CIE Frequently asked questions about A and AS Levels?

Do I have to take an IGCSE in a subject before taking the GCE A-level in that subject?

  • No. However IGCSE's do provide a good foundation. You may wish to study IGCSE material informally before moving on to GCE A-level.

What are the prerequisites for taking a GCE A-levels subjects?

  • There are no prerequisites for taking a GCE A-level subject. The GCE A-levels are open to anyone.

What do A-level, AS and a2 mean?

  • A-level means Advanced level and refers to the overall qualification. The full A-level consists of two stages called AS and a2.
  • AS stands for Advanced Subsidiary level. Students who complete the correct pattern of AS level units (usually 2 or 3 units at this level, depending on the subject) will be awarded an AS-level certificate.
  • a2 refers to the final stage of A-levels. Students who have successfully completed AS units in a subject move on to do a2 units, which are of a higher standard. Completing the correct sequence of units at both AS and a2 level means you have finished a full A-level in a subject. University places are awarded on the basis of grades at A-level (so both AS + a2 in a subject) but completed AS awards also attract UCAS points and are often counted towards university entrance.

How many GCE A-levels should I take?

  • This depends on the reasons for which you are taking A-levels. If you are taking them as a stepping stone to a UK university, then the number you take will depend on what the university requires or the number of UCAS points you need to get into your course. The most common combinations call for three full A-levels.
  • For entry to universities in other countries, you will need to research their specific requirements.
  • While A-levels are useful for a number of other reasons such as high school completion, employment or career development, there are no requirements in terms of number of subjects for these uses.

What are the UCAS tariff points for an A-level subject?

  • UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admission Service) is the body through which applications to most UK degree courses are processed. It awards points to each grade in a variety of recognised, publicly examined qualifications from around the world. Accumulation of a points total determines the courses to which you can apply. Generally for a2 subjects an A will attract 120 points, a B 100 points, a C 80 points, a D 60 points and an E 40 points. AS units attract half the points of an a2. See the UCAS site for full details.

What is the cut-off time for withdrawing from a GCE A-level subject?

  • If you have paid your exam fee and then you decide to withdraw and want a refund, it will depend on whether the Edexcel date has already passed. This can be checked by emailing your exam centre. If you want to withdraw once the date has passed, you can but there will be no refund on exam fees. Finally, you may withdraw after the exam, but again, without refund.

Can I get my exam paper back?

  • Generally you can get your exam paper back. However there is a fee for this type of post-results service.

What can I do if I lose my certificate?

  • Contact the exam board and they will help you to obtain another one. There will be a fee for this.

Can I get extra help in my examinations?

  • If you have documentation to support that you would be disadvantaged in some way without it, extra help, usually in the form of more time or possibly the use of a computer, might be possible. You should submit any medical or other reports of this nature to the exam centre administration office well in advance of the exam session.

What happens if I miss my exam through no fault of my own?

  • If it is really through no fault of yours, your enrolment can be transferred to the next exam session with no additional exam fee. It may be possible to apply for some form of special consideration but this is unlikely to help you much in the case of a whole exam being missed.

What does cashing-in mean?

  • Cashing-in is the mechanism for generating a certificate. If you have to complete three units in order to complete the AS qualification, and you do all three you won't automatically get a certificate. Instead, the units will stay in your account. If you want a certificate to be generated, the cash-in must be applied for:

Where can I find out about going to university in the UK?

  • A good place to start is the UCAS website at UCAS. There are a number of education fairs held in Hong Kong each year and a lot of the UK universities attend. ITS provides extensive advice, counseling and support on the entire university application process from choosing a course to submitting the application. This includes personal statement writing, report submission, predicted grades and entrance test & interview preparation when appropriate.

Which universities in Australia and the USA accept A-levels?

  • Most universities in Australia and the USA will accept GCE A-levels as evidence that you have completed high school. Universities will probably have additional admission requirements but the qualification is usually accepted quite widely. This is a very useful Recognition Database.

When should I register? What is registration closing date?

  • The registration date is generally several months before the exam session you are interested in. Contact your exam centre well in advance to check for the date as missing it can produce a late fee.

Do some GCE A-level subjects have higher value than others?

  • This depends on the calibre of the university you are targeting or the course you are hoping to get into. Some subjects are not seen as sufficiently ‘academic’ to be accepted by some universities. A number of universities don't give credit for marks achieved in General Studies, for example. Check with your chosen universities to see if they have a subject or two they won't recognize.

What is the difference between the different exam boards offering GCE A-level subjects?

  • There is no difference in the level or standard of the A-level offered by different exam boards. There are differences in emphasis and also some differences in the format of the papers. The Joint Committee on Qualifications (JCQ) ensures that all the boards offering A-levels offer them at the same standard.

How many times a year are the GCE A-level exams offered?

  • Twice-January and May/June. Not all units are available in January but all are generally available in May/June.

Can I retake an exam if I am unhappy with my mark?

  • Yes. Any unit can be retaken. You will receive the higher result so if you don't do as well the second time round it won't matter. However some university courses, such as medicine, sometimes require students to have taken all their a2 units in a single sitting.

Is there any coursework for GCE A-level subjects?

  • Yes. Different boards have different requirements for different subjects but it is common for English and History to have coursework. Some subjects may be taken in a 100% exam format, particularly to allow access for students who are home-learners or for any reason do not have teachers available to guide coursework or do not have access to facilities such as scientific laboratories. In this case, one unit exam requires a written response to questions about the coursework techniques a students has missed out on:

How is an A (Star) grade awarded?

  • You will need to check the regulation for the specific board. Generally you require an A average and an average of 90% in your a2 units to qualify for an A ×

What is the exam fee?

  • You should contact your exam centre or check the bulletin to find out the fees.

Can I enroll through multiple exam centres?

  • You can for different exam sessions. If you took a number of units through Centre A and then through a change of school or situation you want to do some more units (or retake some of the previous ones) you can enroll in Centre B if you like. Make sure you enroll using the same UCI (unique Client Identifier) so all of your previous units and subjects and personal information can be used. You cannot enroll in Centre A and Centre B during the same exam session.

How do the A-levels compare to the IB?

  • A-levels and the IB Diploma are both ways to show you have completed high school and are both used to qualify for university entrance. There are strengths and weaknesses in both systems. Both systems can gain you entrance to universities world-wide. More Here.

Can I take GCE A-levels alongside BTEC?

  • Yes you can. Many universities in the UK have a UCAS tariff point requirement beyone that attainable through BTEC. For example, you might need 320 UCAS tariff points to gain entry to a particular course. BTEC does not always provide enough UCAS tariff points. For example if you receive MM for BTEC, you only have 200 tariff points. If you selected course needs 320, you are short of this figure. In order to gain more tariff points, you could do an A level subject or two, or an a2 and an AS.

How do I register as a private candidate?

  • You need to contact an exam centre. Generally you will need to make an appointment and attend an interview, just to make sure that your choices are correct.