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General Certificate of Education (GCE) AS and A Levels

GCE AS and A are available in a wide range of subjects. They can be used as a basis for higher level study or training or direct entry into employment.

GCE AS and A Levels: Main features

An A level qualification consists of advanced subsidiary (AS) and A2 units.

The AS is a stand-alone qualification and is worth half a full A level qualification. It normally consists of two units (assessed at the standard expected for a student half way through an A level course). Together these two units contribute 50 per cent of the full A level.

The A2 is the second half of a full A level qualification. It normally consists of two units (assessed at the standard expected for a student at the end of a full A level course). Together thee two units are worth 50 per cent of the full A level qualification.

Before September 2008, A levels normally comprised three AS units and three A2 units.

Most units are assessed by examination but some are assessed by internal assessment. The AS covers the less demanding material in an A level course. The A2 covers the more demanding material. In the A2, students:

  • study topics in more depth; 
  • extend their knowledge and understanding of the subject by studying new topics;
  • combine knowledge, skills and understanding from across the A level course.

Revised specifications in 2008


The revised A level specifications introduced in September 2008 included a new A* grade awarded from 2010 to those students who have achieved both of the following: 

  • Grade A overall (that is 80 per cent of the maximum uniform marks for the whole A level qualification);
  • 90 per cent of the maximum uniform marks on the aggregate of the A2 unit scores.

The A* grade is awarded for the A level qualification only and not for the AS qualification or for individual units.

GCE AS/A Levels in Applied Subjects

GCE AS and A levels are available in applied as well as traditional subjects. More information about these can be found on the GCE AS/A Levels in Applied Subjects page. 

Advanced Extension Awards

The advanced extension award (AEA) has been withdrawn since June 2009, except in mathematics, where it continues until at least June 2013. (This is offered by EDEXCEL. See more at the EDEXCEL website).   

The AEA was first examined in June 2002.  It was introduced to challenge the top 10 per cent of students nationally and help differentiate between the most able candidates. 

Changes to A level specifications from 2008 to introduce ‘stretch and challenge’ and an A* grade created an overlap with the original purpose of AEAs. Consequently, the decision was made to withdraw the AEA qualification.

The regulation of GCE AS/A Levels

AS and A levels are what are known as ‘regulated qualifications’. AS and A levels have to meet specific criteria which are normally agreed across Wales, England and Northern Ireland. Further information about the regulation of qualifications, including AS and A Levels, can be found in the Regulation of Qualifications section of this site.

GCE AS/A levels currently available

A list of all GCE AS/A levels (including applied  AS/A levels) approved by the Welsh Assembly Government can be found in the Approved qualifications section.

There are five awarding bodies that offer GCE AS/A Level qualifications. and you can find out what is available by visiting their websites: