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AS and A levels from Sept 2015

(75 Posts)
wincy Fri 17-Oct-14 16:29:09

My DD is currently making her A level and sixth form choices for next year.
The sixth form at her current school are asking them to choose 4 AS levels (and do the exams) in Y12 and then drop one and continue with 3 A levels in Y13. These will nearly all be the new linear exams and the AS levels won't count towards the A level.
I can see this will allow some flexibility but also a lot of extra work? I suppose one of the good things about a 2 year linear exam would be that Y12 wouldn't be so focused on exams and allow for extra teaching time. I assumed with the new exams they would just be doing the A levels and not bothering with AS.
Would this be the worst of both worlds? The school says this format will be for those starting in 2015 only, during the transition period for the new exams. We haven't visited any other sixth forms yet so don't know if this is what other schools are planning to do.

Middleagedmotheroftwo Fri 17-Oct-14 16:31:56

This is what all the schools round here do: 4 AS levels and 3 A levels. Ive never really understood why.

wincy Fri 17-Oct-14 16:41:41

Yes, but from 2015 most of the A levels will be linear and the AS levels will no longer count towards the A level results?

MillyMollyMama Fri 17-Oct-14 16:42:43

I would have thought AS/A2 policy would be dictated by university entrance requirements and preferences. If the best universities expect 4 AS to have been studied, then 4 is what the schools should offer. Maybe 3 is not enough?

amothersplaceisinthewrong Fri 17-Oct-14 16:46:40

My DCS who have both graduated in the last couple of years did 4 to AS, but the points/grades were from the 3 they took to A level. Neither ever put the fourth subject on the form as they hated it and did not do well in it.. Both went to Russell Group unis

Seeline Fri 17-Oct-14 16:46:58

I see your concern wincy. I suppose it really depends whether the content covered in the AS courses is included in the syllabus for the relevant A level, or whether the A level requires the equivalent of 2 years work on top of the AS syllabus. Don't have an answer as my DCs aren't old enough for me to worry yet - it will all have changed again by the time they get there grin

LIZS Fri 17-Oct-14 16:47:01

I didn't think A levels were changing that soon . But surely most A levels would build on the AS syllabus anyway, just as they build on GCSE and Degrees in turn build on A level knowledge.

TeenAndTween Fri 17-Oct-14 16:47:37

The two 6th form colleges I have visited in the past few weeks (Hants) are both not offering people to do AS and A2 in the new linear subjects. They need to decide up front(ish) whether they are doing 1 year or 2 year.

This is obviously only for the A levels in the first wave, e.g. English and History, but not Spanish which will continue to be AS followed by A2 for the 2015 intake.

wincy Fri 17-Oct-14 16:48:03

But why not 3 A levels and 1 AS?

cricketballs Fri 17-Oct-14 17:04:33

Even though the AS results will no longer count towards the overall A level result, by doing the AS exams at the end of yr 12 it gives the staff and students an indication of performance and whether the student is capable of being examined in that subject.

grunty Fri 17-Oct-14 17:08:08

I am also visiting 6th forms with my DD (we are in London). All the schools we have visited so far, are advertising the courses as one year AS and 2 year A2 to run simultaneously.

The students will gain an AS qualification but then be examined again on presumably the same subject matter in their A2 exams at the end of the course.

We visited a school last night where a Head said the only shred of hope was that the general election will take place before September 2015 so this idiotic policy could be reversed.

TeenAndTween Fri 17-Oct-14 17:20:20

Our 6th forms are still offering 3As and 1AS to more able pupils but seem to be recommending 'just' 3As for other pupils much more so than they were doing this time last year. (DD in y11 now but we looked round in y10 too).

The advantage of not doing the AS is that the whole of the first year can be spent getting to grips with the subjects without having to worry about stopping early for revision and honing exam technique. Also kids get a break from pressure of GCSEs rather than 3 years public exams on the trot.

(Obviously there are disadvantages too).

titchy Fri 17-Oct-14 17:45:29

I actually see it as a positive putting them in for AS - the content is the same as the first year of the two year A level so it gives students a chance to see how they're getting to grips with the jump up from GCSE. It means decisions over which to drop in year 13 can be based on results, rather than making the decision in March before exam entries are finalised. It also means students are applying to university with at least some more recent evidence of ability, rather than universities relying purely on predictions which can be fiction over optimistic.

Yes I realise it means three years on the trot of public exams, but on balance i think I prefer that than students getting to A levels and finding out they weren't really up to it - better to find out a year before and have a chance at resits, or changing track.

ChocolateWombat Fri 17-Oct-14 18:28:32

There are several issues and unknowns with all this.
Firstly we don't know if having taken AS exams in Yr12 will be something universities want.
Secondly many state schools won't put them in for AS unless they have to, because of the cost of an extra sitting of exams for a whole year group. If they can avoid it, they will.
Thirdly, subjects syllabi differ in terms of how far the AS one year stand alone course relates to the A2 course. In some cases the AS just will be the first year of the A2...easy then to combine people just doing 1 year with 2 and easy to move onto the A2. In this case the AS would act like a formal mock. However, in many cases it is not as easy as that as there is material in the AS which you might not choose to teach until the U6th in a 2 year course and it won't fit well to cover it earlier. So for some courses, it will be necessary to follow the A2 course and it will be tricky to do AS based on that teaching at the end of the L6th.

Persoanlly I like an exam at the end of the L6th. I think it focuses students in the way am internal paper never does. Of course, the fact it won't count towards the final A2 may lessen this effect, but not if it is going on the UCAS form.

Schools are currently choosing approaches and syllabi. They are hoping to hear from the universities soon, because of course,what they want will be a big driver.
Not doing AS levels means UCAS forms only have GCSEs and an A Level prediction. There is debate about how useful AS grades are, but for example, Oxbridge often decide who to interview by seeing who has 90 UMS in each subject at AS. This helps them distinguish between the masses with good GCSEs.

If choosing now, all you can do is go with the subjects which will keep doors open and you are good at and enjoy. If poss go for 2 facilitating subjects. You will just have to trust the school to choose the right approach.

ChocolateWombat Fri 17-Oct-14 18:32:51

And the studying of 4 to AS, going down to 3 at A2 has been the norm now for more than 10 years. Don't worry about that.
Originally it was to encourage breadth of study, so people were not overly specialised too young. So a scientist might take an arts course as their 4th at AS. As time has gone on, there is less push for the 4th to be purposefully different.
It is useful to be able to see which subjects you do well at and less well at the end of the L6th. Without the AS it will be harder to decide which one to drop.

roguedad Fri 17-Oct-14 19:11:25

If your child does well in all four at the end of the lower 6th and has a chance of applying for a top uni, whatever you do do NOT drop the fourth one at the beginning of the Upper 6th. It will make a big difference to top RG application assessment, even though you might eventually get an offer based on 3. Then and only then does it make any sense to drop the fourth. If the four are clearly too much that is a different matter. Go on the tables and see how many UCAS points the successful entrants have at top unis - it's often over 500. The math ain't hard. There's a lot of nonsense on this forum on this topic.

titchy Fri 17-Oct-14 20:00:20

Sorry rogue dad even the top universities do not expect any more than 3 A levels (maths/ further maths may be the exception).
The large tariff scores come from extras that won't be in the offer (A level general studies, critical thinking, music exams) as well as the AS done in year 12. The EPQ also carries tariff points.
ALL these quals add up to a misleadingly large average tariff score, but that doesn't mean that's a requirement.

Hobnobissupersweet Fri 17-Oct-14 20:13:17

Lot of nonsense spoken mainly by rogue dad, Russell group and Oxbridge ime ( teacher at "good" school, lots to Russell and Oxbridge each year)
The offer is based on 3 A levels, the reason being that unis do not want to discriminate against those candidates who go to schools where that is the maximum allowed. The fact that most candidates will have points scores in excess of that is irrelevant.

Roisin Sat 18-Oct-14 07:41:44

I predict that by, say, courses starting in 2017, most schools will have ditched the AS completely. This will allow them to teach right through Lower Sixth year and not lose a huge amount of time for revision and exams. Schools will do their own internal mocks to assess progress, as they did in the past. Some independent schools have already announced they will do this from 2015 for those subjects where the new A levels are already available. (Sciences, computing, english, history, some others, not maths.)

However, this will probably mean an increase in university pre-testing, which is already becoming a bit of a nightmare as different universities require different tests and it's very difficult for schools to provide adequate support for all of these.

There is research evidence that suggests that GCSE performance is a more accurate prediction of success at university level, than AS performance. So it is rather strange that so much is based on AS performance. Cambridge, in particular, want to know the exact UMS marks scored for each module.

In the meantime most exam boards have developed co-teachable syllabuses for AS and linear A levels, so it won't be very different from now, except that students will have to revise two years' worth of material for the final exams and that they won't have any grades or marks "in the bank" as nothing carries forward.

summerends Sat 18-Oct-14 08:51:11

We have been to some sixth form visits of some very academic schools and what roisin says seems to align most with what we've heard. In those schools pupils will not be taking AS levels for the subjects that have the new format unless they are doing a standalone AS level. As we used to, they will have internal mocks. The recommendation seems to be to focus on 3 plus a standalone AS or 4 A levels (particularly if one subject is further maths). This does n't include subjects such as CT or GS or of course the EPQ.

boys3 Sat 18-Oct-14 10:45:40

There is research evidence that suggests that GCSE performance is a more accurate prediction of success at university level, than AS performance. So it is rather strange that so much is based on AS performance. Cambridge, in particular, want to know the exact UMS marks scored for each module.

Replication of government research uncovers shaky evidence on relationship between school and degree performance.

I'm yet to be wholly convinced that figures produced by the DoE to support a policy desired by Michael Gove and his inner coterie could necessarily be described as research evidence.

The attached subsequent analysis by the LSE of the DoE's research can be found in the link below. I'd rate LSE's research ability, along with that of Cambridge University, as somewhat higher than that of the politically driven DoE.

blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/07/30/replicating-government-commissioned-research/

It's worth a read.

boys3 Sat 18-Oct-14 10:48:08

Should have added that as a summary of the LSE research

substantial flaws in the government research including sample bias, missing data and poor research design. Rather than confirming that AS level results ‘add a negligible degree of accuracy to university performance prediction’, the team found that by scrapping AS-levels for examination criteria, 1-in-5 students capable of getting a good degree at the institution of their choice might not be given that chance

secretsquirrels Sat 18-Oct-14 15:07:25

boys3 Very interesting article. In particular the fact that four year courses were excluded from the government research. Four year courses tend to attract maths / science engineering students so a huge percentage of courses.
There was another thread which covered some good points on the new AS /A levels.

LeBearPolar Sat 18-Oct-14 15:40:12

I am a secondary teacher currently researching the new specs in English. In makes no sense in the English courses for A Level students to sit the AS exam at the end of the L6 and then continue to take the A Level - the AS modules will not count towards the A Level in any way.

AtiaoftheJulii Sat 18-Oct-14 15:55:40

It might not make much sense for them to take all 4 AS exams, but they might take e.g. two perhaps if they weren't sure which of their 3rd or 4th subjects to drop/carry on with? Mightn't that make sense? I know that the A2 exam would cover the same material again.

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