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International A Levels serve as a stepping stone for students aiming to secure admission to top-tier universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and Cambridge.
Most students and parents would have heard about A Levels from one place or another, but very few people actually know exactly what this pathway entails.
In this blog, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about the International A-Levels, delve into the diverse range of subjects available, shed light on the grading system, and demonstrate how this pathway unlocks opportunities to prestigious universities across the globe.
Advanced Levels (usually referred to as just A Levels) are qualifications in particular subjects that are usually the final academic courses taken before a student attends university.
You can study three or more A-levels over the final two years before starting university. A-Levels are assessed using a set of examinations, and although they’re a UK-based qualification, they are widely accepted worldwide.
There are a range of subjects you can take while pursuing an A-Level qualification. The most popular courses include:
For a complete list of A-Level courses refer to the CIE’s official website.
CGA offers very close support for students in selecting A Level subjects: this is vital because future courses at university and future careers will often have specific requirements for A Level subjects. We can provide expert advice in this important area.
There are two exam boards for A-Levels: Edexcel and Cambridge.
Pearson Edexcel A Levels are widely recognized in the UK and follow a module-based system. Students have the flexibility to retake modules to improve their subject grades, and exams are typically held in May and November.
On the other hand, Cambridge A Levels offers a diverse range of subjects and flexible combinations. These qualifications cater to the needs of international learners and also provide opportunities for non-native English speakers to demonstrate their English proficiency, which is valued by many British universities.
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A-Levels are broken down into two parts: the AS Level and A2 Level:
Typically, students take 4-5 AS Level subjects in their second to last year of high school.
They will then go on to take 3-4 of those subjects at the A2 Level, often taking extra subjects at AS Level to fill up their timetable (without completing the full A Level) in their final year of high school.
Here’s a summary of typical timeline of an international A-levels student:
While this is the typical timeline for studying A Levels, if you’re interested in competing for spots at the top US universities, you might need more than 4 A Level subjects to stand out in the competitive applicant pool.
The majority of Edexcel/ Cambridge AS and A Level subjects are externally assessed. These exams are offered at different times throughout the year:
Students typically sit one set of exams at the end of AS, and another at the end of A2.
CGA's Edexcel International A Levels offers three examination dates, which means more opportunities for re-sits. This allows students to improve their grades if needed.
Edexcel's mark schemes tend to be more detailed, providing clearer indications of how students can earn credit for their answers compared to Cambridge's mark schemes.
For sciences like Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, Cambridge International AS Level sciences require students to complete practical examinations under exam conditions. Edexcel A Levels, however, tend to be more theoretical and do not include these practical examinations.
Practical exams can sometimes drag down students' grades in Cambridge A Levels as schools may lack the resources for adequate practice in experimental skills. This is a situation that students won't encounter with Edexcel A Levels.
In terms of grading, Cambridge students receive a percentage grade at the end of their AS Level exams, and a final overall A Level percentage grade that’s the average of their AS and A2 Level grades combined.
Note that there are no A* grades awarded for AS Level. They are only awarded for completion of full A Level qualification. Also, you do not receive your separate A2 Level grade, only your combined A Level grade.
Edexcel students receive grades after their examinations at the end of every module according to the table below.
Their final average grade is the weighted average of the modules they sit through during the AS and A2 portions by a predefined weighting that you can find in each subject’s syllabus online.
|A Level Grade
While the percentage grade boundaries may look intimidating, one of the great things about International AS and A Levels is that you don’t have to get 90% or 70% of the questions correct to end up getting a 90% or 70% on your report card.
International AS and A Levels employ scaling, which converts raw marks to Percentage Uniform Marks. The exams are calibrated against other students' performance, resulting in most raw marks being scaled up. Scaling ensures a fair representation of performance and determines the A*-E grade displayed on the certificate of completion.
Edexcel and Cambridge publish grade thresholds after each exam sitting on their respective websites to maintain transparency in the scaling process.
If you’re looking to apply to a top 30 university, aim for grades that sit in the A or A* band. For those considering US universities, the American equivalent for A Levels are the AP examinations.
The A-level results day for 2024 is Thursday 15 August 2024. You can collect your A-level results any time after 8am on results day - when they're released by the exam boards.
There are a few different outcomes that could happen:
A Levels are superb, academically rigorous, and inspiring courses. However, they can also be demanding courses that require a serious commitment to diligent work. To be successful in A-Level study, students will need a secure foundation at the International GCSE level of study or equivalent.
We offer a wide range of A Level and International GCSE courses which are taught fully online, by experienced and outstanding teachers from around the world. CGA can provide a full programme of A Levels, to full-time CGA students, or we can offer a part-time programme: individual A Level courses which students can take alongside their academic programme in their home school. If you are keen to study A Levels then CGA would be delighted to hear from you!
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