Have you come across AS level courses, but have no idea what they are? In this blog post, we’ll explore the ins and outs of AS levels, what they are and address common questions to help you decide whether AS levels are right for you.

What is an AS Level?

The term AS level is short for Advanced Subsidiary level. As levels are academic qualifications that are most common in UK educational systems. AS levels are considered the stepping stone qualification between GCSEs and the more commonly known A levels.

Much like BTEC and A levels, AS levels are offered in multiple subject areas meaning there’s plenty of options to suit an individual’s interest when expanding their education.

What is an AS Level Equivalent to?

In general, AS levels are considered to be the equivalent to the first year of A levels. An AS level will provide students with an overall foundation in their chosen subject which allows for more in-depth study when taking on an A level later on.

What is the Difference Between an AS Level and an A Level?

The ultimate difference between an AS and A level is the depth of study during the course. AS levels cover the basics of a particular subject, while A levels dive deeper into the more complex course areas. 

The duration of these course types are also different with A levels typically taking two-years and AS levels being studied over a shorter period.

“AS levels generally take one year to complete and A levels are studied across two years. Generally students progress to AS and A levels in the academic year following their GCSE results, but you can take them at any age.”Pearson

Is an AS Level Better Than a GCSE? Is it Harder?

With AS levels being treated as an “introduction” into a full A level, it goes without saying that AS levels are more advanced than GCSEs. AS level courses require a higher level of understanding and analysis. 

Whether an AS level is “better” than a GCSE depends on your own academic goals and preferences. AS levels tend to be more specialised in subject areas and can provide a competitive edge if you decide to apply to further education settings like college and university and can help with future employment opportunities in a relatable field.

Are AS Level Grades Important?

Yes, AS level grades do make a difference. 

While AS levels may not carry the same weight as A level results, they are still considered throughout university applications by the admissions team. AS levels can help showcase your academic abilities and can influence decisions on university offers.

Why Do People Take AS Levels? 

There are a number of reasons why people take AS levels. For many students looking to continue their education, AS levels offer a chance to explore subjects in greater detail and expand their knowledge. Taking an AS level can be considered as a great stepping stone when deciding where you would like to progress academically in the future.

Although AS levels do not lead to a shortcut in achieving an A level, they are considered as a helpful aid into the course subject and can help students feel more confident when starting their A level course.

Advantages of an AS Level:

  • Specialised Subjects: AS levels allow students to focus on specific subjects of interest when considering their future education goals.
  • Career Preparation: AS levels can provide a great foundation for future career paths.
  • University Applications: AS levels can help strengthen university applications and influence conditional university offers.

Disadvantages of an AS Level:

  • Not a fast track into A levels: Although AS levels are misunderstood as part of an A level, they are simply a introduction to an A level subject and won’t have any impact on the study time needed to complete an A level.
  • Limited Content: When compared to an A level, the AS level course content will not be as in depth. This may be a disadvantage to students hoping for a fuller understanding of a particular subject.


Ultimately, AS levels can be a great academic option that offers students a bridge between GCSEs and A levels. While they have both their advantages and disadvantages, the importance of AS levels when considering university admissions and career preparation should not be underestimated. Consider your academic and career goals when deciding whether AS levels are for you.

If you are still considering your options and would like to know more about distance learning and AS level courses, feel free to get in touch with the NEC team today

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