Thinking of studying A-Level, but not sure if it’s the right course for you?
Whether it’s people telling you that this course is super difficult, or that you should definitely take four subjects instead of three, we want to help you understand all there is to know about A-Level so that you can make an informed decision about your college education!
#1. The Basics of A-Level
a) What Is A-Level?
A-Level is a pre-university programme offered in Malaysia that’s based on the UK education system. Otherwise known as GCE Advanced Level, you can take this course after completing your SPM and before pursuing a degree at university.
A-Level in Malaysia is administered by two examination boards — Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel. Most colleges in Malaysia offer the one from the Cambridge board as opposed to the one by Edexcel.
The programme is 15 to 24 months long, depending on when you start your studies.
It is 100% exam-based, so you’re pretty much reliving your SPM days. But unlike SPM where students usually take 9 subjects, you only need to take a minimum of 3 subjects.
Only 3 Subjects? A-Level Must Be Easy!
Nope, definitely not!
A-Level is generally viewed as a difficult course, because it requires you to analyse and apply logical thinking when answering exam questions.
Remember that you’re in college now, so no more memorising and blindly regurgitating answers like how you did in secondary school!
You will also find that the learning material is more in-depth compared to other courses, such as Australian Matriculation (SAM / AUSMAT). In fact, many A-Level graduates say they have an easier time completing their first year in university compared to their peers!
#2. How Is A-Level Structured?
A-Level consists of two parts:
- Advanced Subsidiary (or better known as AS Level), and
- A2 Level
AS Level is the first half of the programme and forms the foundation of A-Level. A2 Level is the second part of the syllabus, covering more complex topics in the subjects that you have chosen.
You will typically take exams at the end of each level, with each level contributing 50% towards your final grade. That is to say, 50% from AS exams and 50% from A2 exams.
Your final results will be a grade of A* to E for each subject taken. The maximum score is A*A*A* for 3 subjects, and A*A*A*A* for 4 subjects.
#3. Why Should You Take A-Level?
There are many pre-university programmes that you can choose from, but here are some of the top reasons why you should take A-Level.
(a) A-Level is recognised by many universities worldwide
A-Level is well-known as the gold standard of pre-university courses, and is widely accepted by universities worldwide. While it is generally the go-to programme if you wish to study in the UK, it is also accepted by many other countries, including Australia, USA, Canada & Singapore.
(b) It keeps your options open
While Foundation programmes may limit you to certain degrees at certain universities, A-Level allows you to pursue a wide range of degrees upon successful completion. This is especially great if you’re not sure what degree to study yet!
(c) It gives you deep knowledge in your chosen subjects
Instead of having to juggle five or six subjects, A-Level allows you to focus on only a few subjects and gain in-depth knowledge in your chosen subjects. This is great for those who are passionate about a few subjects and want to dive straight in.
(d) There is a wide range of A-Level resources available
Materials such as past year papers, marking schemes and revision questions are readily available everywhere for A-Level. Your college will supplement you with sufficient resources to ace your exam, but if you don’t think it’s enough, the internet is filled with resources for you to go through!
#4. Who Is A-Level For?
a) You should consider taking A-Level if:
- You are academically-inclined with an analytical and inquisitive mind
- You prefer 100% exam-based assessment
- You are looking to gain in-depth knowledge in a few subjects, as opposed to studying a wide variety of subjects
- You are looking to pursue competitive degrees (e.g. Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry) or aiming to gain entry into top tier universities, especially in the UK
b) You should NOT take A-Level if:
- You dislike being assessed based only on exams
- You prefer classroom interaction, coursework and assignments
- You plan to pursue degrees such as Hospitality & Tourism, Architecture and Design that are more practical-oriented
Remember that A-Level is considered one of the more academically challenging courses, due to its focus on analysis and application of knowledge.
As such, although most colleges require you to have at least 5 credits (1 credit is a C or above) at SPM or equivalent, we usually recommend you to have at least 5Bs, with good grades in Math and English.
#5. What Subjects Should You Choose For A-Level?
a) Practical Tips to Choosing Your A-Level Subjects
Choosing your subjects can be difficult, as many colleges in Malaysia offer a variety of subjects and combinations. Some subjects open doors to more degrees and professions than others, so it is important that you choose the right ones.
As a guide, here are some tips on how to choose your A-Level subjects:
- Choose subjects that you will likely enjoy – When a particular topic interests you, it becomes less of a chore to study. Also, it is always easier to excel at something when you enjoy doing it.
- Choose subjects that suit your strength – Every subject is unique and involves a different skill set. Some subjects require creativity or essay writing, while others may challenge your analytical and critical thinking skills. To do well in this programme, play to your strengths!
- Choose subjects that you need to enter a particular degree / career path – If you already have an idea of the university degree you would like to pursue after A-Level, here is a list of degrees with the recommended subjects.
|Accounting, Business, Economics, Finance||Essential: Mathematics & Economics
Recommended: Business Studies, Accounting, Law, Psychology
|Actuarial Science||Essential: Mathematics
Recommended: Further Mathematics, Economics, Physics
|Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Nutrition||Essential: Chemistry, Biology & Mathematics
|Computer Science||Essential: Mathematics
Recommended: Physics, Further Mathematics, Computing
|Engineering||Essential: Mathematics & Physics
Recommended: Chemistry, Further Mathematics
Recommended: Mathematics, Economics, Law, English Literature, Accounting
|Medicine, Dentistry & Pharmacy||Essential: Chemistry, Biology & Mathematics
b) What If You Have Completely No Idea What You Want to Study?
If you studied Science subjects in SPM and scored good grades, choose Mathematics and Chemistry, and either Biology or Physics. This will keep your options open and allow you to pursue a wide range of degrees upon successful completion of your A-Level.
c) Should You Take 3 Subjects or 4 Subjects?
We usually encourage students to take 3 subjects instead of 4 subjects, since it is always better to focus and concentrate on fewer subjects. In fact, most universities only require you to take 3 subjects.
However, if you are planning to study abroad and aiming to get into top tier universities (especially in the UK), there are times where it may be advantageous to take 4 subjects.
For example, to get into Imperial College London, entry requirements are typically A*AAA or A*A*A. Some students prefer to take 4 subjects as a “security”, just in case something goes wrong with one of the 3 subjects and they fail to get straight A*s.
Also, in the case of Engineering, taking A-Level Further Maths may be beneficial to you (Further Maths is usually offered as a 4th subject only), since topics in the first year of Engineering Math would have already been covered in Further Maths.
#6. Where Can You Study A-Levels in Malaysia?
A-Level is generally offered at private colleges and selected MARA colleges in Malaysia.
Here are the most popular colleges for A-Level in Malaysia.
Campus: Subang Jaya, Selangor
Intakes: Jan, Mar & Aug
Estimated Fees: RM35,015 (Science), RM32,855 (Humanities)
6-Star rating by Ministry of Education (MyQUEST 2014/2015)
Excellent track record with 40% scoring 3As & above (2014)
Total of 95 students receiving Top in the World awards
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Campus: Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur
Intakes: Jan, Apr & Jul
Estimated Fees: RM25,150 (Science), RM22,750 (Humanities)
Generous scholarships, including 100% tuition fee waiver
Excellent track record with 30 over years experience
Students gain admission to renowned universities worldwide
Campus: Kuala Lumpur & Penang
Intakes: Jan, Mar, Jun & Aug
Estimated Fees: RM16,000 (Humanities)
One of the most affordable A-Level programmes
Renowned among students who want to pursue a Law Degree
Fast track to the University of London Bachelor of Laws programme (LL.B)
Campus: Shah Alam, Selangor
Intakes: Jan, Mar, Jul & Sep
Estimated Fees: RM25,465 (Science & Humanities)
Conducts both Edexcel and Cambridge examinations
High performing standards with over 25 years of experience
A fully dedicated unit assisting with placement applications to universities abroad