A Level Vs. AP Exam: Which One Is Right For You? (Including their key differences)

A Level Vs. AP Exam: Which One Is Right For You
A High School Student Taking An Exam

As a math teacher, I received a lot of questions about Advanced Placement (AP) courses or A Levels; how do they differ, and which one is better?

The truth is that the academic world is full of acronyms and abbreviations, each with its own meanings and definitions. Two of the most common are A-Levels and AP exams. For most students and their parents, they may sound like a single entity, but they are two very distinct types of exams.

So, A level vs. AP exam: how do they differ? AP exams are only considered for credit in the US, not for admission, whereas the A Levels are accepted for college admissions worldwide and credit in the US. In addition, AP tests generally focus on multiple-choice questions, with a few open-response questions at the end. Cambridge tests are mostly open-ended application questions, including exposure to new situations students have not yet experienced.

Both the A level and Ap exam have their advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to carefully weigh your options before deciding which path to take.

Let’s dig into the details of both AP and A Level courses to see what each has to offer. We will also look at how these tests differ from one another and what purpose each serves.

If you wonder whether the A level maths is worth it or not, I encourage you to read this article.

What Are AP Courses?

AP exams, also known as Advanced Placement exams, are college-level courses offered by high schools in the United States, Canada, and some parts of the world. These classes typically cover material that would normally be reserved for freshman-level university courses.

Upon completion of an AP course, students may take an exam at the end of the year, which can lead to college credits if they score well enough on it. This means a student can get a head start on earning college credits before even stepping onto a university campus!

AP exams are designed to give high school students an opportunity to get a head start on college-level course material while still in high school.

Unlike A-levels which only require passing grades for graduation requirements, AP courses typically require students to earn a score of 3 or above out of 5 on their AP exam in order to receive college credit for the coursework completed during the school year.

What Are A Levels?

A Levels (or Advanced Level Qualifications) are offered by secondary schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and other British territories as part of their educational curriculum.

A Level exams are typically taken over the course of two years after completing the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) or IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams.

These qualifications are offered by examination boards such as AQA (Assessment & Qualifications Alliance) or OCR (Oxford Cambridge & RSA Examinations). Students who successfully pass their A-levels can go on to study at universities in Britain or abroad.

The A Levels are perfect for you if you want a more flexible curriculum that allows you to pursue various subjects while having multiple exam date choices.

Students typically take three or four A Level classes over two years and then sit an examination at the end of each course. Depending on how they perform, they will either receive a pass or fail grade, which will determine whether they can progress to higher education at universities across Britain and beyond.

A Level Vs. Ap Program: Key Differences

Let’s discuss the key differences between A Level and Ap Programs:

1- Differences In The A Levels And AP Program Curriculums

The International GCSE course is relatively straight, and the GCSE subjects are designed as first introductions to the topics they cover. The program begins in Year 11 or earlier, with students taking up to six subjects.

In Year 12, students advance to the A Levels, which are further divided into two parts:

  • The AS Level is also called “Advanced Subsidiary.” At AS Level, students take about 4 to 5 AS Level subjects during their Year 12.
  • And the A2 Level, where students complete 3 to 4 A2 Level subjects during Year 13. 

On the other hand, APs are additional college-level courses offered in US high schools or via an online high school. Generally, most students self-study for AP exams along with their regular high school course load, indicating discipline and academic rigor.

2- Differences In Terms Of Assessment Between The A Levels And AP Program

Assessments in the International GCSEs, A Level, and AP programs are generally all external via examinations at the end of your study.

These external exams are typically set on two exam dates in the year, which gives students flexibility based on their schedule. In addition, students can resit any exams if they are not happy with their performances.

Similarly, the AP exams are 100% externally assessed via one standardized examination, generally at the end of the academic year.

3- The A Levels and AP Have a Different Grading System

With the International GCSEs and A Levels, students typically sit several individual exams (known as papers) for a single subject. 

Each paper has a distinct weighting defined in the syllabus of every course. Pearson Edexcel International GCSEs are granted using the new nine-point grading scale (9–1) presented by the UK government to boost standards and recognize top-performing students. 

The International GCSEs and A Levels use a bell curve as a grading system, meaning you don’t have to get 90% of the questions correct to score a 90% on your report card. Your scores are related to your peers’.

In contrast, AP exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5. Many US and Canadian universities offer college credit for students scoring at least 3 in the AP exams.

The table below contains the Pros And Cons of A Levels Vs. AP Program

Type Of Program Pros Cons
– International GCSEs
– A Levels
– A level is the best and the most recognized worldwide
– Designed curriculum from Years 11 to 13
– A level is flexible in terms of subject selection
– Multiple exam dates during the school year
– Failing A Level exams can affect students’ entire education pathway. 
– Traditional schools offer a limited subject selection.
Advanced Placement (AP)– Allow students to receive college credit while in high school
– It might help boosts students’ university application
– It lets students discover and explore interests
– The AP is not as well globally-recognized as the A level
– It can be relatively hard to score high on the exams
The Table Summarizes The Pros And Cons of A Levels Vs. AP Program – mathodics.com

Which Should You Choose?

When deciding between AP and A Level courses, there are several factors to consider, such as cost, availability, curriculum difficulty level, potential admissions advantages, etc. Ultimately, the right program for you should be where you feel most comfortable as a student.

  • If you are planning to study in the United States, choose the AP exam as it is the most well-known in the US. Almost every American college recognizes and accepts AP scores. Note that the A levels are also now accepted in the US.
  • If you want worldwide recognition, choose the A level, as you can leverage your A level exam results to attend college at international universities.

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and individual needs: do you want more structure with exams at the end of each course, like with A Levels?

Or would you prefer more flexibility with no final exams like with AP classes? There is no one-size-fits-all answer; it is up to you as an individual student to decide which path best suits your needs!

The main difference between the A level and Ap exam is that very few universities outside of the United States recognize or accept AP credit (Source: Arizona State University)

The table below contains an overview of A Level Vs. AP program

CurriculumStandard Age Range Of StudentsSchool YearSubjects Number Examination
Advanced Placement (AP Exam)Between 15 to 18Generally, From Grades 10 to 12Differs in addition to students’ high school classesAn external examination is offered once a year
– International GCSEs
– A Levels
Between 14 to 18Generally, in years 11 to Year 13A minimum of 4 to 5 External examinations are offered 2 to 3 times a year.
The table includes an overview of A Level Vs. AP program – mathodics.com.

What to read next:

Final Thoughts

There is a significant difference between A-Levels and AP exams. While both provide an opportunity for students to delve into more advanced studies than those required for graduation requirements, one is geared towards graduates looking for university admittance, while the other focuses on preparing high schoolers for college-level classes while still in high school.

While both offer unique benefits depending on one’s personal preferences and educational goals, it’s important to carefully research each option before making a decision to ensure that whichever route you choose is right for you!

With careful consideration and research into your options, you can make an informed decision about whether AP or A Level is right for you!


I am Altiné. I am the guy behind mathodics.com. When I am not teaching math, you can find me reading, running, biking, or doing anything that allows me to enjoy nature's beauty. I hope you find what you are looking for while visiting mathodics.com.

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