AS or GCE AS - unreformed

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This QIP refers to the legacy AS qualification.

  • England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Wales

The unreformed AS was introduced in September 2000.

The AS assesses the first year of A level study and is also a stand-alone qualification in its own right.

The unreformed AS encourages students to take a wider range of subjects in their first year of A level study, whilst allowing students to drop a subject and specialise further in the second year.

Many HEPs also consider candidates’ AS results in their admissions decision-making.

Education context

Existing, unreformed AS and A levels will continue across England, Northern Ireland and Wales until a new reformed qualification is available or until the subject is withdrawn - see There are some subjects that are not being reformed. For a full list - see

The new reformed AS and A levels will be available in some subjects in England, Northern Ireland and Wales from September 2015, with first AS exams being sat in 2016.

Further information about the reformed AS qualifications can be found at:… (England)

and… (Wales)

Awarding organisations
  • AQA
  • CCEA
  • OCR
  • Pearson (Edexcel)
  • WJEC

Unreformed A levels are made up of Advanced Subsidiary (AS) units and A2 units.

AS and A levels are available in over 45 subject areas and about 780,000 are awarded each year. They are the qualifications that the majority of young people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland use to gain entry to university.

The AS is a stand-alone qualification, usually made up of two units, and is half the size of the full A level. Assessment of the AS covers the first year of A level study and is regarded as less demanding than that taken at the end of the second year of A level study (known as the A2). Most units are assessed by examination, but some are assessed internally.

Prior to the 2008 revision of the AS /A2 structure, the majority of A levels contained six units and some subjects have retained this structure (e.g. mathematics and Welsh).

The proportion of mandatory and optional content varies across subjects.

Qualification regulators publish subject criteria for most AS and A levels to help ensure consistency in mandatory content across awarding bodies, whilst allowing for some additional optional content.

Prior to 2000, the AS referred to the Advanced Supplementary levels, which were separate qualifications from GCE A levels.

Subject areas

The introduction of reformed Ofqual and Welsh Government accredited AS and A levels will be phased. The subject timetable for their reform can be found at:… (England)

and… (Wales)

In Northern Ireland, from September 2015 students will be able to undertake the reformed AS and A levels available to students in England and Wales. CCEA awarding organisation will revise its AS and A levels for first teaching in September 2016.

  • 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 at the end of the second year of A level study (known as the A2).


A – E


Unreformed AS examinations are taken at the end of the course (modular units assessment shifted to end of year assessment).

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

Additionally, controlled 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.

Each unit of assessment is assessed by one method as specified in subject criteria.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

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

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

For the majority of subjects, candidates take two AS assessment units which together have a total weight of 50% of the A level. (A levels in mathematics and Welsh have three AS and three A2 units).

Units contribute 15–35% of the full A level.

The contribution of external assessment to the total award is determined at subject level. For example, in mathematics this is a minimum of 80%, in English literature a minimum of 60% and 70% in science subjects.

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

  • A at AS requires 80% of available UMS
  • B at AS requires 70% of available UMS
  • C at AS requires 60% of available UMS
  • D at AS requires 50% of available UMS
  • E at AS requires 40% of available UMS
  • U at AS if less than 40% of available UMS
Resit arrangements

AS and A levels allow resits of an assessment unit with the best result counting towards the qualification.

There are no longer assessment opportunities in January, hence students have one opportunity to resit their AS units within a standard two-year A level programme, but they can resit either or both AS or A2 units in subsequent years.

Guided/notional learning hours
180 hours
UCAS Tariff points


Grade Points
A 20
B 16
C 12
D 10
E 6


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 at the end of the second year of A level study (known as the A2).

As AS results are generally available at the point of applying to university, many HEPs use these to inform offers made to A level students.

The majority of offers made to A level students are expressed in terms of full A level grades.

During Confirmation and Clearing, HEPs may consider additional AS grades when choosing between applicants with the same A level grades.

Some HEPs making points-based offers will accept points gained from AS whilst others will not.

Grade distributions vary across AS subjects, reflecting the fact that some AS and A levels attract students with higher achievements at GCSE.

Some highly selective HEPs ask for candidates' Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) points as well as grades and may focus on grades achieved in one examination sitting.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Unreformed AS qualifications are taken in May/June and results are available mid-August.

Qualification date
Starting from 01 Sep 2015
Qualification dates notes

From September 2015, both unreformed and new AS and A levels will be offered in schools and colleges in England, Northern Ireland and Wales in different subjects, based on the timetable of phased reform. Once a new reformed specification is introduced, current specifications in these subjects will become legacy specifications.

Reporting and certification information

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

Further information