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Cambridge Pre-U

What Is Cambridge Pre-U?

Cambridge Pre-U is a qualification that serves as an alternative to the current A-Level qualifications. It is provided by Cambridge Assessment International Education and aims to offer more depth in subjects than the standard A-Level syllabus. The qualification was first launched in 2008 and has been slowly gathering momentum as more schools begin offering Cambridge Pre-Us alongside or instead of A-Levels.

Which Schools Offer Cambridge Pre-U?

Several independent schools now offer Cambridge Pre-U instead of A-Levels in some subjects. Many state schools have also begun to offer Cambridge Pre-U and more have registered an interest.
The following independent schools currently offer Cambridge Pre-U:

  • Kingston Grammar School
  • The Perse School
  • Downe House School
  • Hampton School
  • North London Collegiate School
  • City of London School
  • Charterhouse School
  • Cranleigh School
  • Westminster School
  • Winchester College
  • Oundle School
  • Christ’s Hospital
  • Dulwich School
  • Shrewsbury School
  • Rugby School
  • Tonbridge School
  • Lord Wandsworth College
  • Eton College

Some schools offer Cambridge Pre-U across the board for all subjects, or alongside International A-Levels or the International Baccalaureate, doing away with A-Levels completely.

What Does Cambridge Pre-U Include?

Studying for the Cambridge Pre-U is linear, similar to A-Levels, and does not include compulsory core subjects.
Students studying the Cambridge Pre-U can choose 2 principal subjects from a list of 27. There is the option to study more subjects, but these are not included in the Diploma.

Cambridge Pre-U also offers one-year short courses lasting one year, in Modern Foreign Languages, Maths and Further Maths.

Students can complete an independent research project and a “Global Perspectives” portfolio in addition to the three principal subjects can gain the full Cambridge Pre-U Diploma.

What Is The Difference Between A-Levels And Cambridge Pre-U?

When studying A-Levels a student chooses individual subjects, studying them independently of each other to achieve three separate grades at the end of the course.

Cambridge Pre-U is a single qualification, where students choose three subjects but receive one overall grading.
Another difference that’s not often considered is that the Cambridge Pre-U is designed to develop the skills students need for university. Students are encouraged to develop independence and understanding that will be of use when they begin studying at degree level, whereas a large part of A-Level study is regurgitation of facts.

Is Cambridge Pre-U Accepted By UCAS?

UCAS does award points for Cambridge Pre-U qualifications. Cambridge Pre-U grading is different to A-Levels, in that there are three grades: Distinction, Merit and Pass. Each of these three is divided into three sub-grades, for example Distinction 1, 2 or 3. Distinction 1 is the top grade and is higher than an A* at A-Level.  Distinction 2 is slightly above an A*, and Distinction 3 is aligned to an A.

UCAS points for Cambridge Pre-U are slightly higher than those for aligned A-Level grades, taking into account the fact that Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects involve more in-depth study and knowledge. UCAS points are also awarded for Global Perspectives and independent research projects and for the one-year short course subjects.


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