the grades required, they have enough GCSEs to study A-Levels. However, some pupils choose to take over 12 GCSEs. You can read more about the number of GCSEs pupils can take in this Think Student article.
GCSEs are important in determining your next steps in your education – whether that’s moving onto study A-Levels, or doing another form of further education. If you want to find out more about why GCSEs are so important, you can read this Think Student article.
What GCSE subjects do you need to do A-Levels?
Achieving a pass grade (4 or above) in both GCSE English Language and Maths is a requirement to study A-Levels.
Certain A-Level subjects may have their own requirements. When studying A-Levels, you sometimes need a GCSE grade in another A-Level subject other than one you want to take as well. Because of this it is very important you check with the sixth form college you are looking to study at so you know what grades are required of you.
It is important to consider what GCSE subjects you need to study in order to achieve your chosen career or job. For example, if you want to become a scientist you may need a grade 6 in GCSE Science followed by science at A-Level. Without this, you may not be able to achieve your career aspirations. For more information, check out these articles on what GCSEs you will need to become a doctor and to become a lawyer.
What GCSE grades do you need to do A-Levels?
The general requirement across sixth forms and colleges is that you achieve GCSEs grade 4-9 in five of your GCSE subjects. This must include a pass (grade 4 or above) in GCSE English Language and maths to do A-Levels.
Some A-Level subjects have certain GCSE grade requirements. For example, to study A-Level Psychology you may need a grade 6 in GCSE Maths. Additionally, to study A-Level English Literature you may need a grade 6 in GCSE English Language.
Once again, it is vitally important you check the requirements of your chosen sixth form college.
Can you go to sixth form college if you fail your GCSEs?
It may still be possible for you to study A-Levels at sixth form college.
If you fail GCSE Maths or English Language, you may still gain a place at a sixth form college, but you will usually have to re-take GCSE Maths and English Language alongside your A-Levels. However, failing GCSE Maths and English Language may affect your choice of A-Level subjects to study. For example, if you need GCSE English Language to study A-Level English Literature, failing your GCSE English Language could affect your ability to study English Literature at A-Level.
In the case that you fail most or all of your GCSE’s, it is unlikely that you will be able to study A-Levels at a sixth form or college. However, there may be an option to repeat Year 11 and to re-sit all of your GCSEs. This decision is likely to depend on individual secondary schools, as some may not allow this option. Alternatively, some colleges may offer courses in which pupils with no GCSEs can join.
For further information on what to do if you fail your GCSEs, check out this Think Student article.
How difficult are A-Levels?
The difficulty of A-Levels is heavily dependent on the individual student. Everyone’s approach to learning is unique and while some may find a particular A-Level subject easy, others may struggle.
Some students comment on how A-Levels are the most difficult two years of their education, despite the fact that students only study 3 or 4 subjects. A-Level exams are designed to be more difficult than GCSE exams. This is partly due to the focus on the depth and breadth of the A-Level subject and how it is more intensely studied compared to GCSE subjects.
A-Levels are supposed to be challenging to prepare students for their next step in higher education or work life. They enable students to learn more intense analytical and research skills whilst being more independent.
The key is to develop consistency within your revision, work load and perseverance. It’s important that you keep on top of your work load so as not to fall behind, but not to overwork one night, then do nothing the next.
What can you do if you don’t get the grades you need to study A-Levels?
Get your exams re-marked – If you are a few marks off a higher grade in any of your GCSE papers, you may be able to have them remarked. Additionally, if you feel you have been graded incorrectly, you can appeal to have your paper remarked. To do this, you usually have to apply through your school to have the paper remarked. You may face a charge if your grade remains the same after the remark. However, if it changes you won’t need to pay anything. to learn more about GCSE remarks check out this Think Student article.
Re-sit the GCSE subjects you failed – If you fail your GCSEs, it may be possible for you to re-sit Year 11 to redo your GCSE exams the following year. Alternatively, if you fail either Maths or English Language, but still meet the overall requirements to study your A-Levels at sixth form or college, you can re-take your GCSE Maths and English Language exams the following year alongside your A-Level subjects. To learn more about resits read this Think Student article.
What are the alternative options to studying A-Levels?
If you don’t meet the requirements to do A-Levels do not panic! There are many alternative options that will allow you to reach your goals and the career or job of your choice. Some of the options are listed below:
- National vocational qualification (NVQ)
- School leaver schemes
If you want to learn more about your other options check out this Think Student article. This article goes into much more detail on the alternatives mentioned above.