The Advanced Extension Awards were introduced in 2002, in reponse to the British Government's Excellence in cities report, as a means of testing students at the most demanding standards found across the world. They are aimed at the top 10% of students in the British A-Level tests, and are designed to allow students to "demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills to the full".They are assessed completely by virtue of external examinations.

With so many students attaining the top grade at A-Level (21.3% of all subject results in 2003 were graded at an A), it is becoming increasingly difficult for employers and universities to differentiate between the best students. Indeed, it is fairly common for students to leave school with 3 or more A grades. The AEAs, to an extent, do a good job of separating these students.

The awards seem to be doing their job of identifying the top students. Indeed, in 2003, 50.6% of the 7320 entrants failed to achieve a grade at all. This indicates that the awards truly are fulfilling their role in separating the elite. Only 17.2% of students attained the top of the two grades available, the Distinction, with the remaining 32.2% of students receiving a Merit. However, only time can tell whether this set of results is attributable to the qualification's youth, and therefore the lack of experience of teachers and small bank of past papers to refer to.

Advanced Extension Awards are currently available in the following subjects: