How Do the A-Level Reforms Affect Us?
Lansdowne College, as a top London sixth form college, has a commitment to provide students with a first-rate education that gives them with the knowledge and skills required to achieve success at the UK’s best universities, and subsequently in their professional careers. The AS and A-Level reforms, implemented in September 2015, help ensure that our students are always well-positioned to reach their goals.
Why Did the Reforms Happen?
The changes made to AS and A-Level qualifications reflect the need to ensure that students can have a successful transition to higher education – universities can be more pro-actively involved in AS and A-Level course development.
The key factors being addressed were:
- Subject content
- Skills acquired
- How students are assessed
The new AS and A-Level courses focus more on developing the skills required for higher education and beyond, including in-depth research, locating sources, essay writing and referencing, problem solving, analysis and critical thinking.
What Has Changed?
The changes do not affect the standard of any qualifications. They are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for success. They represent nothing our students need to worry about.
- The new A-Levels are fully linear. This means that all AS and A-Level exams take place at the end of the course, typically after one year of study for AS-Levels and after two years of study for A-Levels. There are no exams in January
- Assessment is predominantly external through external examinations with other forms of assessment used where needed for particular skills. There is a reduction in the amount of coursework, for example, from 40% to 20% in English, History and Computer Science. The practical work in Science is a practical endorsement, which must be passed but does not contribute to the final A-Level grades awarded
- Question types have been improved – there is more focus on synoptic questions which explore students’ overall knowledge of a subject, rather than just focusing on individual elements. There is also more variety of types of questions, for example, multiple-choice and extended essay questions and a movement towards including questions that relate to the professional world
- AS qualifications no longer count towards final A-Level grades – they are separate qualifications in their own right
- There are therefore three distinct qualifications: GCSE, AS-Level and A-Level – grades given for each qualification are separate
- Grade systems remain as they were: A* to E for A-Level and A to E for AS-Level. Please see the timeline below for specific information on when teaching begins for each of the reformed qualifications, and when the first AS and A-Level assessments are set to take place
What Do the Changes Mean for Students?
The qualification reforms came into effect in September 2015, so the first AS-Level assessments take place in June 2016, and the first assessments of the two-year A-Level qualification take place in June 2017. Because the A-Level course is now ‘fully linear’, the assessment of student knowledge and understanding of a course only count towards their final grade after two years of study. In some subjects, it may be appropriate for the AS-Level content to be taught in the first year of a full A-Level course. The changes made to AS and A-Level courses will affect the UCAS tariff system from the 2017 admissions cycle onwards, i.e. for all students applying in 2016 for full-time courses starting in September 2017.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some higher education institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge and other Russell Group Universities, value AS-Level results, as well as predicted grades, when selecting students. There may also be a much greater reliance on other measures when assessing applications, such as pre-admissions tests including the UKCAT, BMAT and TSA, as well as on personal statements, references and interviews.
How Are We Approaching the Reforms?
To be prepared for the reforms, we asked ourselves a series of important questions:
- How could we make the transition to reformed qualifications as rewarding as possible for our students?
- Which AS and A-Level qualifications should we offer to ensure students are best prepared for the future?
- Should our students sit AS examinations in the first year?
- Will offering the opportunity to study a 4th AS-Level benefit our students?
- How can we most effectively monitor student performance throughout the course?
- How can we best support students through their university applications?
Lansdowne College is well prepared for all of the qualification reforms. Our expert team of tutors have developed revised work schemes and tutor notes. Student progress continues to be monitored through weekly examinations (EPPs) and feedback sessions. We are offering students the opportunity to take a 4th AS-Level, and students will sit AS-Level exams in the first year of study where possible and appropriate. There is a great deal of support available to students throughout the university application process. Tutors can assist and advise with writing personal statements, interview techniques and admissions tests.
Contact Our Team for a Consultation
Because of our close relationships with top universities, Lansdowne College is in a favorable position to offer students the information and support necessary to make important decisions regarding their academic futures. Choosing how many AS and A-Level courses to take, and in which subjects, can greatly affect how favorably a university application is looked upon – this is where our expert team can help out. Call us for advice about how these decisions could affect you/your son’s or daughter’s academic future, and to discuss what support we can offer to help our students gain entrance into a leading university.
Timeline – What Happens Next?
June 2016 – First exams for new AS qualifications in Art & Design, Business, Computer Studies, Economics, English Literature, English Language, English Language and Literature, History, Science (Physics, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry) and Sociology.
September 2016 – First teaching of new A-Levels in Ancient Languages, D&T, Dance, Drama, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Music, PE and RS.
June 2017 – First exams for new A-Levels in Art & Design, Business, Computer Studies, Economics, English Literature, English Language, English Language and Literature, History, Science (Physics, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry) and Sociology. Plus, first exams for new AS qualifications in Ancient Languages, D&T, Dance, Drama, Further Maths, Geography, Maths, Modern Foreign Languages, Music, PE and RS.
September 2017 – First teaching of new A-Levels in Maths and Further Maths and a range of further subjects.
June 2018 – First exams for new A-Levels in Ancient Language, D&T, Dance, Drama, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Music, PE and RS. Plus, first AS exams in a range of further subjects, including Geology, Media, Law, and Film Studies.
June 2019 – First exams for new A-Levels in Maths and Further Maths and a range of further subjects.