Can you please explain what are AS/A levels and are they as difficult everyone makes them out to be.

The A level is a subject based qualification for school leaving students conferred by the UK Education Board and forms the backbone of the offers issued by Universities. The results are primarily based on written exams and the qualification focuses on academic subjects although some are work-related. The General Certificate of Education or Advance Level (A level) comprises of two sections/parts; the Advanced Subsidiary level (AS level) also known as A1 and the Advance Level (A Level) or A2. The grades are marked in letter grades with the highest grade starts with A.


The A level curriculum is offered in a period of two years. They start the first year with four subjects at AS level. In the second year students usually take 3 subjects and sit for the A Level external exam. The three subjects at the A level would typically be those which will assist in admission to University. The choice of subjects need not be between Math’s/Sciences or English/humanities, it is possible to mix them.  Exceptional students may prefer to take four A level exams. The selection of subjects is absolutely critical as it shall shape your future University application and it is advisable to discuss them with your counselor. Some Universities may think a subject does not have the required academic rigor so be careful in selection. You will be required to do extra reading so select subjects you are passionate about and are also your strengths.


Schools may differ in the way the program is offered as the Board is in the process of eliminating the AS level exam. Some schools in UAE, for instance you may begin with two AS papers and 2 A level papers during the first year and complete two more AS and one A level in the final year. The new system may offer three to four A levels in the last two years of high school with the external exams scheduled for all four subjects at the end of second year similar to some other curriculums.


It is normal for students to feel anxious and nervous when they begin their final years of school but you can easily overcome the exam stress by time management, identification of areas of weakness and regular revision. It is advisable for students who are changing the curriculum to begin with extra preparatory classes. This allows the student not only to become familiar with the unknown and also better acquainted with the new curriculum. Make notes after each class with all the information, diagrams and tables to help you revise them later. Maybe form a small group and study together with your friends. Extra coaching, if required, could assist students in their grades and help achieve the required University entry requirements.  To understand the structure and kind of questions that will be asked practice as much as possible with previous year’s exam papers. These help immensely.

Having said that don’t forget to have fun, socialize and play sports. This will help you focus better!

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