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 to give you a sense of direction and aim. 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 the GCSE grades you need to achieve in particular subjects, how difficult A-Levels really are and alterative options if you fail your GCSEs. Hopefully, by the end of this article you will be equipped with the knowledge you require to successfully take the leap from GCSEs to A-Levels.
In short, you need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade 4-9 to do A-Levels. These GCSEs must include English Language and Maths. However, entry requirements will vary between different sixth forms and colleges with some requiring specific grades for certain A-Level subjects. A-Levels are considered the next step for many pupils and lead the way for University study. If you are unable to study A-Levels, there are a range of alternative options including exam re-sits or an apprenticeship. Your final GCSE results will determine your ability to do A-Levels, which will ultimately impact your future in terms of higher education at University and your career prospect.
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.
How Many GCSEs do you Need to do A-Levels?
According to Top Courses, the term GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is defined as an academic qualification which pupils aged 14-16 in Years 10 and 11 complete as a set of exams in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. GCSEs are important in determining your future in terms of further education – such as University – and your future job or career. If you want to find out more about why GCSEs are so important, you can read this helpful article.
The general requirement across sixth forms and colleges is that you have a minimum of five GCSEs to study A-Levels.
Entry requirements for A-Level study can vary between different sixth forms and colleges, for example in some cases a minimum of four GCSEs may be required for A-Level study instead. Therefore, it is always best to check individual institutions for their own entry requirements.
Most pupils will take 9-10 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 up to 16 GCSEs. You can read more about the number of GCSEs pupils can take in this useful article.
What GCSE Subjects do You Need to do A-Levels?
The general requirement across sixth forms and colleges is that you have appropriate GCSE grades in both English Language and Maths.
Certain A-Level subjects may have their own requirements. This tends to differ between A-Levels and BTECs. When studying A-Levels, you usually need a GCSE grade in another A-Level subject. For example, to study A-Level Psychology you may need GCSE Maths. Alternatively, when studying BTECs, you usually need a GCSE grade in that A-Level subject. For example, to study BTEC Art you may need GCSE Art.
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 across your subjects including 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.
Can You Go to Sixth Form College if You Fail Some/All of Your GCSEs?
It may still be possible for you to study A-Levels at sixth form or college depending on how many GCSEs you fail and which subjects.
If you fail GCSE Maths or English Language but still gain a place at a sixth form or college, you can re-take GCSE Maths and English alongside your A-Levels. However, failing GCSE Maths and English 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. It is likely that you will have to re-sit you English and Maths GCSEs alongside your course.
For further information on what to do if you fail your GCSEs and cannot do A-Levels, check out this helpful article.
How Difficult are A-Levels?
Many 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. The A-Level syllabus is almost three times larger than the GCSE syllabus.
A-Levels are supposed to be challenging to prepare students for fast paced university 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. It’s essential that you keep yourself motivated.
What Are Some Alternative Options if You Don’t Meet the A-Level Requirements?
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 including:
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.
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 and/or English but still meet the overall requirements to study your A-Levels at sixth form or college, you can re-take your GCSE Maths or English exams the following year alongside your A-Level subjects.
Complete a Vocational College Course
If you are unable to meet the requirements to do your A-Levels at sixth form or college, an alternative is to take a college vocational course. The course is usually focused on one specific subject or career area and will provide you with the skills you need to progress and enter that profession. Following your study on this course, you can begin applying for a job.
Do an Apprenticeship
There is the option for you to do an apprenticeship after your GCSEs when you are 16 years or older. An apprenticeship allows you to gain skills in a particular profession or career whilst earning some money. It is an increasingly popular alternative to A-Level study and college courses. Some apprenticeships may require a grade 4 or above in both your Maths and English GCSEs.
Get on an Access to HE Course
If you are unable to do your A-Levels but wish to go to University in order to enter a particular career, you can apply for the Access to higher education course. This is a direct route to University within a specific subject area, depending entirely on your GCSE grades.