The General Certificate of Education Advanced Level—generally termed the GCE Advanced Level or, more commonly, the A Level—is a school leaving qualification offered by educational bodies in the United Kingdom and the British Crown dependencies to students completing secondary or pre-university education. A number of countries, including Singapore and Mauritius have developed qualifications with the same name as and a similar format to the British A Levels.
The qualification is generally studied for over two years and split into two parts, with one part studied in each year. The first part is known as the Advanced Subsidiary Level, or AS Level, and was previously known as the Advanced Supplementary Level, with the same abbreviation. The second part is known as the A2 Level. The AS Level is a qualification in its own right, and the AS Level combined with the A2 Level forms the complete A Level qualification.
A number of countries use the A Levels as a school leaving qualification. Due to respective changes in the systems, these examinations generally differ in terms of both content and style from the A Levels taken in the United Kingdom.
A Levels are the secondary school leaving qualification offered in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, A Levels are also offered by select schools as an alternative school-leaving qualification in place of the Scottish Advanced Higher. The five main examination boards which administer British A Levels in the UK are:
- Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA)
- Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR)
- Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC)
- Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA)
Edexcel and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) also offer international versions of the British A Levels in the United Kingdom and worldwide.
The British variant of A/AS levels are also taken in many Commonwealth and former Commonwealth countries, as well as in examination centers worldwide. British international schools in foreign countries generally offer the British A Levels as offered through Edexcel or Cambridge International Examinations. At select examination centers, the British A Level exams may also be available to private candidates.
In Brunei, the A Level qualification is offered, with examinations conducted by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). Some subjects are unique to Brunei or have a format, curriculum, or syllabus that is unique to Brunei.
In Malaysia, the A Level qualification is offered, with examinations conducted by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). Some subjects are unique to Malaysia or have a format, curriculum, or syllabus that is unique to Malaysia.
In Mauritius, A/AS Level qualifications are taken as part of the Higher School Certificate, awarded upon successful completion of secondary school after passing of examinations jointly administered by the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate and the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES). A number of exam papers for offered, such as French, are customised to support the national educational standards. Additionally, International A Level qualifications from Edexcel are available, for which exams may be registered through the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate.
In Seychelles, the A Level qualification is offered, with examinations conducted by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). Some subjects are unique to Seychelles or have a format, curriculum, or syllabus that is unique to Seychelles.
In Singapore, A/AS level qualifications are awarded upon successful completion of examinations jointly administered by Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) and the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES). They are noted to be of greater rigour than the UK variants.
Recently within the Caribbean there has been a move away from the GCE Advanced Level to the CXC CAPE examinations, making them a de facto university entrance examination. However, some universities also require applicants to take separate entrance examinations and the International Baccalaureate and European Baccalaureate are also accepted.
In Hong Kong, the British A Level was once accused of grade inflation many years ago, and thus over time both the GCE A Level (GCEAL) and HKAL have become more strictly graded, as shown by NARIC research. Compared to the usual 25–30% rate of achieving an A-grade in the UK AS/A2, there could be statistically fewer than 0.05% candidates scoring an "A" in a single examination in the Hong Kong Advanced Supplementary Level Examination and less than 1% rate of achieving an A-grade every year in an A Level subject. However, this comparison is seen by many[by whom?] as being meaningless and misleading because in the first place, grade A is not the top distinction level and so comparing the second best grade in the GCE A Level to the top grade in HKAL is not very useful and objective. Moreover, it is important to note that because of the significantly different measurement methodologies, these examinations are not directly comparable in terms of the skills and knowledge demonstrated at each grade and that distinction rates alone cannot serve as a fair indicator of one's absolute academic performance. In that NARIC research, only the cumulative percentages were taken into account to reach the huge generalisations, on the very unsafe assumption that two scales are exactly identical and standardised. The wide recognition for both qualifications in many local universities and companies all attests to this. For example, many prestigious overseas universities regard the HK qualifications (HKCEE and HKALE) as being equivalent to the UK ones (IGCSE and GCEAL) on a grade-by-grade basis.
- General Certificate of Secondary Education An entry qualification
- Ordinary Level An entry qualification that has been phased out in the United Kingdom
- BTEC Extended Diploma Is the highest level of the BTEC structure and is taken by people aged 16 or over (Equal to A Levels).
- NVQ level 3
- Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education (AVCE)
- Advanced Extension Award (AEA)
- Higher (Scottish) (Scottish university entrance qualification)
- Advanced Higher (Scottish) (Scottish equivalent to A Level)
- Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE)
- Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level (equivalent examination in Singapore)
- Malaysian Higher School Certificate (better known as "STPM", an equivalent examination in Malaysia)
- Sri Lankan Advanced Level
- Matura or Maturità (similar qualification in some European countries)
- Baccalauréat (similar qualification in France)
- Abitur (similar qualification in Germany and Finland)
- Advanced Placement Program (similar qualification in the United States)
- International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma (alternative examination found across the world)
- European Baccalaureate (examination used mainly in the European School system)
- Bagrut (similar qualification in Israel)
- Matriculation Certificate
- Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP – used by the University of Cambridge and the University of Warwick for admissions to study mathematics at undergraduate level)
- Leaving Certificate
- Caribbean Examinations Council Report. Reforming the Examination System. House of Commons, 26 March 2003. Retrieved 12 June 2006.
- "A research study into comparison of grades achieved in the Hong Kong HKCEE and HKALE with the GCSE and British GCE A Levels", conducted by NARIC UK
|Wikibooks has more on the topic of: A-level|
- Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency: A Level resources
- University of Cambridge: International A & AS levels
- The Guardian 2005 A Level results, 2005 AS-level results