Steven Walker, Maths Subject Advisor
Students sometimes feel daunted by the pressures of A Level examinations, especially in the past couple of years after the disruptions to face to face learning. They may feel that sitting the AS offers a back up to the full A Level. This blog answers questions we’ve been asked about sitting the AS alongside the A Level in the summer.
No. The decoupling of AS and A Level in the recent reform means that students do not need to sit the AS papers as part of their overall A Level qualification. Some centres operate one-year courses, where passing the AS is a requirement for entry on to the second one-year course. Other centres deliver the A Level course in such a way that the content covered in the first year does not align to the AS specification. Both approaches, and anything in between, will be designed by the individual centres to best support their own cohort of students.
No. There is no restriction within the entry system on entering both AS Maths and A Level Maths, and the exams are sat at different times. However, school attainment measures and UCAS tariff calculations will only count one qualification (normally the full A Level).
Notice the subtle use of wording (I’ll come to entering both next).
No. AS Maths is two papers and A Level Maths is three papers. If students take Further Maths as well, this is another three papers for AS and three or four for A Level. Students feeling anxious about sitting a maths exam are unlikely to be reassured with the prospect of sitting more papers.
The fees involved for making late entries compared to withdrawing entries made in the standard entry window mean that you can slightly defer the decision of whether to sit the AS or the A Level without financial implication (although please remember that your exams officers are busy in this period).
In previous years we have seen a few centres making this option available to candidates in very specific cases – generally it is the AS that gets withdrawn eventually.
An AS qualification is a valuable qualification in its own right. If your student’s future plans are only dependant on securing a good grade at AS Level then knowing that the paper will only cover a known small subsection of the A Level content might offer a more pleasant exam experience.
Students already thinking of resitting A Levels, or taking some time out before progressing to HE/employment might benefit from sitting the AS as a stepping stone before sitting the A Level at a later date (rather than creating a cycle of resits based on rushed initial learning).
However, in terms of UCAS, an A at AS is 20 points, but a D at A Level is 24 points; whereas a B at AS and an E at A Level are both 16 points (using the UCAS tariff calculator).
If students are looking at higher education or employment where A Level Maths makes up only a minor part of the offer they may benefit from revising and sitting an exam knowing in advance that it doesn’t matter if they only answer a small part of the paper.
For more information on exam entries and deadlines see the administration section of our website.
If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_Maths. You can also sign up for email updates to receive information about resources and support.
Steven joined OCR in 2014 during the major qualification reform period and now primarily focuses on supporting the Level 3 maths qualifications. He originally studied engineering and then took an extended period to work and travel around the world before completing a PGCE in secondary mathematics. Steven began his teaching career with VSO in Malawi and has taught maths in both the UK and overseas.