OCR Process of A level Examination, Grading methodology and Accepting boards

The number of A-level exams taken by students can vary. A typical route in the state sector (in which around 90% of students are educated) is to study four subjects at and then drop down to three at a2 level, although some students continue with their fourth subject. Three is usually the minimum number of A-levels required for university entrance, with some universities specifying the need for a fourth AS subject. There is no limit on the number of A-levels one can study (except in Singapore, where students are restricted to 12 “academic units” and private candidates are also limited in their number of subjects), some students do obtain five or more A-levels. It is permissible to take A-levels in languages one already speaks fluently, or courses with overlapping content. General Studies and Critical Thinking, which require a grasp of basic political ideas and current affairs in order to write essays rather than specific learning, sometimes augment a student's batch of qualifications.

While many universities do not consider an A-level in General Studies to be a stand-alone subject (and thus is not accepted as part of an offer), it may affect the offer which a student receives. For example, a student of Mathematics, Physics and Computing might receive an offer of B-B-C for a Physics degree, whereas one also taking General Studies might receive B-C-C.

Unlike A-level General Studies, Critical Thinking, which aims to improve student's analytical skills, has generally received a more positive reception from universities. Unlike General Studies, it is often given a UCAS Tariff score, and some University admissions tutors see it is an advantage when applying for competitive courses.

The A-level has been criticised for providing less breadth since many A-level students do not generally study more than three subjects in their final year. A major part of this criticism is that, while a three-or four-subject curriculum can be balanced across the spectrum (e. g. students may choose one science subject, a language subject, and a “creative” subject like Music), in many cases students choose three closely linked subjects, for instance, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry or Sociology, Psychology, and Politics. This is in part due to university entrance requirements, which, for degree programs such as medicine, may require three related A-level subjects, but non-traditional combinations are becoming more common ( “British Council Australia Education UK” ). Thus, while the purpose of Curriculum 2000 was to encourage students to undertake contrasting subjects, to broaden their ‘skill-base’ there is a tendency to pursue similar disciplines. However, others disagree, arguing that the additional AS-level (s) studied would already have provided more breadth compared with the old system.

Grading and international comparisons

The passing grades for A-levels are A (Star), A, B, C, D and E. The A (Star) grade was introduced in September 2008 for higher education entry in 2010, and is awarded to candidates who achieve an A in their overall A-level, with a score of at least 90% at a2. There is no A (Star) grade at AS or unit level.

According to UCAS and HKEAA, the Hong Kong A-level examination has historically been benchmarked against the UK A-levels. In general, a UK A grade is broadly equivalent to a Hong Kong A-C grade. This conclusion is based mainly on the percentage of pupils achieving the respective grades in respective exams. In the UK, on average 25% of participants of each subject achieved an A grade every year, compared to the 25% A-C rate in Hong Kong-A (4%), A-B (10%), A-C (25%). According to the BBC, the percentage of students achieving an A (Star) is about 8 − 10%, which essentially lies within the A-B range of their Hong Kong counterparts in respective subjects. Comparison between UK A-levels and the Hong Kong A-levels

Examination boards

A-level examinations are administered through a series of examination boards. These are the 5 GCE Examining Groups and Boards. These were originally based on the major UK universities but have over the last 50 years merged into five very large organisations: AQA, OCR, Edexcel, WJEC and CCEA. Some of these boards also offer A-levels to international students, specifically Edexcel. Another large organization which offers GCE qualifications for international students only is CIE. OCR and CIE are both branches of the parent organization, Cambridge Assessment. In the UK it is customary for schools to register with multiple examination boards and to “mix and match” A-levels to get a combined curriculum that fits the school profile.