10 facts you need to know about A levels

10 facts you need to know about A levels

Doing the jump between GCSE and A levels can often be a tricky one, especially as there are many things to consider – like career paths and course options. 

But even if you haven’t decided on what career you want to do in the future, you can still make an educated decision about your, well, education.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of key things you need to know about A levels to help you feel confident and prepare you for the journey ahead. 

  1. What even is an A level? 

Advanced Level qualifications (or A levels to you and me) are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, further training, a job or an apprenticeship. These two-year qualifications prepare you for the future by increasing your knowledge and specialism in a range of subject areas and they pack your CV full of valuable skills. 

  1. What does an A level involve?

A levels usually last for two years and involve classroom-based learning with end-of-year exams.

  1. How many A levels can you take? 

Most students in the UK usually study three or four A level subjects. This is particularly beneficial as it means that you don’t have to choose between your favourite ones and you get to learn about them at an advanced level. 

  1. Do you need A levels for university?

Not always, but A levels are the traditional route into university because most entry requirements focus on your final A level results. Some universities also take into account your AS levels and GCSEs. 

A levels aren’t the only way to get to university. Other options include an Access to Higher Education (Access to HE) diploma or adding a foundation year to an undergraduate degree course.

  1. Do universities care what A levels you study? 

If you have a career path in mind, it’s important to check university entry requirements before applying as some universities require specific A levels. For example, if you want to apply for a science degree, a university will typically expect to see a science A level among your grades. 

However, you might not know what career path you want to follow and that’s okay too. If you’re not yet sure about your university plans, it’s best to keep your options open by choosing a range of A-level subjects that play to your strengths and you enjoy studying.

  1. Are A levels harder than GCSEs? 

Are A levels hard, you ask? In short, yes. You may notice a slight jump from doing GCSEs to A levels as they are considered to be a more advanced qualification. However, there are many benefits that come with A levels that you don’t get with GCSEs. 

Thanks to the reduced number of subjects, studying A levels means flexible timetables, more opportunity to study independently and take ownership of your learning.   

  1. Can I do A levels without GCSEs?

In order to study A levels, you will need five GCSEs graded 9-4, including English and Maths (or equivalent) and three additional GCSE qualifications at grade 9-4 or BTEC equivalents. Grade 4 is equivalent to a grade C.

A level

To see the grades required for your subject, take a look at our subject-specific entry requirements. 

  1. What if I don’t want to do A levels? 

If A levels don’t sound like your cup of tea and you’re looking for something a bit more hands on, T Levels and vocational courses are a great alternative. At Leeds Sixth Form College, we offer a range of vocational pathways that complement your A levels – allowing you to specialise in a particular subject whilst gaining industry experience. 

  1. Can I get a job with A levels and no degree?

Many students go on to higher education after studying A levels, but others choose to do an apprenticeship or enter employment. The good news is that there are a range of careers that don’t require a degree or higher education. In fact, many sectors even train you from within the career, like the hospitality industry or professions like dental hygienists, pharmacy technicians and administrators. 

  1. What happens if I need support during my studies?

Sometimes studying can be stressful, but if you are ever struggling or need that extra bit of guidance, we offer academic and pastoral support throughout the year. 

So, now that you have the scoop on A levels, all that’s left to do is choose what you’re going to study. Good luck!

How to make the most of an Open Event

How to make the most of an Open Event

Open events are a great way to get a feel for college life and discover more about the subjects you’re interested in.

If you have any friends or family that go to the college you’re interested in, you probably know a little bit about it. However, if it’s your first time experiencing it for yourself, you might not know where to start or what you need to be aware of. 

That’s why to help you make the most of an open event at Leeds Sixth Form College, we’ve put together a few handy tips.

Planning ahead

The main things you need to consider before an open event are what you are hoping to gain and what you want to see. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of options available, especially when you’re unsure of what you want to study. Researching A level subjects beforehand will help you prepare for what facilities you need to tour and who you’ll need to speak to. 

You’ll also need to plan your journey. Our sixth form college is located in the city centre, just a 10-minute walk from the train station with various bus stops located around our campus.

Tour our campus

A good way to know if a subject is right for you is to see where you’ll be studying it – which is where taking a tour of our facilities comes in. 

We have a range of exciting new facilities such as our independent learning zones situated on each floor, specially designed as quiet places to study.

When you’re not studying, our Natural Press coffee shop is a popular lunch spot which offers hot drinks, hot food and delicious confectionaries. The cafe is designed as an eco-conscious environment with plants throughout the space. 

Don’t forget to visit our modern science laboratories, as well as our new pharmaceutical suite that our STEM students use to gain experience and practical skills. 

Meet our tutors 

At every open event, there will be a tutor representing each of our courses. They’re there to chat with you about things like what you’ll learn on your course, what trips you may go on and what career opportunities the course will bring. 

They’re there to guide you on making the right choice for you and are always happy to chat with you about your subject in more detail. 

  • What does the course cover?
  • What student support is available?
  • What have previous students gone on to do for work/university after finishing this course?
  • What qualifications will I need for the course I want to apply for?

What to bring

We always advise you to bring along your booking confirmation to the event. You’re also welcome to attend with a friend, parent or guardian if you’d prefer to look around our campus with someone else. You can also bring anything else that helps you feel comfortable, such as a bottle of water. 

To book on to one of our next open events, visit our Event page.

Grab your second chance to shine at Leeds Sixth Form College

’It’s not the end of the world’ is a phrase we’ve all heard from well-meaning family or friends after a setback.

If you have just failed an important exam, however, the chances are that such words will be of little comfort. Instead, what is needed at such moments is practical help – for someone to tell you ‘you can try again, and here’s how’.

That is where Leeds Sixth Form College’s Step-Up Pathway comes in. The programme is designed specifically to help 16-18 year olds, who did not gain the GCSEs they were hoping for, get what they need to progress.

Step-Up provides a three-year route to sitting A levels, or a hybrid option of A levels plus a vocational qualification, and starts with a first year during which each student aims to gain five GCSEs. For some, like former Leeds Sixth Form College student Jamal Mottley, this option has represented a life-changing second chance.

An alternative route to success

Jamal used the Step-Up Pathway to re-sit his GCSEs before going on to achieve three A levels with Leeds Sixth Form College, and has now started university. Speaking in August after finding out his results, he explained how difficult personal circumstances had led to him failing his GCSEs the first time around.

He said: “I didn’t know you could re-sit them and thought it was a one-time thing.

“But then my mum got out of hospital and helped me look for somewhere to re-sit my GCSEs, and found Leeds Sixth Form College. I don’t know where I’d be without Step-up!”

Ro Elliott, meanwhile, has just started her A level courses at the college after successfully gaining five GCSEs through Step-Up.

She said: “I wasn’t really in full-time education for a lot of secondary school which is why I didn’t get the opportunity to do my GCSEs properly, so the fact the college introduced this course was really beneficial to me.”

Helping to tackle inequality

In a recently published study on education inequalities, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) argued that one of the key shortcomings of the country’s education system was the ‘lack of adequate second chances’.

Step-Up, which is especially helpful for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, allows them to develop their language skills.

Principal of Leeds Sixth Form College, Rachael Booth, said: “We are very proud of our Step-Up Pathway and the route it provides for students who want to study A levels but haven’t, for whatever reason, got the qualifications they need yet.

“Each year we hear from so many talented young people, like Ro and Jamal, about how much having this second opportunity to achieve, and excel, means to them.

“Education, like life, isn’t always a straight line, often due to things we can’t control. This pathway ensures that students can try again for the qualifications they need to progress and shine in whatever they choose to do.”

More information on the Step-Up Pathway can be found here. The IFS study can be viewed here.

A college with its sights set high

We are forging ahead into the new academic year with a ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features Ofsted rating under our belt.

Based in the heart of Leeds and driven by a belief that every student has the ability to excel, Leeds Sixth Form College impressed the inspectors when they visited earlier this year.

Our passionate and expert staff, and the partnership work they do to ensure our educational programmes meet the needs of local employers, were singled out for praise.

Our A level programme, which helps students take the next step in their educational or career journey, is at the heart of what we do.

A tailored approach for each student, full of enrichment opportunities

But our offering is much broader than that, which is why we give every new student a guidance interview before advising them on which of four pathways to follow. This ensures that their courses will help them move on to the job, university degree, or higher apprenticeship they have in mind.

And for 16 to 18 year olds who need extra GCSEs, or higher grades in those they already have, we offer the Step-up Pathway. This one-year programme helps students gain five GCSEs in preparation for taking on A levels.

The college also aims to ensure that students have an exceptional experience during their time with us, which is why we are always working to secure enrichment opportunities.

In June this year, for example, 61 of our politics, law and history students enjoyed a two-day educational trip to London. Their stay included a tour of Hampton Court Palace, a visit to the Supreme Court, meeting a High Court judge and a trip to the Houses of Parliament.

Our Principal, Rachael Booth, said: “We are fully committed to helping every student, whatever their background or field of interest, reach their full potential and excel.

“To help us achieve that we have a dedicated, expert teaching staff and top-class facilities, to give each of our students the very best chance of success.

“We are also always looking at experiences that can enrich students’ studies and bolster their confidence and self-belief.

“Education transforms lives and opens up new opportunities. We are always excited to welcome new students, and to learn how we can best help them take their vital next step. So please get in touch – we look forward to hearing from you!”

State-of-the-art facilities

Our courses are taught in dedicated, well-equipped teaching rooms in the college’s Park Lane campus. Our students also have access to a permanently staffed Independent Learning Zone, where a suite of 60 chrome-books are provided.

Keen to address the country’s healthcare skills gap and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, the college recently opened a brand new science laboratory.

This specialist facility features a private consultation room and a pharmacy practice room which have been designed to support the college’s two new pioneering courses, Pharmacy T Level and Access to Medicine.

STEM is a key focus for us and we had some fantastic success stories in this area recently among our A level students. Poppy Middleton, for example, achieved A grades in chemistry, maths and physics along with a B in further maths this year. She is now going on to study aerospace engineering at the University of Leeds.

Sporting, as well as academic, excellence

Thanks to our partnerships with some of the region’s leading sporting organisations, through Leeds Sports Connect, we also offer outstanding opportunities for student-athletes.

Under this pioneering scheme, students can pursue a high-quality education with the college, studying three A levels, without sacrificing development in their chosen sport.

The courses are built around training schedules so participants can enjoy outstanding coaching, in top-class facilities, while pursuing their studies.

Our partners include Leeds Rhinos Foundation, Leeds United Foundation, The Hunslet Club, Ultimate Football Coaching Academy, and Let’s Do More. Click here to find out more about courses at Leeds Sixth Form College.

‘Outstanding’ career advice and support at Leeds Sixth Form College

Danielle Miller is now, with three A levels just completed, looking forward to pursuing a career in marketing.

Back in 2020, however, things looked a lot less clear. Danielle was unsure about what to do after finishing Year 11 at school, so she approached Leeds Sixth Form College for advice.

She credits the ‘outstanding’ guidance she received, along with some exceptional support from her tutors over the following two years, for helping her re-focus.

She said: “I was very unsure of what to do or where to go, but the college was very understanding and the process was simple.

“I think that my experience here has been very flexible. If I wanted to be more independent the opportunity for that was there, but so was the continued support If I wanted to be more involved.

“Undoubtedly, spending much of the first year inside, due to Covid-19, was really hard for all of us. The support I received from my subject teachers and tutors, however, was outstanding. They never hesitated to give me a hand with anything I was studying, along with general advice regarding my career or self-improvement.

“In our second year it was difficult to get back into a college-based routine, but the teachers were very persistent and gave us the motivation to just get on with it.”

Shining a light on alternative paths

Danielle also credits the college staff for helping her realise there were other options to follow, apart from the expected university route, to pursue her chosen career.

She said: “I really struggled with coming to terms with the idea that university was not for me.

“But the career advice from the college helped to change my attitude towards getting an apprenticeship, and consider it as an alternative option.

“The consistent job and opportunity notifications from my tutors also really helped me to get an idea of this alternative; it was a huge support.”

Danielle, who is currently waiting for her results, is aiming to begin her marketing career through a higher apprenticeship.

‘An Amazing Journey That Will Help Me Make a Difference’

That is how Aanam Munawwar describes her time at Leeds Sixth Form College as she looks forward to a career in medicine.

Aanam, who only moved to England in 2019, has just excelled in her A levels – securing three A*sgrades in biology, chemistry and psychology respectively.

Those results have ensured that she can take another step towards realising her dream of working for the NHS by studying MBChB (Medicine and Surgery) at the University of Leeds this September.

Aanam began her academic journey in the UK two years ago when she attended an open day at Leeds Sixth Form College – and went on to enjoy the ‘immense support’ that was offered to guide her in her studies.

Speaking at Leeds Sixth Form College just after finding out her grades, Aanam was full of praise for her teachers. She said: “I’ve had a very nice time and loved the two years that I spent here, where I’ve had very nice teachers who have been really supportive.

“I’m looking forward to having just a little celebration at home, enjoying some cakes with my family.”

An experience that exceeded all expectations

Recalling her first visit to the college, she added: “When I attended the open day in 2019 I was a bit concerned because I had Indian qualifications but I found the staff members to be so welcoming and supportive, and they helped me to get an equivalency check for my qualifications.

“All my subjects were equivalent to GCSEs except English so I had to take the winter  exam for that, which I passed.

“I also got the opportunity during the open day to attend subject taster sessions and really enjoyed the way everything was taught and how engaging it was.

“I chose to study at Leeds Sixth Form College because it provides a diverse and inclusive learning environment where I knew I could meet new people and make amazing friends.

 “I have had an excellent experience studying at the college which has definitely exceeded all my expectations. I have received a lot of support from my teachers, be it online or in person, and they always encouraged me to do my best.

“I have also enjoyed studying with my peers in the classrooms and by myself, in the Independent learning zones and libraries. And I have loved the food at the canteen and met fantastic people from so many cultures, learned a lot from them and made some great friends for life.”

Top marks in research project

Aanam also completed an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) at Leeds Sixth Form College while studying her A levels.

For EPQs students produce an in-depth piece of research on a topic of their choice for which they receive extra UCAS points.

Aanam received the top grade – and so maximum possible UCAS points – for her essay, which was entitled Can Mobile Health Bridge the Gap Between Patients and Healthcare Providers?

She said: “I am glad that I chose to do an EPQ not only because I got an A* and it looked good on my UCAS application, but because it helped me to develop my critical thinking and decision making skills.

“The amount of research I did allowed me to get a better understanding of healthcare systems and patients’ concerns, which is also beneficial for my career aspirations.”

Medical ambitions

She is now fully focused on the next stage of her education – and then beginning her healthcare career.

She said: “Initially, it was due to my interest in human physiology that I wanted to do medicine.

“But I made the decision to study medicine after attending taster sessions and completing my work experience, which allowed me to reflect on the challenges that the healthcare workers face.

“I also enjoy teamwork and want to become a part of a multidisciplinary team to help in patients’ management and treatment.

“I wish to make my family proud of me. Looking ahead, I am determined to pursue a career in medicine and contribute towards our NHS.”

Referring to her time at Leeds Sixth Form College, she added: “I have had an amazing journey and most enjoyable experience whilst studying here. I hope to use the skills and knowledge that I have gained as a Leeds Sixth Form College student to make a difference to people’s lives.”

To find out more about learning opportunities at Leeds Sixth Form College, visit leedssixthform.ac.uk/our-courses/courses, call 0113 386 1997 or email courses@leedssixthform.ac.uk.


For Rahim Karim, artificial intelligence is not just a fascinating field – it is also a potentially revolutionary tool to help the deaf community.

Leeds Sixth Form College student Rahim, who is profoundly deaf, is celebrating achieving A grades in A level maths, further maths and physics.

Those grades were achieved with the assistance of his sign language partner, Fiona Hudson, who has been supporting the 22 year old throughout his education.

He is now looking forward to starting a Computer Science with AI degree at the University of Leeds. Rahim is fascinated by the possibilities that artificial intelligence could open up and wrote his EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) on the subject of how AI could help people with hearing loss.

First class support

Speaking at Leeds Sixth Form College on A level results day, he credited his ‘amazing’ teachers for his success and is now looking forward to the next stage of his educational journey.

He said: “I feel good!

“Maths and further maths were very enjoyable because we had excellent teachers and I got along really well with them; that made it easy to remember what I learnt.

“I enjoyed physics too and the teacher was great, easy to get on with, had a lot of deaf awareness and was good at making everything visual.

“And the management team at the college were also really helpful and supportive.”

Overcoming barriers

As well as the extra educational challenges posed by having a hearing disability, Rahim also had to contend, like all students, with remote learning.

He said: “I was ok working at home and knew I could ask if I got stuck. It was difficult to start with but we got used to it.

“I got on with everything pretty well though there were some barriers in everyday situations – for example if I was in the library and my interpreter wasn’t with me, but I wanted to ask something.

“But we usually managed, and all the teachers had a lot of deaf awareness.”

Looking forward

He added: “I haven’t really got a celebration planned, I’ll go home to tell my family and maybe go out with my friends.

“I’m just really excited about going to university!

“For others who are about to start their A levels I’d say believe in yourself, work out what you’re capable of achieving and form strong relationships with your teachers and those you can work with to achieve your goals.”