Home Schooling and A Levels

All about A Levels

A Levels are higher level qualifications for students in England, Northern Ireland and Wales – in Scotland, the equivalent qualification is the Scottish Higher. A Levels are now split into two qualifications, AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A (Advanced) level qualifications, which normally take one year each to complete full-time, although it is also possible to study A Levels part-time. It is possible to continue a subject only to AS Level and still obtain this qualification, so AS levels can be either a free standing qualification in its own right, or be put towards the first half of a full A Level qualification.

A Levels are available in a diverse range of academic subjects, as well as some vocational subjects. The qualifications are useful both for students wanting to go on to higher education and for those wishing to straight into the workplace, since they are recognised around the world – AS and A levels are at level 3 on the National Qualifications Framework.

A Levels and Entry Requirements

Within mainstream schools, students will normally be expected to have at least five GCSEs at pass levels between the grades A* to C in order to take A Levels, but parents and/or students should check with individual exam boards about this, as it can differ from various courses – some subjects or institutions may require a grade B or above at GCSE in the particular subject that is developed at AS or A level.

A Levels and How Many to Take

There are about 80 A Levels and AS courses in the UK. There are also vocational A levels, now known as ‘GCEs in applied subjects’, in areas such as business or tourism. Most students studying three, four or five AS levels in their first year, before taking three or four of those on for further study as a full A Level in the second year. This, however, is only a norm figure and some students will opt to take fewer or more courses.

A Levels and Assessment

AS and A Levels are each made up of three units, which are normally examined by a mixture of 70 per cent written exams and 30 per cent coursework, with practical skills assessed in some subjects like science or art, but these figures will vary. AS and A levels are graded A-E, the AS is scored out of 300 UMS marks, and the A Level out of 600 marks. Examinations are normally in June, although you may be able to arrange to sit some parts of the A Level or AS exams in January.

A Levels and Home Education

There are several ways for home educated students to take A Levels. One option is enrolling on a correspondence courses where a tutor will mark work and advise the student. Another is to hire a personal tutor. Another is to enrol, either full time or part time at a local college or adult education classes – that is, putting home education on hold – or by buying past papers, revision guides, syllabi and textbooks at home and working through the exam preparation independently.

Correspondence courses or home tutoring will usually be the most expensive option, but the tutor will usually be a subject expert and give good advice on the exam process. Most colleges will offer free or cheaper courses, but if students are under 16 these may not be an option. Further advantages of these two options is that the tutor or college will organise the exam entrance, marking coursework, sitting the exam, registration, etc. which you may have to organise as a family with a correspondence course, and certainly would have to if teaching or learning A Levels independently.