British education is a "brand", not less popular than Big Ben or the famous flag, which image flaunts everywhere today: from toothbrushes and candies to bed linen and clothing. The statistics speaks for itself: about 85% of those dreaming to join the ranks of adherents of international education prefer the old lady England. It is understandable - a matter of prestige.
It suffices to show an owner of a solid company, a government official, or, at worst, a luxury hotel administrator, an Eton certificate or Oxford diploma - success and special treatment are guaranteed. However, it is not necessary to dream unlikely. Any documentary evidence of your stay at the "Great Empire of Education" is the key to success and prosperity. Perhaps, the centuries-old history has the impact as well - the venerable age requires a special respect. The first grammar school was founded in the 7th century already!, and by the 12th century the Pope ordered all Benedictine monasteries to open charity schools at Catholic monasteries. Since then much has changed. Despite the well-known "traditionalism" of the British educational system, one can’t get a tongue around to call it archaic - the education system in the United Kingdom meets all the standards of our age and a harmonious combination of "traditions" and "innovation" serves as a reference for other countries.
Today, the UK education system subordinates to strict quality standards, and secondary education is compulsory for all citizens at the age of 5 to 16.
The national school program of the Kingdom involves 4 stages: the final stage - the age from 14 to 16 years old. Upon reaching by students of the age of 16 and at the end of Grade 11 they pass exams to obtain the certificate, evidencing the completion of compulsory education. 2 years British purposefully prepare for the exams on GCSE special program (General Certificate of Secondary Education). In preparation for the GCSE exam, two compulsory subjects (English and math) are studied, and 4-6 optionally, based on student's preferences and capabilities.
So, at the final stage of secondary education, students make a decision: either to leave school and start earning their daily bread, or continue to grind away at their studies, in order to strengthen their intellectual status with a coveted university diploma. For the latter, who haven’t chosen the easiest way, A-Level special program has been developed. It would seem, why is it so difficult? It is much easier "on our way" – got a general certificate without extra intellectual efforts and go to any university. Perhaps, you’ll be lucky. But these obstacles define the world famous quality of classic British education. However, it is a subject of a different conversation. Let's try to better understand what exactly is an A-Level exam and why it is needed.
It is hardly but A-Level can be compared with the USE (Unified State Exam) so unloved in Russian intellectual circles (there is also a French analogue DELF-DALF or German TestDaF). But if in Russia the USE had replaced all other forms of final exams only by the end of 2000’s, in Great Britain the problem of exam standardization had been solved much earlier - in the period from the early 80's to 2000's. A-Level system has gradually spread throughout the world, and today, in addition to universities in the UK, the results of A-Levels are recognized by 500 US universities and educational institutions of more than 40 countries around the world. As for foreign students, for them there are three options for obtaining A-Level - Certificate: to study on A-Level program abroad (basic courses are held predominantly in the UK), enroll in an online course or study on the program in their own country, subject to, of course, the presence of special accredited centers therein.
A-Level is often called a "gold standard" because this program provides the best preparation for entering universities and high scores obtained when passing A-Level guarantee admission by the most prestigious universities.
The first letter «A» in the name means «advanced», which can be interpreted as an advanced level of study of subjects.
The A-Level structure includes 45 subjects, from which each student chooses 3-6 to study. I.e. students are initially focused on a narrow specialization, which subjects they will deeply study later in a university. This is quite different from the approach of the education system usual for us, when in the last grades pupils continue to study the full set of subjects actually unnecessary for them, and a few years after the prom they smoothly forget everything.
Particular attention should be paid to the selection of subjects - they should correspond to the future university specialization. The list of proposed ones includes: mathematics, higher mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, English literature, politics, psychology and others.
It is interesting that some students from the former Soviet Union, in order to simplify their task, choose Russian (which is also in this list) as one of the subjects. It is clear that the Russian language is not studied deeply in England, thereby the overall academic load reduces.
The A-Level academic program is biennial and requires 20-25 hours of lessons per week. After the 1st year of study and successful examination, the student gets AS-Level degree, after the second - A2-Level degree. At the end of the program, students will take the exam for A-Level diploma. A score is given for each subject. Evaluation system A-B-C-D-E, where A - the highest score, E - the lowest. A-Level diploma and the obtained scores are not just important, but the main criteria when considering student documents by a university.
Note that the "well-informed" people strongly advise to pass one of the preparatory programs, and then boldly go on the A-Level. Here are the words of one of Oxford graduates as a recommendation from someone who has successfully jumped through all the hoops long ago for those who still will have to face with:
"I think that it is best to leave after grade 9. Be sure to get on Pre-A-Level preparatory program or OPAL from the start of classes in the fall, well, or at least in the winter. Be sure to choose a good college. It is important. At A-Level select 4 subjects. If something is out of your depth - you may think about how to change the subject. I advise everyone to take mathematics. In Britain, mathematics for admission is very appreciated in all professions, not just for the "techies" - and then try to enter. Why not?".