Among Cambridge students, there exists a rumour… A rumour that, one day, you may be walking about your business – perhaps down a scenic backstreet, or along the famous King’s Parade – and you may feel a discreet tap on your shoulder. What does it mean? It means, of course, that your invitation has finally arrived… Your invitation to become a spy. Cambridge has a long-running association with secret intelligence, which has helped, and hindered, Britain through times of war and peace.
But wait, what does that mean?
It simply means that you’re one of the select chosen few who’ve graduated with an academic passport to further your studies, just about anywhere in the world.
Through CIE, you can gain A Level qualifications, made up of AS Levels and A Levels, as private candidates at registered Cambridge examination centres.
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So, what are A Levels?
According to the official Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website, “A levels are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, further study, training, or work. You can normally study three or more A Levels over two years.”
Recognised by universities around the world, the A Levels originated in the United Kingdom (UK).
The A Level qualification has two components: AS Level and A2 Level.
You must study and complete your AS Level before you take your A Level. They take the average of your two scores (50/50) to produce your overall A Level score. Students usually complete the AS Level in their second to last year of high school and the A2 Level in the year after their final high school year.
Both AS and A2 Levels are designed to be year-long courses.
You can sit for the exam two times each year. The first is in May/June, and the second is in October/November.
Some students sit both the AS and A2 Level papers during the same exam periods.
While this might sound more difficult, it comes down to personal preference and schedule. Choose whatever works best for you and your timetable.
While sitting the exams together may offer a heavier workload, this could be a great option if you think you’re less likely to forget the content learned in AS by the time you reach A2.
It’s important to note that students must take AS and A2 Level papers within 12 months of one another. Otherwise, the AS mark “expires” and can’t be combined with the A2 mark to gain an A Level qualification.
How hard are the AS and A2 exams?
At this point, you might be wondering just how difficult the A Levels are and if they’re suitable for you.
The difficulty is something you should take into account when you’re choosing different curricula and subjects.
Although difficulty differs from person to person, you want to make sure that you’re confident you’ll be able to tackle it and perform to a high standard.
Cambridge International Examinations releases online updated syllabuses for all their subjects. Input the keyword you’re looking for along with “Cambridge syllabus”, and you can see what they include in the curriculum.
How to prepare for the AS and A2 exams?
Though the syllabuses may appear long and confusing, choose to focus on the learning objectives. They explain learning expectations and everything about the exams.
The objectives get more difficult because they’re written in the order they’re taught. To get an idea of the difficulty, scroll down to the bottom to check out the more difficult topics.
You can also look at past papers online. Because A Levels are a popular curriculum, many online resources are available.
Use past papers to get a better sense of the exams and their difficulty level by skimming through their content. You can also use these to get an idea of the exam structure.
Try to look at past papers from recent years because they tend to get more difficult as time goes on! Even better, look at specimen papers (fancy term for sample papers) for the current year released on the Cambridge website to get the most up-to-date examples.
How are the AS and A2 Level exams assessed?
You don’t necessarily need to get 70% or 90% of the questions correct, to get a 70% or 90% on your report card.
Scaling makes this possible.
All exams are scaled on a bell curve, so raw grades are often inflated. Your score might inflate 1%-15% depending on where you score, the difficulty of the paper, and the subject you choose to take.
If the past papers look impossible, do not fear! You may be getting an unrealistic representation of your final score.
When looking at past papers, always look at the grade and scaling boundaries of that year’s exam.
Now you should have a broad understanding of how A Levels work, what AS and A2 Levels are, and how together, they give you your overall mark.
But what is the difference between AS and A2 Levels?
They may have minor differences in exam structure. For example, AS science papers have a multiple-choice component but A2 science papers do not. However, the two levels still have a lot in common.
They are both one-year courses.
They both require a year-long study that culminates in a series of exams.
They both count for 50% of your final A Level mark.
A2 Levels are generally harder than AS Levels. They build on the knowledge you learn taking your AS papers.
Many A2 Level papers also test on the content covered in the AS papers. For example, business studies A2 exams require you to recall knowledge from AS business studies.
Resources for AS and A2 Levels
Many resources are available to help with your AS and A2 studies.
Cambridge publishes a set of textbooks geared towards the curriculum of each subject. These textbooks offer comprehensive cover for both the AS and A2 courses.
Alternatively, you could buy study guides and textbooks produced by other companies that target A Level students.
The A Level curriculum is a hugely popular, internationally recognised curriculum that helps you secure your place at a top university. Whether you’re hoping to attend Stanford, Oxford, or Harvard, A Levels are the high school curriculum to help get you there!
Cambridge International A Levels are offered in 55 subjects.
A Levels is an incredible curriculum that opens up many tertiary opportunities for high school students.
Unlike other curricula, coursework or classroom participation grades don’t affect the final score of AS and A2 courses.
Your entire grade is determined by how you perform in your final exams.
While you may think that this is an excellent opportunity for you to procrastinate, think again!
Prepare and study throughout the year so you don’t jeopardise your final grade. Take notes and keep up with the content.