How the new A-Level reform affects you and your A-Level French.

How the new A-Level reform affects you and your A-Level French?

As you may know, since September 2015 the A levels have come through some major changes and you are probably confused with many of them. This is why, in this article, we are discussing how the new A-Level reform affects you and your A-Level French.

In the first part of this article I will briefly talk about when this reform begun for French and will focus on what they mean for your French studies. I will finally share with you the new A-Level Foreign Languages contents published by the Department for Education so that you know exactly what to study for your A-Level French. 

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This is quite a long article, so we have made for you a table of contents to allow you to jump through the parts that you are most interested in:


When did the A-Level changes start for AS and A-Level French?

One important thing that you should know is that this new A-level reform is gradually rolled out across subjects. It started to be applied to the first subjects in September 2015 and is progressively introduced to the others subjects until 2017.

Thus, for French specifically, these changes have come into power in 2016 with the first teaching in September of that year. This means that if you start your AS French in 2016 or after, you will sit your AS and A-Level exams under the rules set in this reform. The first AS exams to be sat are in May/June 2017 while the first A-level French qualifications to be delivered under this reform are in May/June 2018.

How the new A-Level reform affects you and your A-Level French?

We will see that they are many differences with the previous AS and A-Level French and schools and colleges have reacted in different ways so far in response to those changes.

Let’s look at the differences...

Main differences with these A-Level French changes?

One thing to note is the fact that the AS exam in French will continue to exist. The main difference with previous years however is that, the AS certificate that you will gain will be a stand alone qualification. Unlike before, the results obtained will no longer contribute towards your final A-level French grades.

The other difference from previous years is that since, your AS exam results are not part of the final A-Level grades that you will get, one might think that there is, a priori, no need for your school or college to facilitate this exam for you as one of their students. There is indeed no obligation for sixth form schools and colleges to enter their students for the AS French exams. It is up to them to make an informed decision as to which option would be best for them.

How schools and colleges reacted to the new A-Level French reform?

With the choice given to them, some schools and colleges have made the decision not to take time away from teaching and learning for testing and assessments in the first year. They have prefered to focus on exams only in the second year leaving the first year for more in-depth study of the A-Level French syllabus and contents.

Other schools and colleges have instead chosen to carry on entering their French AS students for the exam like before. The idea behind this decision is to still be able to use the AS grades obtained as an indication for their students’ A-Level grade. The AS grades gained provide also excellent predicted A-Level grades for your UCAS application to study in higher education and this application process usually occurs before the A-Level grades are out.

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How the new A-Level reform affects you and your A-Level French.

Having an AS French grade also helps you as a student to see how you are progressing in the subject and gives you the opportunity to make some appropriate adjustments.

You might decide after your AS results that the subject is not for you and give it up to really focus on other subjects that you feel you could have your best A-Level grades.

You must however consider that studying a subject or specifically French is not always only about grades but also about how useful French could be for you based on what you want to do next in your life.

When your AS grades are received, you might therefore decide to stick to the subject while realising that you would really benefit from extra support and, decide to take private tuition in order to get the A-Level grade that you want in French.

How is therefore the A-Level French assessed?

How is the A-Level French assessed?

With the new changes, A-Level is now a linear exam unlike before when it was modular.

What does this mean for you?

Previously, you had set topics in year 1 assessed at the end of your AS and set topics in year 2 assessed in year 2.

With the new reform if you are entered for the AS in French, you are assessed on year 1 topics at the end of the first year. At the end of second year however, when you sit your A-Level in French, you are assessed on all the contents of the A-level. This means that you will now be assessed on year 1 and 2 topics and must revise everything covered in both years.

Key Takeaways:

  • Sitting the AS Level Exam is no longer compulsory
  • The AS Certificate is a standalone qualification.
  • In their A-Level Exam, students are assessed on the topics covered in both years.

These new reform changes also meant that the A-Level French contents have also changed. In the next part of this article, we are going to look at, the A-Level French contents published by the Department for Education.

These contents are extremely important as they are a framework with themes and other requirements that examination boards such as AQA and Edexcel must comply with and derive their syllabuses including their sub themes from. In another article, we will look at the specific topics or themes that AQA and Edexcel examination boards assess students on for the A-Level French.

For now, let's look at the French A-Level Subject contents.....


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How the new A-Level reform affects you and your A-Level French.

Modern Languages Including French A-Level Subject contents

1. AS and A level specifications in modern languages must build on the knowledge, understanding and skills specified in the GCSE subject content.

2. The content for AS and A level is conceived as an integrated study with a focus on language and culture and society.

Students must study specific themes related to the society and culture where French is spoken

3. AS and A level specifications must require students to:

  • develop knowledge and understanding, through the language of study, of themes relating to the society and culture, past and present, of the country or countries where the language is spoken.

Students must study one theme at AS and two themes at A level, from each of the following areas of interest (i.e. 2 themes at AS; 4 themes at A level):

(i) social issues and trends

(ii) political and/or intellectual and/or artistic culture

Students must use authentic spoken and written sources to study the language.

With regard to area of interest (ii):
• at both AS and A level, students must use authentic spoken and written sources from a variety of different contexts and genres, including online media, as stimulus material for the study of the themes and, concurrently, for language development.

Students must use the language spontaneously and develop their skills

4. AS and A level specifications must require students to develop their language knowledge, understanding and skills through:

  • using language spontaneously to initiate communication; ask and answer questions; express thoughts and feelings; present viewpoints; develop arguments; persuade; and analyse and evaluate in speech and writing, including interaction with speakers of the language
  • applying knowledge of pronunciation, morphology and syntax, vocabulary and idiom to communicate accurately and coherently, using a range of expression – including the list of grammar at annex A for French, German and Spanish. [The content of the list of Grammar for French will be published in another post] For other languages, all specifications must include appendices setting out requirements for grammar which represent a level of challenge and breadth comparable to the requirements for French, German and Spanish.
  • using language learning skills and strategies, including communication strategies such as adjusting the message, circumlocution, self-correction and repair strategies
  • listening and responding to spoken passages including some extended passages from a range of different contexts and sources, adapted as necessary, covering different registers and types, including authentic communication involving one or more speakers
  • reading and responding to a variety of texts including some extended texts written for different purposes and audiences drawn from a range of authentic sources, including contemporary, historical and literary, fiction and non-fiction texts, adapted as necessary
  • understanding the main points, gist and detail from spoken and written material
  • inferring meaning from complex spoken and written material, including factual and abstract content
  • assimilating and using information from spoken and written sources, including material from online media
  • summarising information from spoken and written sources, reporting key points and subject matter in speech and writing
  • translating an unseen passage or passages from the language of study into English at AS and A level
  • translating unseen sentences or short texts at AS, and an unseen passage or passages at A level, from English into the language of study

Key Takeaways: What students must study for the A-Level French

  • Students must study specific themes related to the society and culture where French is spoken.
  • Students must use authentic spoken and written sources to study the language.
  • Students must be able to use the language spontaneously to initiate communication
  • Students must be able to apply knowledge of pronunciation, vocabulary and idioms to communicate accurately.
  • Students must study literary works and/or films in the French language

Study of Literary works and/or films

AS Level French requirements

5. At AS, specifications must also require students to study one work, either a literary work or a film. They must:

• know, understand and be able to respond critically in writing, in the language of study, to the work, taken from the prescribed list provided in the specification.

6. At AS, knowledge and understanding of the work must include a critical response to aspects such as the structure of the plot, characterisation, and use of imagery or other stylistic features, as appropriate to the work studied.

A-Level French requirements

7. At A level, specifications must require students to study two works, either a literary work and a film, or two literary works. They must:
• appreciate, analyse and be able to respond critically in writing, in the language of study, to the works, taken from the prescribed list provided in the specification.

8. At A level, students must develop a more detailed understanding of the works, showing a critical appreciation of the concepts and issues covered, and a critical and analytical response to features such as the form and the technique of presentation, as appropriate to the work studied (e.g. the effect of narrative voice in a prose text or camera work in a film).

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How the new A-Level reform affects you and your A-Level French.
Students must use authentic sources to study the language.

9. The works prescribed in the specification must be appropriate authentic sources.

  • the list of literary works must include a range from at least two of the following genres: novels, series of short stories, plays, selections of poems, life writing (such as autobiography, biography, letters and journals)
  • the list of films must include feature length films and can include selections of short films organised by theme or director
  • students are required to study two discrete works at A level i.e. students cannot be assessed on a film adapted from a literary work as well as on the original literary work itself

More A level requirements

10. In addition, A level specifications in a modern language must require students to:

  • develop research skills in the language of study, demonstrating the ability to initiate and conduct individual research on a subject of personal interest, relating to the country or countries where the language is spoken
  • identify a key question or subject of interest and select relevant information in the language of study from a range of authentic sources, including the internet
  • use information to illustrate knowledge and understanding of the research subject
  • analyse and summarise research findings, elaborating on key points of interest, as appropriate, through oral presentation and discussion

Key Takeaways: What students must study for the A-Level French

  • Students must study specific themes related to the society and culture where French is spoken.
  • Students must use authentic spoken and written sources to study the language.
  • Students must be able to use the language spontaneously to initiate communication
  • Students must be able to apply knowledge of pronunciation, vocabulary and idioms to communicate accurately.
  • Students must study literary works and/or films in the French language

Source: Department for Education

I hope that you have enjoyed this article and you feel that it has shed some light on this new A-Level reform. I also hope that you are now have a better idea as to what this reform really means for you and your French studies. If you feel that you will need some help and support to get through the new challenges that come with this new A-Level French, please do not worry.

Thanks to the expertise of our native French speaker and experienced tutor, we can help you take your French to the level that you want it to be in order to get your best possible grade in your A-Level French.

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