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What are A-Levels?

If you’re an international student applying for university in the United Kingdom, you might have heard people talk about ‘A-Levels.’ But what are they? And do you need them to go to university in the UK? Find out more in our helpful guide.

What are A-levels?

A-Levels (Advanced Level Qualifications) are qualifications taken by school-leavers in the United Kingdom and in countries such as Singapore, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe where a different version of the qualification has been developed. Unlike many other school-leaving qualifications, there is no specific subject requirement for the exams, which means students are able to take whatever combination of subjects they prefer. 

Common Combinations

Most students will take three or four different subjects of a similar discipline with common combinations including:

  • Maths, Physic & Chemistry
  • Biology, Chemistry & Maths
  • English, French & Spanish
  • History, Economics & Politics
  • English, Philosophy & History 

What are A-levels equivalent to internationally?

Alternative school-leaving qualifications around the world include:

  • Baccalauréat (France)
  • Abitur (Germany)
  • Irish Leaving Certificate
  • VWO (Netherlands)
  • Matura (Poland)
  • Bachillerato (Spain and parts of Latin America)
  • National Higher Education Entrance Examination (China)
  • International Baccalaureate

Do I need A-levels to take an International Foundation Year?

You do not need A-Levels to take an International Foundation Year with British Study Centres. You can apply with an IELTS score of 5.5 and a high school diploma from your country of origin.

Do I need A-levels to go to university in the United Kingdom?

While most British students will take A-levels to get into university, there are a number of routes into university in the United Kingdom without needing A-levels. For international students, our University Pathways courses offer you the chance to get familiar with the British Higher Education system all the while gaining the study skills you need to do your undergraduate degree.


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