What A Levels Used to Be
The A level exams use to be modular with two exam windows each year; one in January and one in the summer around May/June depending on your subject.
But about two years ago the January window was removed meaning you only have one exam window per year now. This means you have less chances to retake your exams - in fact your chances for retakes has halved. Here’s what the exam windows use to be like:
So now if you want to retake your exams you have to wait a whole year and retake them the following year in ADDITION to your second-year subjects. This makes things really difficult as you've effectively been stripped from four chances to sit the exams over a 2-year course to two chances. Ouch.
What Happens Now?
A level are no longer modular and are now "linear". This means in your second year of study you have to sit all your exams again as your AS results will not carry over. Here’s an image from my
A level psychology section illustrating this just to give you a working example.
So, what this means is that in the first summer exam window you will sit your AS papers. For our psychology example, you sit units 1 and unit 2 and then you get your AS certificate with your grade (other subjects will follow this roadmap too). If you decide not to continue into your second year you keep this AS grade.
If, however you choose to study the subjects into the second year to do the full A level; this AS grade you received, regardless of it being an A grade or even a U grade counts for nothing towards your A level and vanishes...POOF!
That's right. You will resit modified versions of your AS papers but this time they tend to have more content but you will also sit additional exam papers too covering the A level content from your second year of study.
So, going into your second year you're now cramming everything you studied in your first year as well as this upcoming second year and resitting all the previous topics you've studied for AS plus additional ones. And all the marks you received previously at AS do not contribute towards your A level grade at all.
Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?
Now there's two ways of looking at this.
Firstly, yes the exams just became a little harder but there’s a positive too; if you happen to do poorly at AS you now have a chance to make up for it at A level with no negative consequences.
On the other hand, if you did well at AS the downside is of course again your score doesn't count towards your A level mark so you need to put that level of effort in again (plus more).
Ultimately the first year of sixth form will teach you a lot about yourself and how your studies are going. So, it will either be a case of maintaining the positive work you've been putting in or buckling up and trying even harder.
I prefer to think of this situation as a glass half-full scenario as previously, people who did poorly at AS had to sit their AS exams again anyways as well as their A2 ones. The benefit now is you will be studying all the topics throughout with everyone else in class whether you did poorly or not so think of it really as a second chance.
If you also need additional help you can find this on
Whatuni's revision section. There's some fantastic guides and tips there.
When he's not fighting crime by day; you can catch Saj Devshi writing popular psychology textbooks here. Or follow him on twitter @sajdevshi.