Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

How are my AS and A-level studies structured?

An A-level is split across two years: you take an AS in Year 12 and usually progress to an A2 in Year 13. Our expert explains how the structure works...

*This article has been updated to reflect the changes to the structure of A-levels as of Sep 2015. Where there will be differences as part of the new system, we have noted them below. These reforms will be introduced on a per-subject basis over the next three years - check our guide to find out which form of A-level you'll be taking for your subjects.

This is a pretty straightforward one. Here’s how it works, in most cases.

Year 12: what you’ll take

In Year 12 you will normally choose four subjects to take at AS, or 'advanced subsidiary’, level.

  • Subject 1                      
  • Subject 2                    
  • Subject 3                          
  • ​Subject 4

At the end of the year, you can drop one of your subjects. Your dropped subject will be ‘banked’ as an AS level. An A-level is split across two years: you take an AS in Year 12 and in most cases progress to an A2 in Year 13.

Remember, all your A-level grades will need to go on your UCAS application, including the AS level you drop. Therefore don't think about slacking off in Year 12 as this will come back to bite you when applying to university the following year.

As part of the new A-levels, there will be no public examinations at the end of Year 12 and your performance at AS level will not have any impact on your overall A-level grade should you continue that subject at A2. AS level qualifications will be standalone and not contribute to the full A level (what's referred to as "decoupling"). 

Year 13: what you’ll take

You’ll continue on with your remaining three subjects into year 13, or A2 level.

  • Subject 1                      
  • Subject 2                      
  • Subject 3

Your teachers will decide your predicted A2 grades based on your performance at AS level. These predicted A2 grades will also go on to your UCAS form. Depending on the offers you receive, your actual grades will determine whether you’ll be heading straight off to uni, going through Clearing or taking a different path altogether.

At the end of Year 13, you will take all your examinations which will decide your A-level grades (as of the Sep 2015 changes).

AS and A2: how it works

At AS level, you’ll usually take two units, followed by two more difficult units at A2 level. Sciences, maths and music are the exceptions, and are split into six units.

As part of the new A-levels, courses will no longer be divided into modules and there will be no exams in January, only at the end of the year.

There are plenty of other combinations and permutations for studying AS and A2 Levels  maybe you even took AS levels in year 11, or via a different qualification altogether, but this is the standard structure universities will be most used to seeing. 


Search Which? University

Find further advice or search for information on a course or university

Expert tips for uni - straight to your inbox
Free to students, teachers and parents
Sign me up