Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) for Edexcel IGCSE, GCSE, GCE (AS/A2-levels), International A-levels

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UK GCE, AS/A2, International A-levels


If your question is not answered here please email [email protected] as we are happy to give you an answer. If you have a suggestion for a question and/or answer to be added/amended on this page please also email us.

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  • What is Edexcel?

  • Edexcel, a Pearson company, is the UK's largest awarding body offering academic and vocational qualifications and testing to schools, colleges, employers and other places of learning in the UK and internationally.

    Edexcel was formed in 1996 by the merger of the Business & Technology Education Council (BTEC), the UK’s leading provider of vocational qualifications, and the University of London Examinations & Assessment Council (ULEAC), one of the major exam boards for GCSEs and A-levels.
  • What is the difference between online learning and distance learning?

    The first difference is that online learning must use the internet whereas distance learning can use other methods to deliver learning material. Most online learning is in fact distance learning using electronic delivery. Both expect the student to learn on their own from the learning material. The ITS online learning model adds live teacher time to produce a more effective learning experience and thus more desireable learning outcomes.

  • Can I complete my IGCSE's online?

  • Yes. It is possible to undertake all the learning for your IGCSE exams online with ITS. If you are unable to take the exam in Hong Kong at ITS, you will need to attend another authorized exam centre to sit the exams.
  • Which IGCSE subjects can I take online?

    A wide variety of subjects are available. Please check our online GCSE page.

  • What is the difference between GCSE and IGCSE?

  • GCSE and IGCSE are qualifications which are at the same level.  The IGCSE has been developed to be more relevant to students learning in an ‘international’ or non-UK context.  The “I” stands for international.  These qualifications have become so popular that a number of independent schools in the UK are now moving away from the GCSE and adopting the IGCSE. However, in terms of entrance into post-secondary and other courses, the qualifications are seen as equivalent.
  • Is there course work in the IGCSE?

    This depends. While schools do have a coursework option in some subjects, it is also possible to take the 100% exam route with the IGCSE.
  • When is the enrollment deadline?

  • There are a number of enrollment deadlines dependent on centre location and examination board. Generally, there will be a deadline a few months before the examination date at the lowest fee level. However candidates are able to enroll up to a few days before an examination if they are willing to pay higher entry fees. Exam centres will publish a series of deadlines at which entry fees increase.
  • How much does it cost?

  • IGCSE subjects are charged per subject rather than per unit (as the A-level is). You should check with your exam centre to get the current cost per subject.
  • When do the results come out?

  • The results are generally released in August (for the May/June exam session) or March (for the January session). Check the exact date with your exam centre.
  • How many IGCSE subjects should I take?

  • It really depends on the purpose for which you are taking them. The convention in UK schools is to sit eight to ten subjects. However, this is primarily a function of maintaining a broad curriculum in mainstream schools. Students in other educational systems or taking subjects in a different context may only need to take one or two subjects. Ask a counsellor for help.
  • Can I get my exam paper back?

  • It is possible to request a copy of the paper but it may not be possible for all subjects. There is a fee for this service.
Answers GCE, AS/A2, International A-levels
  • What is the difference between GCE A-level and International A-level?

    The GCE A-level is a linear qualification taken over two years by students at school in the UK. International students can still take it but they should note they will take regional versions and will sit papers at slightly different times. The examinations take place in June. GCE A-levels carry UCAS tariff points.

    The International A-level is especially for students studying outside of the UK. It follows a modular structure so you can build the qualification over time. Examinations take place in October, January and June.
    International A-levels do not carry UCAS tariff points.
  • Can I complete my GCE/International A-levels online?

  • Yes. It is possible to undertake all the learning for your GCE/International A-level exams online with ITS. However you will need to attend an authorized exam centre to sit the exams. ITS is such a centre and currently you can sit at an ITS in Hong Kong. We will have regional locations shortly. We can also help you find and register at a local centre.
  • What do A-level, AS and A2 mean?

  • A-level means Advanced level and refers to the overall qualification.

    In GCE A-level one examination takes place at the end of the course. There are GCE AS-levels which count as "half" an A-level.
    University places are awarded on the basis of grades at A-level but AS awards also attract UCAS points and are often counted towards university entrance.

    The International A-level consists of two stages called AS and A2. AS stands for Advanced Subsidiary level. Students who complete the correct pattern of AS level units (usually 2 or 3 units at this level, depending on the subject) will be awarded an AS-level certificate or can continue the subject at A2.

    A2 refers to the final stage of International A-levels. Students who have successfully completed AS units in a subject move on to do A2 units, which are of a higher standard. Completing the correct sequence of units at both AS and A2 level means you have finished a full International A-level in a subject. University entrance is at the discretion of the university based on your AS and A2 grades.
  • How many GCE/International A-levels should I take?

  • This depends on the reasons for which you are taking A-levels.  If you are taking them as a stepping stone to a UK university, then the number you take will depend on what the university requires or the number of UCAS points you need to get into your course. The most common combinations call for three full A-levels.

    For entry to universities in other countries, you will need to research their specific requirements.

    While A-levels are useful for a number of other reasons such as high school completion, employment or career development, there are no requirements in terms of number of subjects for these uses.

  • Do some GCE/International A-level subjects have higher value than others?

  • This depends on the calibre of the university you are targeting or the course you are hoping to get into.  Some subjects are not seen as sufficiently ‘academic’ to be accepted by some universities. A number of universities don’t give credit for marks achieved in General Studies, for example. Check with your chosen universities to see if they have a subject or two they won’t recognize.
  • Can I retake an exam if I am unhappy with my mark?
  • There are major changes which are now happening to GCE A-levels and one of the long term goals of these changes will be a reduction in what can be retaken and when. Under the current A-level specification retakes are possible although their availability is limited by when the exams are offered.  The new specification, which will come into effect in a few years’ time will have very different rules regarding retaking exams.

    IAL units can be retaken in October, January and June

  • Is there any coursework for GCE/International A-level subjects?

  • Yes.  Different boards have different requirements for different subjects but it is common for English and History to have coursework. Some subjects may be taken in a 100% exam format, particularly to allow access for students who are home-learners or for any reason do not have teachers available to guide coursework or do not have access to facilities such as scientific laboratories. In this case, one unit exam requires a written response to questions about the coursework techniques a students has missed out on.
  • How is an A* grade awarded?

  • You will need to check the regulation for the specific board. Generally you require an A average and an average of 90% in your A2 units to qualify for an A*.
  • Can I enrol through multiple exam centres?

  • You can for different exam sessions.  If you took a number of units through Centre A and then through a change of school or situation you want to do some more units (or retake some of the previous ones) you can enroll in Centre B if you like.  Make sure you enroll using the same UCI (Unique Client Identifier) so all of your previous units and subjects and personal information can be used. 

    You cannot enroll in Centre A and Centre B during the same exam session.

  • Do universities accept an A-level in Chinese?

  • Some universities will accept an A-level in Chinese as part of the UCAS tariff, some will not. You should check with your university choices to see what their attitude towards offering a Chinese A-level will be. Sending an email to the admissions office for your selected course is a good way to check.
  • How do the A-levels compare to the IB?

  • A-levels and the IB Diploma are both ways to show you have completed high school and are both used to qualify for university entrance.  There are strengths and weaknesses in both systems. Both systems can gain you entrance to universities world-wide.
  • Can I take GCE/International A-levels alongside BTEC?

  • Yes you can. Many universities in the UK have a UCAS tariff point requirement beyond that attainable through BTEC. For example, you might need 320 UCAS tariff points to gain entry to a particular course. BTEC does not always provide enough UCAS tariff points.  For example if you receive MM for BTEC, you only have 200 tariff points.  If you selected course needs 320, you are short of this figure.  In order to gain more tariff points, you could do a GCE A-level subject or two. International A-levels do not carry tariff points but universities will tell you what grades they expect.
  • What are the UCAS tariff points for an A-level subject?

  • UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admission Service) is the body through which applications to most UK degree courses are processed. It awards points to each grade in a variety of recognised, publicly examined qualifications from around the world. Accumulation of a points total determines the courses to which you can apply. See the UCAS site for full details. Note that only GCE A-levels carry tariff points.
  • Can I get extra help in my examinations?

  • If you have documentation to support that you would be disadvantaged in some way without it, extra help, usually in the form of more time or possibly the use of a computer, might be possible. You should submit any medical or other reports of this nature to the exam centre administration office well in advance of the exam session.
  • What happens if I miss my exam through no fault of my own?

    If it is really through no fault of yours, your enrolment can be transferred to the next exam session with no additional exam fee.  It may be possible to apply for some form of special consideration but this is unlikely to help you much in the case of a whole exam being missed.
  • What does ‘cashing-in’ mean?

    Cashing-in is the mechanism for generating a certificate.  If you have to complete three units in order to complete the AS qualification, and you do all three you won’t automatically get a certificate.  Instead, the units will stay in your account.  If you want a certificate to be generated, the cash-in must be applied for.
  • Where can I find out about going to university in the UK?

  • A good place to start is the UCAS website at There are a number of education fairs held in Hong Kong each year and a lot of the UK universities attend. ITS provides extensive advice, counseling and support on the entire university application process from choosing a course to submitting the application. This includes personal statement writing, report submission, predicted grades and entrance test & interview preparation when appropriate.
    This service is available at ITS in Hong Kong or online.   

  • Do universities accept GCE/International A-level retakes?

    They are not obliged to and more popular destinations are unlikely to. If you miss your target grades you will enter a process at UCAS called "clearing". This is designed to match unfilled courses to students with acceptable qualifications. If, after this process, you do not have a course and you still wish to pursue one you will have to reapply anyway and retakes may well be part of this strategy.
  • Do I have to resit all the AS/A2 units?

  • For GCE A Levels all units must be taken in the same session. For IAL you can retake any unit you want. The board will take your best result for that unit and that is the mark that will be considered for an award.
  • When can I retake A-level units?

  • Retakes can only be taken during a session when the exam is offered. As not all units are examined in the January session it might not be possible to retake until the May/June session. Edexcel IAL can be retaken in October, January and May/June
  • What happens to my old A-level result when I resit?

  • You will receive the best mark of the unit or units being retaken. As long as your exam centre applies again for the appropriate cash-in, a new certificate will be generated if you qualifiy for an award.
Answers Study in the UK
  • What is the education system like in the UK?

    The UK has compulsory education for all students between the ages of 5 and 16. Children usually begin primary school at five years old and generally move to secondary school when they turn eleven.

    There are national exams known as Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) which can independently assess both students and schools against the national standard for subjects.

    In secondary school students take the GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) when they are 16 years old.

  • What types of schools are found in the UK?

    There are schools which are funded by the government (state-funded schools) and schools which are privately- funded (known as private or independent or public schools). Students who attend a state-funded school receive their education free of charge.  In Privately-funded schools, students pay fees and are usually selected through an entrance test and sometimes an interview.

    International students usually attend independent schools, especially those with a high academic success rate which helps them move on to a place at a UK university when their schooling is completed. The excellent education offered by many independent schools, and the strong English speaking environment offers a student many opportunities both at school and in the future.

    Many independent schools are also boarding schools and charge for both the tuition and boarding they provide students.

  • Which subjects are studied at school?

    Until the end of compulsory education there are three main compulsory subjects – Maths, English and Science. However, there are also foundation subjects and students also study these (or many of them). Foundation subjects include: technology, music, art, history, geography, classics, physical education and modern foreign languages. There are also sometimes subjects such as religious studies.

    A-level students usually have free choice over the subjects they wish to study, although it is also important to bear in mind any pre-requisite subjects required for your target university course.

  • What qualifications are available?

    Students usually take the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) when they are 5 or 16 years old. It is common for students to take between 5 and 10 subjects at GCSE level.  Once compulsory schooling ends, students might go on to take a vocational programme of study, such as the GNVQs (General National Vocational Qualifications) or the A-levels if they hope to apply to university later. There are of course a range of other qualifications which students might take and which articulate with a number of higher education pathways.

  • How do I apply?

    As there can be a lot of competition for school places, especially at top Independent schools, it is common to be asked to sit an entrance test.  There is also sometimes an interview. As the new academic year begins in September, it is a good idea to start your preparations one year before you intend to go. Many entrance tests are held in November, although it is possible to secure a place later than that.

A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.