What are Linear A Levels and what is happening at Cirencester College?

From September 2017 onwards all A-level subjects will be Linear A-levels, in line with Department for Education reforms.

The new Linear A-levels will only be assessed by examinations at the end of the two-year course. Students will no longer take an AS level half way through as they currently do with the old modular A-level.

In some of the new linear subjects there will be an opportunity to take a stand-alone AS-level rather than a full A Level. However, students who choose to do this may not be able to change their minds later and go on to do a full A Level in that subject.  This is because the skills and types of assessments in some subjects differ between AS and A-level.

Full details are available on the Government website:


  As you look at the course listings on this website you will see labels showing whether a particular subject can be studied at AS and/or A-level

What are the benefits to students of linear A-levels?

  • Students will benefit from greater developmental/maturation time.
  • Instead of having to cram content for an AS exam after 2 terms which is examined in different ways from the A-level we can prepare students for where they need to be at the end of 2 years from the moment they arrive. We can concentrate on developing their skills (e.g. essay writing, lab skills and critical thinking), building their confidence and deeper learning.
  • We will be supporting them throughout with a tutor for 2 years who will have time to really get to know them. Students will have time and space to mature and develop instead of cram-exam, cram-exam.
  • Students will get more teaching time. Through not having to revise or sit AS exams we will gain several more teaching weeks over 2 years.
  • Students won’t have to be examined twice on the same material. The majority intend doing a full A-level so for them the AS just gets in the way.
  • It should be easier for students who have had an unhappy experience elsewhere to transfer to us because even if they have done a different spec, they will have over a year to catch up rather than a few months.
  • More students should be able to achieve full A-levels rather than stopping with an AS because they will have longer to improve.

What are the disadvantages?

  • It will be extremely difficult to make changes after week 6 of their first year as they will be registered for 2 year courses and there will be very limited choice of subjects which can be picked up.  It is therefore vital to get choices right from the start.
  • There is more pressure on final exams. As a result we have reintroduced College-wide ‘mocks’ to get students used to exams again as they start the revision period.
  • The opportunity for multiple resits has gone.

Can student still do AS Levels if they want?

  • Yes. We will offer them in most subjects.  Some students will still do 3 A-levels and 1 AS Level.

Without AS-levels, how will you (and Universities) know how students are doing?

  • We assess students from the moment they arrive and regularly test them already. We track their performance throughout their time here and try to put extra support in place if they need it. We don’t need AS-levels to tell us how they are doing.
  • We will ensure all our students are reminded what formal exams are like by having cross college mocks under exam conditions in February of their second year.
  • While Cambridge and LSE have been vociferous in their opposition to this change Universities and UCAS have said that they will work with whatever Colleges decide to do. They are used to having students on 2-year programmes already (eg IB) and also from many Independent Schools which don’t provide AS results. They will use a combination of GCSE grades and our predicted grades as they all did before 2000.

Are you cutting any A-levels because of the changes?

  • Not because of the Linear change. However, we constantly review our curriculum and taking out poor performing courses.
  • There are courses which Examination Boards have withdrawn but in several cases we have been able to replace them with other options.

What happens if a student changes their mind about one of their linear A-levels?

  • We allow students to change courses in the first few weeks if they feel they have made the wrong choice. After that we need them to stick with and work at those choices to ensure that they succeed.
  • In cases where a student does encounter unexpected problems we would look at transferring them from A to AS-level in exceptional cases. Similarly where a student only intended to do an AS but then requests an ‘upgrade’ we will consider it but we cannot guarantee it

Are you allowing students to do 4 A-Levels?

  • Yes, if students have the entry requirements and are committed to taking a wider breadth of subjects.   
  • Universities want 3 A Levels. However, top Universities (e.g. Russell Group) want 3 very good ones- for example A*AA and usually at least AAB. 
  • Our guidance team will be steering students towards 3, 3.5 or 4 A Levels depending upon their GCSE profile.