“If he/she’s not going to a British university, why do A-levels?”

It’s a comprehensible opinion. But it’s not just students completing GCSEs this summer who are currently signing up to do A-levels – increasingly, at Phoenix College, students are swapping to us to study A-level from Spanish institutos too. Why?

With A-levels, students can go to any University in Spain, Europe and the rest of the world. It’s true. The A-level qualification is valid for entry into any university, public or private, here in Spain (+ PCE subjects for those that need them). They also allow entry in the UK, of course, but also for Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, the USA… Though of course this is true of Bachillerato too. So are there any other benefits of A-levels?

Maintaining an exceptionally high level of English. A-levels are taught in English – so students are immersed in classes in history or biology, for example, where the verbal discussion is in English, the textbook is in English – the homework tasks and exams are in English. We are talking way beyond the level obtained from extra-curricular English classes. “I recently chanced upon a former student of mine who went back to bachillerato,” confides Kirsty Ridyard BA Oxon, MA Oxon, Co-Director of Phoenix College Málaga. “And it was already easier for us to converse in Spanish. It’s incredible how quickly students can lose their English if they don’t use it.”

Studying fewer subjects. It can be hard to believe, but students really do only need three (or four, and normally one can be Spanish A-level) A-level subjects to access universities. For some students, it is a huge advantage to concentrate on their stronger subjects, so not having to study those they dislike, and many feel that it helps them achieve higher grades, too. Some Spanish students, on leaving a British school after GCSE (equivalent to 4º ESO) to enter bachillerato have struggled to catch up with subjects such as philosophy or Spanish literature which they have never studied before. And aside from this, students progressing on to A-level from GCSE are continuing in a system that they are already familiar with.

Less emphasis on memorising, more on application to real-life contexts, and experiments in science subjects. Any higher level course of study requires learning material, but A-levels teach students to use it too. Problem-solving, analysis of events and concepts, encouraging students to engage with ideas – all these form part of classes, written tasks, and the exams themselves. Science subjects involve practical experiments at every opportunity. All this makes students more self-confident, more adaptable and flexible, and better able to cope with university life and later employment.

You get opportunities to repeat during the course. Unlike other education systems, the International A-levels, such as those studied at Phoenix College Málaga, are made up of separate unit exams. The scores are added up at the end of the two year course to give a grade in each subject. However – the unit exams can be taken in January or June of the first or second year. This means that if the earlier units don’t go well, students can repeat them to try and get a better grade. This allows students to experience real official exams very early on in the course, reflect on their approach, and improve it by repeating exams without penalty.

For 16-18 year-olds, deciding what to study and where is a massive, life-determining decision. Come and explore your options in a no-commitment meeting with us at Phoenix College Málaga. Small classes, native English-speakers, specialised PCE teachers and a relaxed, focussed atmosphere, all on the corner of the Plaza de Uncibay in the heart of Málaga. Our Sixth Form College gives students greater freedom while guiding and supporting them to be the best that they can be, acting as a bridge between school and university. Come and study a world-respected qualification that will help you fulfil your dreams. Your future starts now.

Kirsty Ridyard BA Oxon MA Oxon, Co-Director, Phoenix College Málaga, March 2022

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