Making The Leap From GCSE To A-Levels I Oxford Open Learning

Making The Leap From GCSE To A-Levels

How Wide Is The Gap?

Picture this: you’re well on the way with your GCSE (or IGCSE) courses and you feel comfortable with the feedback you are receiving. Things are good; TMAs are going well; your tutors are pleased – and then you need to start thinking about the next stage of your studying… which may well involve A-Levels.

Without a doubt, there is quite a bit of a jump from I/GCSEs to A-Levels, though not an impossible leap where you are likely to take a tumble, flailing with out-of-control arms, or finding yourself in a series of white-water rapids, in an oarless boat… that is sinking. Okay, enough with the metaphors. The jump is not that terrifying. But there are certain things you need to know.


A-Levels (the ‘A’ stands for ‘Advanced’ – there’s a clue in the word) are tough. Whereas at I/GCSE level you will be used to shorter questions with specific outcomes, often getting harder (or with higher-tariff questions) as an exam moves on, at A-Level it works differently. Often, you’ll get just essay-style questions – maybe each one could take up to an hour – so you will probably find that examinations are longer. Of course, this will depend on the subject so it will not be set in stone. It is certainly worth remembering, though.

At A-Level, the content of your course will be harder. Let’s take IGCSE English Literature: you might have studied To Kill a Mockingbird, and perhaps An Inspector Calls. When it comes to A-Level study, it is ramped up – more texts which are more challenging. But also, A-Level study often requires a Non-Examination Assessment (NEA) component – essays, or a project, which you work on independently. For many students, this is a great difference to I/GCSE – but it does mean you have to demonstrate different skills, and be independent, which is something some students do struggle with.

Fewer, Harder

If you have studied a number of different I/GCSE subjects, at A-Level you will study fewer – most students opt for three. You will go into a lot more depth with these subjects, and you will have a more thorough approach.

The leap from I/GCSE to A-Level is not insurmountable – thousands and thousands of students are successful every year. It is a case of being prepared and not being too surprised by the jump – so if you prepare yourself and make sure you are choosing subjects you are passionate about, you will certainly be on the right path for success.

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