Sun, 01 Aug 2021

A guide to A Level education

09 Jun 2021, 21:33 GMT+10

Choosing the right path for your child's education is an important yet difficult decision. A-Levels is just one of those paths, but they prove to be an exciting, yet challenging programme of study.

With dedication, perseverance and the help of the excellent resources available at the Alice Smith School, your child will earn the grades they need to get into their top choice university.

In this article, we will walk you through the process of applying for A-Levels, from the requirements and admissions criteria to choosing the right subjects for study and beyond.

This article is from The Alice Smith School which is an international school based in Kuala Lumpur.

Why should you choose A-Levels?

A-Levels are an internationally recognised qualification, highly regarded by top universities worldwide. They are well known for being academically rigorous and by earning high grades on the exams, your child will set themselves apart as a highly accomplished student to university and college admission departments, helping them gain acceptance to the post-secondary programme of their choice.

Our A-Level students have gained places at many Ivy League colleges in the US, G8 Australian universities as well as world-ranked institutions in Hong Kong, Singapore and throughout Europe.

How do students apply for A-Levels?

It's advised that you encourage your child to start planning for A Levels as early as possible as some programmes need more preparation than others.

To apply for A-Levels in Malaysia, you will need to earn at least 5Cs at (I)GCSE, SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) or an equivalent exam. At Alice Smith, students take the (I)GCSE exam - you can view our academic results on our website.

Not only are these grades important to help students qualify for A-Levels, some highly competitive university programmes will also look at these grades during the application process as well.

How to choose your A-Level subjects

At Alice Smith, we have a range of 24 different A-Level subjects to choose from, all taught by our team of UK-qualified teachers.

A-Levels have intensive and challenging exams, so it's crucial that your child chooses the right 3 or 4 subjects to study, as they will spend the following 15 to 24 months working towards these exams.

Is your child unsure of what post-secondary education they would like to pursue? Not to worry - A-Levels help keep their options open if they choose a range of facilitating subjects, such as:

  • English Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • History
  • Geography
  • Languages

These subjects are considered preferred courses to admission boards and will qualify the student for a wider variety of post-secondary programmes.

For example, if your child wants to pursue a STEM career but are undecided on which specific programme, they may choose to take a selection of these subjects. This means they won't miss out on higher education if they do choose to pursue a degree unrelated to STEM, as they'll likely qualify for most other programmes.

Which exam board is "the best"?

The UK school exam system can be very confusing to parents, even if they are from the UK and experienced it as a student themselves. It's a common misconception that certain exam boards are better than others; some feel that (Cambridge International Assessment Examinations) CIAE (Cambridge International Assessment Examinations) is better than the others, simply because it says Cambridge.

This really isn't the case; when students are accepted to universities globally, it's their grades that count, not the exam board.

According to the UK's examination regulator Ofqual, "the search for the 'easiest' exam board is misguided". It's a disservice to the students, devaluing their results depending on exam board. Here at Alice Smith, we provide the very best curriculum for our students, choosing an exam board that is both accessible to them and reflects their academic needs.

What A Level scholarships are available?

As the oldest not-for-profit British school in Malaysia, investing in our students learning is at the very heart of what we do. Every ringgit of school fees goes into providing a quality education for your children, and as part of our commitment to our local community, we offer several scholarship programmes that help students excel, giving them access to the best universities in the world.

The KLASS Scholarship is a full scholarship which aims to benefit high achieving post-SPM Malaysian students who have limited financial means. It's an integral part of our philanthropic approach to education for students not currently enrolled in our school.

The Reach for the Stars scholarships cover up to 50% of fees and are available for students that show a strong academic performance in specific subject areas, such as the arts or sports. It's awarded to external students prior to A Level programmes.

What's the Extended Project Qualification?

The EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) is an exciting standalone qualification worth 50% of an A level. Taken in year 12 or 13, students choose a topic that won't overlap with their A Level course content, using it as an opportunity to explore a specific passion or interest.

They then choose the format: either a 5,000-word report (about 10 typed pages) or produce an 'artefact' with a 1,000-word report. Planning for and producing what is essentially a mini thesis, it encourages students to develop vital skills necessary in Higher Education.

An EPQ will help students stand out to university admissions departments, as it encourages the development of critical thinking, organisational and time management skills, as well as knowledge of research and project management methods they would use at degree-level. It also provides a fantastic discussion point in personal statements and university interviews, as it's a truly unique academic achievement. You can see our student's EPQ projects and their successes on our website.

How do you find the right university for each student?

At Alice Smith, we have made Higher Education provision a core part of our Sixth Form package with the focus being on finding what American counsellors call the 'right fit' university for each student.

We look at their academic ability, professional objectives, extracurricular interests and even personality traits to help guide students to the right university for them.

Finding the right university can be a tough and confusing task, as there's always a ton of information to digest online. On our website, our expert Higher Education team have written articles covering topics like the benefits of higher education, finding the right pathway to university and preparing for university to help parents navigate through this time in their children's lives.

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