What are A levels in education?

What are A levels in education?

Talking about the education scenario in India, we can say that it is as diverse as its culture. India has a unique education system with a wide range of education boards at the national and state levels.

Here is a list of various educational boards prevalent in India.

  • State Boards
  • Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
  • Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE)
  • Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE)
  • National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Cambridge Assessment International Examinations (CAIE)

This article is pertaining to one of the most successful and widely accepted boards; Cambridge Assessment International Examinations (CAIE). So, let us take a tour to understand the salient features of CAIE and the different levels it offers. 

The use of instructional methods of CAIE can help children to learn and develop in a specific way. The CAIE curriculum motivates students to express their creativity and understand outside the classroom; one of its major benefits.

Primary and secondary students can take Cambridge exams through the Main Stage. The most important exams are IGCSE, ,AS and A level, which students can take through  Cambridge.

Our focus here will be to understand A-Levels in CAIE. 

What are A levels?

A-Levels (Advanced Level Qualifications) are a UK subject-based qualification for students aged 16 and above. They are usually studied over two years, leading to qualifications recognized for entrance to higher education institutes in the UK and many others worldwide. 

CAIE offers a choice of 55 subjects and schools can offer them in almost any combination. This flexibility means schools can build an individualised curriculum, and learners can choose to specialise in a particular subject area or study a range of subjects.

Most higher education institutes require a minimum of 3 subjects.

Although they are a UK qualification, schools across the world offer A Levels. In addition, most universities and Higher Education institutes recognise A Levels as a suitable entry qualification. 

You may also have heard of AS Levels, however, following reforms implemented between 2016 and 2018, AS Levels are now a separate qualification. Although they still equate to the first year of study on the full 2-year A Level course, most universities do not consider AS levels alone adequate for entrance. 

Mainadevi Bajaj International School is one of the best AS and A Levels Schools in Mumbai understands the importance of these two crucial years.

What subjects do A Levels students take?

There are no compulsory subjects with A Levels. Instead, students are free to choose the topics that interest them the most or feel will benefit them for their future studies or careers. Subjects include English Language & Literature, French, Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, History, Geography, Psychology, Economics, Art, Information Technology and Modern Foreign Languages such as French, German, and Spanish. It’s always best to check in advance which subjects the institution you are considering offers as this does vary from school to school. 

How are A Levels Assessed?

Written examinations, taken at the end of the 2-year course of study, are the main assessment form. Following the reforms mentioned above, there is now a lot less project work. However, some coursework does still contribute to the final grade depending on the subject. 

The grading scale runs from A* – E. Students not meeting the minimum standard will receive a grade of U. They need 40% to achieve an E, 50% for a D, 60% for a C and so on. Any student averaging 80% across all modules will gain an A*.

If a student fails, they must re-sit the whole exam – students cannot re-sit specific modules. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that students can retake their A Levels as many times as necessary.

Which exam boards do A levels use?

Several different examination boards assess A levels. Most often, international schools use Edexcel or CIA (Cambridge International Assessment). 

Why choose A levels?

A-Levels are an excellent choice for students who have a clear idea of which subjects they excel in. Or, to put it another way, students who are ‘one-sided’ in terms of their strengths. For example, a student who is strong in Maths and weak in English Literature would benefit from focusing on Maths and dropping English. 

The importance of the final written exam means that A-Levels are more suitable for students strong in written exams. Students who can revise effectively and perform well in timed exams are most suited to A Levels.  

Most importantly, students receive separate certificates in each subject they pass, rather than one overall certificate as the IB.  


Cambridge qualifications are recognised and valued by universities all around the world, including in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany and beyond. In places such as the United States and Canada, good graGermany,des in carefully chosen Cambridge International A Level subjects can result in up to one year of university course credit.

Over 850 universities in the US formally accept Cambridge International AS & A Levels, including all Ivy League and Ivy Plus universities. These universities include Brown, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. Many more US universities accept Cambridge qualifications on application. In the UK, all universities accept Cambridge qualifications.

At MBIS, we offer Cambridge International AS and A Levels in Mumbai to help students get into leading universities around the world. Do you intend to enroll your child in the new academic session of 2023? Click here to know more about our admission process!