UK Students Celebrate Increase in Top A-Level Marks

A Levels and the Grading System: A Comprehensive Overview

When it comes to understanding the UK’s educational framework, one cannot overlook the significance of A Levels and the intricate grading system that supports it. For students, parents, and educators, it’s essential to get a grasp of how this system works to better prepare and evaluate performance. Let’s delve into the intricacies of A Levels and the grading system that upholds its credibility.

1. What are A Levels?

A Levels, short for Advanced Level, are a set of subject-specific qualifications offered mainly in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. They follow the GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and typically span two years, with students generally starting at age 16 and finishing at age 18.

2. Structure of A Levels:

  • AS Level: The first year of A Levels. Some students might choose to sit for AS Level exams, but these results will no longer count towards the final A Level grade in reformed subjects.
  • A2 Level: The second year of A Levels, where the content is more in-depth and rigorous than AS Level. It culminates in the final A Level exams. Download all notes and past papers like A level and matric or grade 111 and 12.

3. The Grading System:

A Levels are graded using an alphabetical system. Here’s a breakdown:

  • A* (pronounced ‘A star’): This is the highest grade achievable and is a reflection of outstanding knowledge and understanding.
  • A: An excellent grasp of the subject.
  • B: Above average understanding.
  • C: Good level of comprehension.
  • D: Satisfactory performance.
  • E: The minimum passing grade.
  • U: Stands for “ungraded” and indicates that the student did not achieve the minimum marks required to pass.

4. How Grades are Determined:

Grades are assigned based on the total points scored in exams. The exact boundary for each grade varies slightly year by year and among exam boards, based on the exam’s difficulty and the overall performance of students that year. It’s a process that aims to ensure fairness across different years and subjects.

5. The Role of Coursework:

In some subjects, coursework can contribute to the final grade. The weightage of coursework varies by subject and examination board. However, with recent reforms, many subjects now place a heavier emphasis on end-of-course examinations.

6. Importance of A Levels:

A Levels are a critical determinant for university admissions in the UK and many other countries. A student’s performance in A Levels can influence:

  • University Offers: Many universities set conditional offers based on predicted A Level grades.
  • Course Selection: Some courses may require specific A Level subjects or grades as a prerequisite.
  • Scholarships and Bursaries: High achievers can be rewarded with financial incentives from educational institutions.

7. The Future of A Levels and the Grading System:

While A Levels have been a cornerstone of the British education system for decades, they’re not without criticism. Some argue for a broader baccalaureate system, while others call for more continuous assessment. The grading system, too, has its detractors, with claims that grade inflation diminishes the value of top grades. However, any changes would be implemented gradually to ensure continuity and fairness.


A Levels and their associated grading system are pivotal in determining a student’s future educational pathway. As the educational landscape evolves, it’s essential to stay informed about these qualifications, whether you’re a student aiming for top grades, a parent supporting your child, or an educator shaping the next generation. Regardless of changes or reforms, the spirit of A Levels – to assess and celebrate academic achievement – remains intact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *