Advanced Extension Award
The Advanced Extension Awards were a type of UK school-leaving qualification. They were introduced in 2002, in response to the British Government's Excellence in Cities report, as a means of testing students at the most demanding standards found across the world. They are aimed at the top 10% of students in the British A Level tests, usually taken in the final year of schooling (age 17/18) and were designed to allow students to "demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills to the full". They were assessed completely by virtue of external examinations.
The AEAs, which were taken by a small proportion of students in a limited number of subjects, were introduced in June 2002 as a successor to the S-level examination.
In 2008 25.8% of all A level subjects were given an A grade, and there were renewed calls for a better system of differentiation between higher-level candidates to be introduced. With the introduction of the new A* grade at A level for the 2010 June examination season, the AEAs have been deemed to no longer be needed and are to be withdrawn after the 2009 June exam season (with the exception of the Maths AEA, which will continue until June 2015).
According to EducationGuardian.co.uk, in 2004, 50.4% of the 7246 entrants failed to achieve a grade at all, indicating that the awards are fulfilling their role in separating the elite. Only 18.3% of students attained the top of the two grades available, the Distinction, with the remaining 31.3% of students receiving a Merit. However, only time can tell whether this set of results is attributable to the qualification's youth, and therefore the lack of experience of teachers and small bank of past papers to refer to. There may also be problems with schools not being aware of the examination's existence, or not wanting to put candidates forward for it due to the high fail rate.
In addition, not all of the 'best' students take the AEA as some see it as an increased workload (both for teachers and students) even though theoretically it should not involve any extra work at all, and as it only occasionally forms part of a conditional offer from a university, many students see it as somewhat pointless. In addition, in some colleges and sixth forms, only students who are applying to Oxbridge are allowed to sit the exam.
Since the 2005/2006 application year, a Distinction has been worth 40 UCAS points, and a Merit worth 20 points. Bearing in mind that a grade A at A level is worth 120 points, this adds to the arguments against the AEA being a worthwhile use of school's time and resources. However, 40 points is the equivalent of two grade boundaries at A Level, and thus a student with A Level results ABB, for example, would be bumped up to the equivalent of AAA. It is also the case that the Advanced Extension Award requires no knowledge of academic material beyond the syllabus of its corresponding A-Level subject and thus rewards the student with a better understanding and appreciation of the material which the A-Level does not fully examine.
Available subjects 
Due to the small numbers of candidates for each subject, the exam boards divided the subjects offered amongst themselves - so unlike for A-Levels, each AEA was only offered by one board.
- Biology (including Human Biology) (AQA)
- Business (OCR)
- Chemistry (AQA)
- Critical Thinking (OCR)
- Economics (AQA)
- English (OCR)
- French (OCR)
- Geography (WJEC)
- German (CCEA)
- History (Edexcel)
- Irish (CCEA)
- Latin (OCR)
- Mathematics (Edexcel)
- Physics (CCEA)
- Psychology (AQA)
- Religious Studies (Edexcel)
- Spanish (Edexcel)
- Welsh (WJEC)
- Welsh as a second language (WJEC)
The last AEA examinations across the full range of subjects took place in June 2009 with results issued in August 2009. After this time the Advanced Extension Award was withdrawn for all subjects except Mathematics. This came after the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) decided that the new A* grade being offered at A level will overlap with the purpose of the AEA, thus rendering them unnecessary. However, the AEA in Mathematics has been extended until June 2012, as confirmed by Edexcel and the QCA. This is because it meets a "definite need" in Mathematics, meaning the A* grade may still not be viewed as challenging enough. On 2nd June 2011 Edexcel announced that the AEA was being extended yet further for Mathematics, until June 2015.
See also 
- BBC NEWS | Education | Cambridge seeks harder A levels
- EducationGuardian.co.uk | Advanced extension awards 2004
- Advanced Extension Awards : Directgov - Education and learning
- JCQ | Withdrawal of Advanced Extension Award (AEA) specifications
- Edexcel: Advanced Extension Award (AEA) Extended!
- QCA | Advanced Extension Awards
- Edexcel: Mathematics Advanced Extension Award (AEA) extended further until 2015