• Starting Sixth-Form

TSR Wiki > Study Help > Exams and Qualifications > A Levels > Starting Sixth-Form


Background Information

In the past, A-level students normally picked three subjects and sat their exams at the end of the second year only. These days, A-levels consist AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A2 units. The first segment (year 12 usually) involves you picking up to 4 (although some colleges permit their students to take more) subjects and sitting AS exams. When you get to the second year, you have two possible routes:

  • Choose not to carry on the course and stop at AS level and therefore achieving a recognised qualification; or
  • Choose to continue the course all the way through A2 and getting a full A-level.

Each AS and A2 consists of 3 modules/components (so a total of 6 to complete the A-level). However, for the new specification of 2008 and onwards, many subjects have reduced their modules/component numbers from a total of 6 to 4, except for some subjects such as Mathematics. Whereas some other A-levels, such as Chinese have been reduced to 2.

What are the Important Acronyms?

These are the exam boards:

You will very soon get used to most of these names. The exam boards, as they are commonly known and regulatory authorities.

These are the regulatory bodies

What do Exam Boards do?

Exam boards and their regulators go through a lot of trouble to guarantee that high standards are upheld from and that students get a fair arrangement and the grades that they deserve.

The syllabus

  • AS and A levels, have an unambiguous criteria that define how the qualification should be set up, what students need to learn for certain grades and what skills they need to develop.
  • Awarding bodies need to be certain that the syllabus they propose for every subject meets the rules set by the regulators. The syllabus must be agreed by the regulators before schools and colleges can teach it to their pupils.

Exam Papers

  • Examiners are always thinking of possible exam questions. On average each exam paper takes eighteen months to prepare for.
  • A principal examiner, chosen by the awarding body, writes the exam paper and creates a detailed explanation of how the paper should be marked. This is then passed to a reviser, then to an evaluation committee, and finally to an assessor.

Marking the Papers

  • It is necessary for examiners who mark the exam papers and senior examiners who check the marking process to attend what is known as a standardisation meeting. At this meeting the examiners come to an understanding of exactly how to mark the exam and what they are looking for in answers.
  • Scripts undergo a system of checking to ensure that there is accuracy and consistency.

Setting the Grades

  • Once all the marking is complete, an awarding meeting takes place.
  • This is when the marks needed for each grade are decided, and this is what people mean when they refer to setting the grade boundaries.
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