Going into sixth form or college is often a stressful time, with a lot of new terminology to get used to. Along with this comes a lot of information about exams and courses which students are suddenly expected to understand, including AS-Levels, A-Levels, and A2 Levels, which all sound very similar. Some of this information, particularly the new terms, can be confusing, and hard to find on the internet. In this article, we will explain the differences between these qualifications, and how you can tell which ones you are taking. We will also explain some of the other key information associated with AS and A2-Levels.
An A2 Level is the second year of an A-Level. The first year is often called an AS-Level. During the A2 year students sit exams and hand in all coursework from throughout the course. All A-Levels last 2 years, unless students only sit 1 year, in which case they gain an AS-Level instead.
While this should have given you a short answer to your questions, please read on for full details about AS and A2-Levels, including key UCAS data and comparisons between the different qualifications.
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What is an A2 Level equivalent to?
A2 Levels are the second year of an A-Level qualification. A-Level is short for advanced level, and students typically take 3-4 of these in sixth form or college, before going on to university. They take 2 years to complete, and the first year is known as the AS-Level.
A-Levels are linear qualifications, which means they are tested with exams at the end of the 2-year course. Some students also take AS-Level exams, which are worth around half an A-Level and are taken after 1 year of the qualification. However, these AS exams are not as common anymore – for more on this, check out this Think Student article. A2 Level exams are taken at the end of 2 years, and are graded A* to E.
A-Levels (A2 Levels) are primarily taken in the UK but are accepted worldwide and highly regarded as a sign of academic achievement. That being said, there are of course other equivalent qualifications available to students both within the UK and overseas.
The American equivalent to A2 Levels is generally considered to be AP examinations.
Students in Scotland usually sit Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers. They are usually taken over 2 years, and are in both academic and vocational subjects, like A-Levels. A2 Levels are more similar to Advanced Highers in difficulty and academic rigour, with Highers being similar to AS-Levels.
International Baccalaureate is another similar programme to A-Levels, a 2-year course for students aged 16-19 at college or sixth form in the UK. However, this is slightly different as students must study a number of compulsory modules including mathematics, languages, science and arts, as well as an extended essay. This means each subject may have less content than at A-Level, but with more subjects taken overall.
More information about A-Level equivalent qualifications can be found in this Think Student article, which also has helpful information about UCAS points and combinations of different qualifications.
How many UCAS points is an A2 Level worth?
Below is a table displaying the number of points an A2 Level (or whole A-Level, as explained earlier) is worth when applying for university through UCAS. This is compared to the number of points available for each grade at AS-Level.
Typically, students receive offers for university based on 3 A-Levels, or A2 Levels. They may be required to get certain grades, such as needing AAB, which means 3 A-Levels at these grades or higher. They may also base the offer on points, requiring you to achieve, for example, 112 UCAS points.
Rarely, AS-Levels may be included in university offers (or subject requirements). Some universities may also ask for 4 A-Levels in an offer. Check with your chosen university about which qualifications they accept to ensure you can meet the requirements before applying.
Think Student has a great article explaining UCAS points and university entry, which can be found here.
How hard is A2 Level?
Difficulty will always differ from person to person, so we cannot give a definite answer as to whether you will find A2 or AS-Level hard, and which you should choose. However, you should definitely take it into account when making your subject choices at sixth form or college.
In most subjects, you can consider your performance at GCSE or previous exams to be a good indicator of how you will do at A-Level. However, if you work hard, it is always possible to achieve better grades at A-Level than in GCSEs, although they are of course much more difficult.
In general, A2 Level will be harder than AS Level, because the course covers much more content, and therefore has more to recall in the final exam. The exams also often have different styles of question, as is explained in the next heading.
If you want to know about the different difficulty levels for your subjects or want to know the differences in content between AS and A2 Level, looking up the specification for your exam board is the easiest way to find it. A link to AQA exams can be found here, Edexcel here, Eduqas here, and OCR here.
Think Student has a helpful article which explains the difficulty level of some key A-Level subjects, which can be found here.
AS, A2 and A-Level: What’s the difference?
AS and A2 Levels are both part of the A-Level qualification. Each is a 1-year part of the course. However, while you can take an AS Level as a stand-alone qualification, you must know the AS Level content in order to take an A2 Level exam. Taking both sets of exams will give you full knowledge of the A-Level.
There are also minor differences between the exam structure of AS and A2 Levels. AS levels tend to have more multiple-choice questions, particularly in science subjects. A2 Level exams also tend to be longer, although not by much, to account for the larger amount of content covered that you need to recall.
The A2 Level papers will require you to recall knowledge from AS-Levels as well as A2 Levels, and they build on the knowledge you already have by going into more depth about the subject.
An A-Level is the whole qualification together and is what is most taken in the UK. Most students take all their exams at the end of the A2 year, and so learn all the content over 2 years but are not tested until the end. This is why the whole qualification is referred to as A-Level, rather than A2 Level.
How can you tell if you are taking AS or A2 Levels?
In order to tell if you are taking an AS or A2 level, the first thing you should do is check with your teacher. They will be able to let you know easily which qualification you are studying for. However, if you are still in any doubt, then check the specification for your qualification, to see which content you are covering.
Another easy way to tell which you are taking is by what year you are in. As most people complete AS Levels in their first year of sixth form or college, and A2 in their second, you should be able to work out based on that about what level you are working at. However, it is best to check with your school, as some may take AS-Levels stretched out over 2 years.