2016 International A levels (IAL) and 2016 A levels in French, German and Spanish at a glance

Wed Jul 27 08:50:00 UTC 2016

New GCE A level and AS qualifications and International A levels (IAL) qualifications have been developed for first teaching from September 2016. This update has been produced specifically for those in international centres and spells out the key features and differences of the two qualification types, provides a quick comparison table and includes some related FAQs.  

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2016 International A level

The International A level qualifications must only be offered in international centres – they cannot be offered in any UK based schools.

Based on the legacy Edexcel GCE qualifications that you may well be familiar with, the new International A levels are fully unitised qualifications (which means that student performance in the AS units will continue to contribute to the overall A level qualification). They retain the same number of units and much of the prescribed content.

However, in line with teacher feedback, we’ve made some important changes:

  • Inclusion of listening and reading elements in International AS and International A2 units

  • Some tweaking of general topic areas to provide engaging, manageable and relevant content

  • A revised format for the Unit 4 (topic/text or film) essay

  • Unit 4 essay to enable students to show more of what they know with more focussed questions and an extended response

  • Essays now linked to prescribed topics and texts

  • New short grammar exercises introduced in International AS and International A2

  • Removal of language essay at International A2

  • Availability of examinations in June and January (from 2018).

They still enable teachers and students to have significant control over the content. Students may, for example, choose to study a prescribed text or film for their research-based essay or could decide to consider a topic linked to the history or geography of a target language country. There is no formal requirement to study a literary text and/or film in the International AS or International A2 units.

Students still determine the subject of the debate element in the International A2 oral and have complete freedom of content for this task so long as it is different to the focus of their research-based essay. Their debate may relate to the culture of a target language country but this is not compulsory and students are free to draw on their own experience*.

You may be reassured to know that any text books or other teaching resources that you are now using for the current Edexcel A levels should still support the delivery of the new qualification. The new qualifications will also be supported by the following free online resources:

  • Getting started (Teacher guide)
  • Oral Training Guide
  • Editable Schemes of Work
  • Generic Essay Guide

There’s also a content mapping document to show the similarities between the International A level topic areas and those in the legacy spec.

The new IALs are broadly equivalent to level B2 of the Council of Europe Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). You can discover more about our International A level qualifications on the International A level qualifications page.

*Unlike the new 2016 GCE qualifications, there is no requirement at all in the International AS units to show knowledge and understanding of, and respond critically to different aspects of the culture and society of countries/communities where the target language is spoken. In the International A2 units, there is a requirement to ‘respond critically to themes and ideas form selected topics, cultural texts and films and this accounts for less than 8% of the total qualification.

2016 A level

Based on a format and approach proposed by the A level Content Advisory Group (ALCAB)that included senior lecturing personnel form leading UK universities, the new 2016 GCE qualifications offer a radically different pathway for students in comparison to the legacy and International A level qualifications.

The key features are listed below:

  • 100% linear format (AS and A level devised as separate qualifications with performance in the AS units not contributing to A level)

  • Content exclusively linked to the culture and society of the relevant target language countries.

  • High status accorded to the knowledge and understanding of, and an ability to respond critically (and analytically) to different aspects of the culture and society of the relevant target language countries (20% of total marks)

  • Requirement for all AS students to study a target-language film or text

  • Requirement for all A level students to study two texts or a text and a film written or produced in the target language

  • Independent research requirement in A level oral

  • AS and A level translation requirement (into and from the target language)

  • A three units format for both the AS and A level qualifications

  • No language essay

It is important to note that these new AS and A level qualifications have been designed to be co-teachable. You’ll find that the first two themes of the A level qualification replicates the AS themes and that some of the AS texts and films are common to those on the A level prescribed texts and films list.

Please refer to a list of FAQs linked to the new 2016 International GCE qualifications and the 2016 AS and A level qualifications in French, German and Spanish.  

Alistair Drewery, Languages subject advisor
Alistair DreweryLanguages
UK: 020 7010 2187
Intl: +44 (0)20 7010 2187
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