A level or GCE A level - reformed Qualifications Wales approved (First awarded 2017)

Last updated
Last verified
First teaching 2015
First AS award 2016
First A level award 2017

This QIP refers to the reformed Qualifications Wales approved A level from first teaching 2015.

  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland (due to the qualification open market arrangement)

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.

The reformed Welsh AS and A levels will be available in some subjects in Wales and Northern Ireland (where the open qualifications market operates) from September 2015, with first A level exams being sat in 2017.

The introduction of the reformed Welsh AS and A levels was phased. A list of the subjects reformed can be found here: www.qualificationswales.org/english/qualifications/gcses-and-a-levels/gq-reform/what-subjects-are-available/

For A levels designed for Wales, 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 Wales from September 2015:

  • All current AS and A levels offered by AQA, CCEA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC in unreformed subjects or subjects where there is no specification designed to meet Qualifications Wales requirements.
  • Reformed AS and A levels for first teaching September 2015 accredited by the Welsh Government and offered by WJEC.

Note that students in Wales will be able to undertake A levels from different parts of the UK in subjects where there is no specification designed to meet Qualifications Wales requirements.

Awarding organisation
  • WJEC

The reformed Welsh 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.

The Welsh Government has published qualification principles for AS and A levels to help ensure consistency across its reformed AS and A level qualifications.

Subject areas
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • English language
  • English literature
  • English literature and language
  • Art and design
  • Business
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • History
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Welsh (first language)
  • 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 qualification 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
  • 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

Note that arrangements for determining A* at A level are under review and awarding arrangements will be confirmed in 2015.

Resit arrangements

Reformed Qualifications Wales approved 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

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).

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 approved by Qualifications Wales have been designed so as to be equivalent in demand to those accredited by Ofqual.

For Qualifications Wales approved A levels, science practical assessment will continue to contribute towards the learner’s final grade.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Reformed Qualifications Wales approved 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 2015
Reporting and certification information

Grade distributions by subject and total entries by subject are published by the Joint Council for Qualifications:


Further information

Link to Qualifications Wales website which hosts qualification and subject level principles and rules published by the Welsh Government/ Qualifications Wales: http://www.qualificationswales.org/

Link to WJEC website and specifications: www.wjec.co.uk