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Cambridge Pre-U explained

Cambridge Pre-U explainedThe Pre-U diploma is an alternative qualification that can be mixed and matched with A-levels.

What is the Pre-U?

The Pre-U is an alternative to A-levels, aimed at preparing people for university. It's made up of three parts:

  • 'Principal Subjects': two-year courses in specific subjects, similar to A-levels. You'll take three of these, from a set of 27. Up to two of these can be replaced with A-levels. 
  • 'Short courses': one-year courses to broaden your learning, which don't affect your overall result. There are nine short courses available, mostly in modern languages and maths.
  • 'Global Perspectives and Research': a two-year course, with a year spent developing research and thinking skills by looking at various global issues, followed by a year-long research project in the second year.

All of this adds up to the 'Cambridge Pre-U diploma'.

How is the Pre-U assessed?

The Principal Subjects have an exam at the end of the two years - there are no modular exams or coursework. The research project deadline is at the end of the year, and there is also and exam and a presentation for the Global Perspectives part at the end of the year.

The Global Perspectives part is worth the same amount as each Principal Subject when working out the overall grade for the diploma. Short courses don't count towards the diploma.

There are nine grades in the Pre-U diploma:

Pre-U diploma gradeA-level equivalent
Distinction 1 Above A*
Distinction 2 A*
Distinction 3 A
Merit 1 Just under A
Merit 2 Just over B
Merit 3 C
Pass 1 C
Pass 2 D
Pass 3 E

Do universities accept the Pre-U?

The Pre-U Principal Subjects, Global Perspectives and Research section, and short courses all have UCAS points and should be accepted by UK universities. However, it's always worth checking in advance.

You might get an offer based on your diploma level, your individual subject results, or both. Having a mix of A-levels and Pre-U Principal Subjects should be fine, but if you have an A-level and a Pre-U in very similar subjects then the university is unlikely to be interested in both.

If you are planning to apply to universities outside the UK, it may be more difficult, although many universities in the USA recognise the Pre-U.

The Cambridge International Examinations database can help you to find out whether universities accept the Pre-U.

Do employers accept the Pre-U?

The Pre-U is less well-known than A-levels, so it's possible that employers won't have heard of it. However, those who have should treat it similarly to A-levels.

Cambridge International Examinations provides a factsheet for employers, which you can include alongside your CV if you're not sure whether a prospective employer knows about the Pre-U.

Where can I do the Pre-U?

Not all sixth forms and colleges offer the Pre-U. Those that do will normally offer it alongside A-levels, and might not offer all of the Principal Subjects. Check college websites to find out whether it's available.

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