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<h1>Guide to GCSE and A-Level</h1>
<p class='date'>Sun, 03 Oct 2021 16:53:27 +0400</p>
<p>Whenever I talk to my younger siblings and their friends about their future in school, I often see a lot of confusion regarding the current educational and examination systems. In this article, I will list and summarize the most common British qualifications, alongside some editorial paragraphs giving my opinion on each one.</p>
<h2>(I)GCSE</h2>
<ul>
<li>Length: 2-3 years</li>
<li>Grades: U-9 (U-A**)</li>
<li>Years: 9-10/11</li>
</ul>
<h3>Summary</h3>
<p>The <b>(International) General Certificate of Secondary Education</b> is a qualification standard introduced in the UK in 1988. (The "International" GCSE is essentially the same system, but with some content cut for international audiences.) The (I)GCSE has a set of core subjects which are mandatory to complete; one of these is <b>Humanities,</b> for which you can pick between History or Geography. Alongside this, many schools will have 2-3 more mandatory subjects that you can pick from the vast (I)GCSE options.</p>
<h3>Note on Languages</h3>
<p>The most common languages schools offer will be <b>Spanish, French, German</b> and <b>Mandarin.</b> However, there are GCSE qualifications for many, many other languages, such as <b>Italian, Modern Greek, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese</b> and a few more, and schools may offer these as <b>extra-curricular activities</b> rather than in the form of school day lessons. For example, I got an Italian GCSE qualification by doing classes after school and taking the exam in the school's examination facility.</p>
<h3>Further Mathematics</h3>
<p>The (I)GCSE Mathematics course can optionally be squeezed into 2 years to allow students to complete the <b>Further Mathematics</b> course in the last year of (I)GCSE. This course can be <b>very intensive</b> but it does prepare students <i>really well</i> for IB and A-Level Math courses, so only pick this option if you really love Maths!</p>
<h3>Triple and Double Science</h3>
<p>Some schools offering the (I)GCSE Science courses may let you qualify with a triple or a double science award. A double science award (Contrary to what it may sound like) <b>still has you study all 3 sciences,</b> however some content is cut from the syllabus. This extra content is only covered by students completing the <b>triple award.</b> Think of the double award as an intermediate science course, and the triple award as an advanced science course.</p>
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<h3>Core Subjects (Mandatory):</h3>
<ul>
<li>English</li>
<li>Mathematics</li>
<li>Science (Either "triple" or "double award")</li>
<li>Language</li>
<li>History and/or Geography</li>
</ul>
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<h3>Commonly Available Option Subjects (2-3 are often mandatory):</h3>
<ul>
<h4>Sciences:</h4>
<li>Statistics</li>
<li>Computer Science</li>
<li>Psychology</li>
<li>Economics</li>
<li>Business Studies</li>
<li>Physical Education <i>(Poor man's Biology)</i></li>
<h4>D&T:</h4>
<li>Food and Nutrition</li>
<li>Design and Technology</li>
<li>Engineering</li>
<h4>Art:</h4>
<li>Music</li>
<li>Art and Design</li>
<li>Dance</li>
<li>Drama</li>
<li>Photography</li>
</ul>
</div>
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<h3>Resources</h3>
<p>For (I)GCSE Mathematics and Further Mathematics, I <b>highly recommend</b> any of the <b>Casio FX-9X series</b> of <b>non-graphing</b> calculators. Their build quality is excellent, they are solar-powered and can do pretty much everything you need for all (I)GCSE maths courses.</p>
<h3>Recommendations</h3>
<p>The subjects I took for my GCSEs are <i>English, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, Economics, Computer Science</i> and <i>French.</i> I also completed the aforementioned Italian GCSE. The only subject out of these that I <b>strongly recommend to students</b> is <b>GCSE Statistics.</b> Statistics is extremely useful if you plan to pursue any remotely scientific subject. It is quintessential to the study of <b>Psychology, the 3 sciences,</b> and <b>any applied Mathematics course.</b></p>
<h2>(I)A-Level</h2>
<ul>
<li>Length: 2 years</li>
<li>Grades: U-A* (Only U-A for AS-Levels)</li>
<li>Years: 12-13</li>
</ul>
<p>The <b>(International) Advanced Level</b> is another UK qualification like the GCSE, except it's what's known as a <b>Level 3 qualification.</b> This means it's the course Universities and Colleges are concerned about when they consider candidates. It was introduced <b>all the way back in 1951,</b> making it far more established than the younger GCSE system. Because of this longevity, the A-Levels vary all across the world, with various countries (Such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Mauritius) including A-levels as part of their high-school diplomas.</p>
<h3>The Magic of A-Level</h3>
<p>Unlike (I)GCSE, which has a mandatory set of "core" subjects, A-Level has <b>no course requirements.</b> They are purely qualifications in any field you like. This means most schools will often require students to complete 3-4 A-Levels of their choosing in <b>any subjects,</b> giving the student complete free reign on the fields they wish to explore.</p>
<p>This unrivaled level of flexibility in terms of subject choice lends itself well to the intensity of the courses, meaning that any A-Levels you choose should be for <b>subjects you (really) like!</b> If you're going to be doing only 3-4 subjects for 2 years, they better be good ones.</p>
<h3>AS-Levels</h3>
<p>While the overall qualification system is called <i>"A-Level",</i> the qualifications themselves are split into 2 categories: <b>A-Levels</b> and <b>AS-Levels.</b> A-Levels are 2-year courses that are graded from a U (insufficient) to A* (distinction), while AS-Levels only last a year and are graded U to A. <i>Many schools will offer you 3 A-Levels and 1 AS-Level course, meaning you only study the AS-Level subject for a year.</i> While every A-Level is a 2-year course, the AS-Levels are <b>just the first year of content, and then a test.</b></p>
<h3>Modular VS. Linear Courses</h3>
<p>Depending on your school and exam board, you may be offered <b>modular A-Levels.</b> These often come in the form of the sciences, such as modular Physics or Biology. All modular means is that you will be taking exams <b>on each individual subject module,</b> instead of on all the course content at the end of the year. So if you study module 1 for Biology, you will sit a test for that module, and then move on with your life. <i>This is opposed to sitting a test with that content and sitting on it for a year until the final exam.</i></p>
<p><i>However, please do note that most schools and exam boards are transitioning towards linear A-Levels, meaning modular courses are going to be on their way out soon.</i></p>
<h3>Commonly Available Subjects:</h3>
<ul>
<h3>Languages</h3>
<li>French</li>
<li>Spanish</li>
<li>German</li>
<li>Italian</li>
<li>Japanese</li>
<h3>Sciences</h3>
<li>Statistics</li>
<li>Physics</li>
<li>Biology</li>
<li>Chemistry</li>
<li>Mathematics</li>
<li>Further Mathematics</li>
<li>Computer Science</li>
<li>Psychology</li>
<li>Geography</li>
<li>History</li>
<li>Business</li>
<li>Economics</li>
<h3>Art</h3>
<li>English</li>
<li>Art and Design</li>
<li>Drama</li>
<li>Music</li>
<li>Dance</li>
<li>Photography</li>
<h3>D&T</h3>
<li>Design and Technology</li>
<li>Food Technology</li>
</ul>
<h3>Resources</h3>
<p>If you're doing <b>A-Level mathematics,</b> then the calculator I talked about in the GCSE resources section (Any Casio FX-9X series scientific calculator) should be fine. However, if you're doing <b>A-Level further mathematics,</b> you may be interested in purchasing a more advanced graphing calculator such as the <i>Casio PRIZM FX-CG50.</i> While expensive at upwards of 80$, these are still a far better deal than the <b><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2kvl3YnA2w">atrocious Texas Instruments calculators.</a></b></p>
<h3>Recommendations (Not)</h3>
<p>I'd be remiss if I gave recommendations about the A-Levels to choose. The whole point of the A-Levels is to give the power and flexibility to the student. With that said however, I do recommend you do any and all subjects required (or recommended) for a specific university or college course you wish to apply to.</p>
<footer>by <strong><a href='https://denshi.org/'>Denshi</a> <a href="mailto:alex@denshi.org?subject=Guide to GCSE and A-Level">(Reply-to)</a></strong></footer>
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