North Bristol Post 16 Centre

North Bristol Post 16 Centre

North Bristol Post 16 Centre

Cotham and Redland Green Learning Communities

A Level Reform 2016: FAQs

Curriculum Changes 2016 

Curriculum reform explained

Since 2000 A Levels have been modular courses, meaning that some exams are taken in the first year of the course and some in the second and with some opportunities for re-sits. The first year, or AS year, has contributed 50% of the marks to the overall A Level grade and the second year, or A2 year, has contributed the other 50%.

In a 3-year rolling programme that started in September 2015, A levels are changing and becoming linear, meaning that all exams are taken at the end of two years of study. AS Levels will continue as separate qualifications but the marks from them will no longer count towards the final A Level. All other subjects are due to also become linear over the next few years.


Subjects reformed in 2015

Subjects reforming in 2016

Art (fine art)



Drama & theatre









English language

Physical education

English literature

Religious studies

English language & literature















  1. How are the new A levels different, and how is the Centre going to make sure we do well?

The biggest difference with the new A levels is in how they are going to be assessed. There will be very little coursework and all the exams will be taken at the end of the two years. Even if you take an AS qualifications in reformed subjects half-way through your course, the marks will not count towards your final grade and you will have to take the equivalent of this exam again at the end of your final year. The content of each A level is also being fully revised and will be more stretching, sometimes including more demanding maths content, and often requiring longer, more sustained pieces of writing. There will be more chances to explore topics in depth and to use creative approaches to study. In all subjects, the exams will require you to put together what you have learnt from across the whole two years of the course.

The Centre will ensure that, through teaching and individual support, you are properly prepared for these new approaches and we will give you plenty of practice in developing the essential examination skills required to secure good grades. We are confident that, by concentrating on developing your expertise in mainly three subjects right from the start, we can make sure that you get the grades you need for an exciting future career.


  1. What happens if I choose a mix of new and old style subjects?

There is no problem doing a mix and match, or even if you choose to do all old style subjects. However, you will have to take the AS exams in the summer of 2017. You must still choose the three subjects you want to focus on right from the start, even if they are all old style subjects. If you want to do four, you will have to make sure that you meet our internal requirements for a four subject programme. For example, ensuring that the majority of your GCSE grades are at A*-A grade level.


  1. Why does Further Maths always have to be a fourth subject?

Further Maths is an important and powerful part of your programme, especially if you are considering competitive applications for Maths, Physics, or Engineering. You have to study it alongside Maths Statistics. For Further Maths, as part of a four A level programme, you will need to have a majority of A*-A grades at GCSE, including at least an A in Maths as well as having passed your GCSE English Language.


  1. Exactly what GCSE grades do I need for a four A level programme compared to a three A level programme?

For a four A level programme, you must have at least 5 A or A* grades at GCSE, including both English and Maths at C grade or above. You will also have to meet the subject specific entry requirements for all four of your subject choices. For three A levels you need 5 GCSE grades of C or above, including both English and/or Maths. Again, you will also need to meet the subject specific requirements for all three subjects, available on our website.


  1. How much work will it be to take four subjects?

Four subjects is a demanding programme, due to this, and even before A level reform, most of our students at the Centre choose to start on three. Very few universities or employers will actually require you to have taken four subjects, and it is usually better to do really well in three rather than spreading yourself more thinly over four. The only areas where we would advise you to think of taking four subjects would be if you are considering applying for medicine, veterinary medicine, or for the most competitive universities like Oxford or Cambridge. Competitive universities may want to see Further Maths as part of this package if you are looking at a Maths, Physics or Engineering degree.


  1. Will universities expect me to have done AS exams?

Most universities will set you an offer based on the grades you get in three subjects (the main exceptions are set out in point 5 above). We have had confirmation from many universities that a three A level programme will meet their requirements fully. They understand that AS levels are no longer going to be sat by the majority of students. Universities will also look at your GCSE grades, your personal statement and our reference – so your AS grades were only ever part of the picture they had of you, and you will not be at any disadvantage without them.


  1. Why are English and Maths GCSE so important?

We know that success at advanced level study and beyond, in both the workplace and at university, is heavily dependent on you having strong skills with both English and Maths. You would struggle to do well if you did not have these basic building blocks in place before you start with us and they are, therefore, part of our basic entry requirements. Even if you do have a Grade C, you may find that you need to work on particular elements of your skills in these subjects with us because the content of A levels has become more demanding in these areas. You will be able to do this through your subject teachers and also through our academic mentors.


  1. I am worried that I don’t do well in exams and the new A levels have very little course work. What should I do?

If you did better in your coursework than you did in exams you should take a very serious look at our range of BTEC Diplomas, which are assessed mostly through coursework. Each of the courses is the equivalent to either one or two full A levels and we have a long track record of students accessing prestigious university courses with these or a mix of these qualifications. It is still a very demanding course and you have to be ready for constant deadlines over the full two years – but most of our students get excellent grades, with the average profile being D*/D equal to A grades at A level. You will certainly do better with this sort of profile from a BTEC rather than struggling for good grades at A level because of exams.