Curriculum 2000

The introduction in September 2000 of Curriculum 2000 saw the first AS-level examinations being held in summer of the first year with A2 examinations taking place the following year. The scheme changed A-levels and they now consist of six modules that are studied over two years, with half of these being assessed at the end of the first year, which creates the AS-level, or “Advanced Subsidiary Level”.

The following year sees the final three modules being assessed, giving an A2 level. The AS-level and A2 level combined form the full A-level qualification. Each module is assessed by the successful completion of exam papers marked by a national organisation and internally-assessed coursework.

Following the introduction of the new GCE Applied A-level, students now can study subjects with a decidedly more vocational theme to them. As an example, the current GCE A-level in Applied Business Studies not only focuses on the traditional theories of business studies, but also combines a practical, hands-on approach, giving students a more experienced qualification as a result.

Using GCE A-levels encourages students to produce results based on actual working life, and encourages a broader insight in the application of the theory learned. GCE A-levels are available in Art and Design, ICT, Business and Science and are quickly becoming a more recognised and highly regarded form of qualification.

A-Level Results

Within Britain A-level results have enjoyed a steady incline for the past quarter of a century, with results rising each year for the past twenty-five years in a row. 2005 saw a pass rate (a grade between A-E) of 96.2%. Subjects producing the highest A grades, of which there were around 58%, were mathematics, languages and sciences, whereas the most popular subjects are currently English, general studies, biology, mathematics and psychology.

These grades are administered by the examination boards responsible for the creation of the subject. There are six very large organisations that offer A-level courses, these include AQA, OCR, Edexcel, WJEC and CCEA and schools will usually register with several of these examination boards to give a broader range of subjects and create a combined curriculum that fits the profile and reputation of the school.

The Furure of A-Levels

With the A-level pass rate rising for the 27 th year in a row to 97.5%, the UK saw seven students competing for a single place at a university of their choice. This caused a stir amongst educational bodies, prompting for harder exams or harder criteria in order to sort the best students worthy of a place at a top UK institution. Due to this many universities are introducing their own examination procedures including aptitude tests. It is decisions like this that put the future of A-levels into some serious doubt.

Schools are doing their best to change the system, by introducing diploma options that encourage children to stay in education past the age of 16. The government is also introducing a higher, harder to obtain A* grade and from 2011 they will introduce three academic diplomas in science and maths, humanities and modern languages, with each being the equivalent to 3.5 A-levels.

Some students see the importance of their A-level results and have their heart set on a chosen career or university and as a result more and more students are taking five A-levels in order to have a broader range of top marks, whereas some are choosing qualifications that are typically classed as being more difficult, such as the International Baccalaureate, where a perfect score of 45 points is comparable to 6.4 A grades at A-level.