What AS and A levels are
AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A (Advanced) level qualifications normally take two years to complete full-time in school or FE college, although they're also available to study part-time.
It is split into two parts, with one part studied in each year. The first part is known as the Advanced Subsidiary level (AS level). The second part is known as the A2 level.
The AS Level is a qualification in its own right, and the AS Level together with the A2 Level forms the complete A Level qualification.
In most cases, you need at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C. Sometimes, you need a grade B or above at GCSE in a particular subject to take it at AS or A level.
Some schools and FE colleges also ask that you have GCSE grade C or above in English and maths.
There are about 80 AS and A level subjects available. You can continue with subjects taken in Years 11and 12 and/or take new ones.
Most students studying for A levels take three or four AS levels in their first year. Doing this means you can keep your options open about which subjects to study as a full A level.
How you are assessed
The majority of AS and A2 are now each made up of two units - although some subjects still have three.
You are normally assessed on a mixture of about 70 per cent written exams and about 30 per cent internal assessment. This will vary from subject to subject with some being completely assessed through written exams.
There is assessment of practical skills in some subjects like science or art. All A levels must also include some 'synoptic assessment' as part of the A2. This means testing your understanding of the whole subject, and will normally contribute 20 per cent to the full A level.
If your exams don't go well
If you think something may have gone wrong with marking your exam, your school or FE college can ask for a re-mark or recount. If you are still unhappy, your school or college can appeal to the awarding body, and then finally, if necessary, to the independent Examinations Appeals Board.
You can also choose to resit individual units (although there are time limits and some are not available in January). The awarding body will count the higher mark from your two attempts.