A level or GCE A level - reformed CCEA (First awarded 2019)

Last updated
Last verified
First teaching 2017
First AS award 2018
First A level award 2019

This QIP refers to the revised CCEA Regulation accredited A level from first teaching 2017.

  • Northern Ireland

A levels were originally introduced to facilitate entry to higher education.

Whilst this remains a primary purpose, over time A levels have also established a role in recognising achievements from purely academic to more applied skills and knowledge that are valued within employment.

Education context

AS and A levels are the qualifications that the majority of young people in England, Northern Ireland and Wales use to gain entry to university.

For A levels designed to meet CCEA Regulation requirements, the AS will be retained as a contributory part (40%) of the A level assessment and as a standalone qualification.

The following types of AS and A levels will be available for use in schools in Northern Ireland from September 2016:

  • All current AS and A levels offered by AQA, CCEA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC in unreformed subjects.
  • Reformed AS and A levels for first teaching September 2015 and September 2016 accredited by the Welsh Government and Qualifications Wales, and offered by WJEC.
  • Reformed AS and A levels for first teaching September 2015 and September 2016 accredited by Ofqual and offered by AQA, OCR, Pearson and Eduqas, apart from sciences where the marks for the assessment of practical skills do not contribute to the overall grade.
Awarding organisation
  • CCEA

The revised CCEA A levels are unitised qualifications, made up of Advanced Subsidiary (AS) units and A2 units.

The AS assesses the first year of the A level – usually two units – and is worth 40% of a full A level. Assessment within the AS is regarded as less demanding than that taken at the end of the second year of A level studies (known as the A2).

The A2 is the second half of the full A level qualification. It also typically contains two units. Most units are assessed by examination, with some assessed internally.

The proportion of mandatory / optional content varies across subject.

Subject areas
  • Mathematics
  • Further mathematics
  • Professional business services

The majority of revised CCEA AS / A levels will be introduced for first teaching in 2016, with first AS award 2017, first A level award 2018.

  • Level 3

Whilst both the AS and A level are Level 3 qualifications, assessment within the AS is regarded as less demanding than that taken during the second year of A level studies (known as the A2).


A* - E


Assessment opportunities for AS and A levels are available in May/June and candidates may take the opportunity to be assessed in units or at the end of the course.

Assessment is generally by written external examination except where this is not appropriate.

Additionally, non-examination assessments, practical examination, portfolio assessment and coursework are used to assess those aspects of the course which are not suitable for assessment via a timed written examination.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Raw marks awarded in an exam are converted to a Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) to facilitate comparability across years in terms of the consistency of demand of the exam paper.

Hence, one year a candidate may need a minimum of 62 raw marks to get an A grade but another year a minimum of 64 marks may be required for an A grade.

For most A level subjects, after completing their AS units candidates take two A2 assessment units which together have a total weighting of 60% UMS of the A level.

The contribution of external assessment to the total award is determined at subject level.

There is a requirement for synoptic assessment, set out in the design principles.

Grade boundaries for the A level are defined in relation to the total available UMS points to help ensure consistent understanding of requirements over time.

  • A*at A level requires 80% or more of available UMS to include 90% of UMS from A2 units
  • A at A level requires 80% or more of available UMS
  • B at A level requires 70% to 79% of available UMS
  • C at A level requires 60% to 69% of available UMS
  • D at A level requires 50% to 59% of available UMS
  • E at A level requires 40% to 49% of available UMS
  • U at A level if less than 40% of available UMS
Resit arrangements

Revised CCEA AS and A levels allow one resit of each assessment unit in May/June, with the best result counting towards the qualification. 

There are no longer assessment opportunities in January.

Resits are limited to one per module; hence, students have one opportunity to resit their AS units within a standard two-year A level programme.

They can, however, resit either or both AS or A2 units in subsequent years (provided they have not previously resat that module).

Guided/notional learning hours
360 hours
UCAS Tariff points

A level

Grade Points
A* 56
A 48
B 40
C 32
D 24
E 16


Key issues for UK HE admissions

The 2017 and 2018 admissions cycle will see large numbers of applicants applying to HE with a mixture of new and current AS and A levels due to the staggered reform timetable.

AS and A levels accredited in England, Northern Ireland and Wales will differ in terms of structure, content and assessment arrangements. Grading will remain the same.

A levels accredited by CCEA Regulation have been designed so as to be equivalent in demand to those accredited by Ofqual.

For CCEA Regulation accredited A levels, science practical assessment will continue to contribute towards the learner’s final grade.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Revised CCEA A levels will continue to be taken in May/June and results will continue to be made available mid-August.

Qualification date
Starting from 01 Sep 2017 (CCEA revised A levels will be delivered from September 2017 as per the subject timetable in section 'Subject areas'.)
Reporting and certification information

Grade distributions by subject and total entries by subject are published by the Joint Council for Qualifications: www.jcq.org.uk.

Further information

Link to CCEA website: http://ccea.org.uk/qualifications