How you are Assessed

A-levels are made up of two units: the AS-level and the A2-level, with the exception of certain other subjects that are made up of three units. The AS and A2 levels are taken in separate years, with the AS-level in the first year and the A2-level in the second. In order to meet the pass criteria for an A-level you must obtain grade E or above, with the highest result being an A grade (soon to be A* grade in 2010).

The majority of the assessment constitutes of written examinations with coursework being applied throughout the two years, which can consist of a number of mediums such as essays, performances, experiments, etc. Coursework is generally graded by a teacher then sent to an external examination board to be checked again to ensure you have the correct grade. Certain subjects, i.e. drama or art, requires a practical examination, such as a performance.

Written examinations generally take place in the early start of the year (January – February) and the end of the academic year (May-June). These must be sat in strict conditions, with all students silent and concentrating on their exam paper. The majority of the school year will prepare students for examinations, with several past papers being released for viewing.

At the end of the exam the papers are marked by the examination board, where they check to ensure all grading criteria has been met. After you have taken your examinations and you are not happy with your award, you can “cash in” and resit units, so all is not lost if you perform badly. Re marking can also be requested if you are unhappy with your results.

What your Grades mean

So you've sat your examinations and have your results, but what do they mean? Well, we know that the A-level grades range from E-A*, with A* being the highest, but what criteria do you have to meet to obtain an A* grade? Each module has a set of points that must be achieved in order to gain each specific grade.

The raw mark in papers are converted to marks on a Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) to give a broader understanding of how well a student performed. If students have over 80% of UMS marks with an average of 90% across A2 modules they are awarded an A*, 80+% is also an A grade, 70-79% offers a B grade, 60-69% is C, 50-59% is D and 40-49% offers you the bottom pass E grade.

Now that's the basics out of the way, but what does this mean in accordance with your UCAS points and university application? Well, each grade is equivalent to a number of points that meet the criteria for your university application. Your AS-level will also offer you UCAS points of up to 60 for an A grade, reducing by 10 per grade below.

An A* at A-level is equivalent to 140 UCAS tariff points, A gives you 120 points, B gives you 100, C is 80, D is 60 and E is 40. So, for example, if you achieved an A*, a B and a D at A-level then your UCAS points are 300.