Most students are aware that in the last few years A level courses have been reformed (or are due to be reformed), which can mean a completely new course and topics in some cases or just a few tweaks to the content in others. However, the biggest change is that soon all A levels will be linear, not modular like they have been in the past.
1. Linear A-levels
Linear A levels mean that all exams will be taken at the end of the two years and these are the only things that will influence your final grade. This essentially makes AS level exams redundant (unless you plan on dropping the course), which is why most schools have stopped running them and universities have stopped making them a requirement. Modular courses, on the other hand, are made up of several sections/modules which are taken over the course of the two years. For these courses your AS exams will form part of your final grade along with your A2 exams and any coursework that is required as well.
The new linear exam structure means that unless you drop your subject after completing the AS level it will not count as part of your grade. If you do drop it then you can take your AS grade as a qualification even though you haven’t continued with the subject. If your school chooses not to enter you for AS exams then it will not affect you too much when applying for higher education as universities are understanding that not all schools will do them so you won’t be penalised for it.
2. Modular A-levels
With modular courses you can resit some of your modules if you didn’t achieve good grades (such as your AS exams) so that it doesn’t influence your eventual score. Unfortunately, with linear courses this isn’t possible because in most cases you aren’t allowed to continue with your A levels for a third year (unless there are extreme circumstances) and some universities won’t accept results that have taken more than two years to pass.
A few subjects are still modular (for example maths and geology), but by September 2017 all subject will have changed to a linear specification. This means that unless you are already studying them, it is most likely that all of your courses will be linear by the time it comes to doing your exams (barring problems with the new courses being ready).
It’s important to be aware of the exam you are sitting so that you can get an understanding of whether your AS results (if you sit them) are going to influence your eventual grade and whether it is possible to resit individual exams. If you’re unsure then there is a list of subjects that have already been reformed online as well as the ones that are due to be reformed in September. Alternatively, you could ask your teacher or exam manager at school if you’re still unsure of the course type you’re doing.