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Why International Students Should Study A Levels for University Entrance

Why International Students Should Study A Levels for University Entrance
Two happy girls hugging with exam results


There are many reasons why international students should study A Levels for university entrance. These British qualifications are recognised by many universities internationally as they are accredited, well respected, and easier for universities to understand than a countries’ own exam. This makes it easier to apply to international universities and undeniably makes students more competitive to future employers.

This blog covers:

  • GCSE, International GCSE, A-Levels, and UCAS explained
  • How UCAS points are used in Britain
  • Studying in the UK
  • Studying internationally
  • Why study GCSEs and A Levels as an international student
  • How online schooling can help

GCSE, International GCSE, A-Levels and UCAS explained

GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education)

A qualification achieved by taking exams and completing coursework (or controlled assessments) by 14-16 year olds over two years. Some are divided into foundation and higher tiers. Sixth forms, colleges, and universities often have a minimum number and grade of GCSEs required for entrance, commonly 5 GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths. Around 10 on average are taken.

International GCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)

International GCSEs are offered in over 100 countries, and the examination is standardized around the world. These are GCSEs more suited to students who study online for exams via distance learning, as they don’t have assessed coursework.

A- Level (Advanced level)

A qualification taken in public exams at the end of the two year study time by 17-18 year olds. 3-4 is the average number taken, and specific courses or combinations of courses are needed for access to higher education or further training, employment, or vocations.

International GCSEs and A levels are recognised by universities internationally. For British students, their grades are equated into UCAS points (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) for some university applications. This assigns points to iGCSEs and A Levels (see below).

International GCSE Grade


(Cambridge Examination board)

UCAS points AS Level A Level UCAS Points
* 58 A* 56
A 52 A 48
B 46 B 40
C 40 C 32
D 34 D 24
E 28 A 20
F 22 B E 16
G 16 C 12
  D 10
E 6

Studying in the UK

Universities in the UK often state their entrance requirements in terms of A-Level grades. In the England and Wales, when a student has studied qualifications other than GCSE, International GCSEs, or A Levels, for example Scottish Highers or the International Baccalaureate, the grades from these are translated into internationally recognised UCAS points by universities using a system similar to that shown above. This means that universities have a standardised system by which to assess the academic ability of their international applicants. This can be more difficult for students with less well known or internationally recognised qualifications.

Studying at international universities

Students want to study abroad for a number of reasons. International universities may offer a higher quality and different style of education, better prospects of future employment, the excitement of studying in a different country, the development of language skills, the ability to take more specific courses or training, or the development of life skills such as adaptability, and resilience developed in moving abroad.

A Levels A Levels run by the examination bodies such as Cambridge International are recognised at leading international universities in 125 countries, including those in New Zealand, Australia, UK, Canada, Singapore, Egypt, Germany, and Spain. Having A-Levels can make the application process smoother and increase an applicant’s competitiveness.

No A levels Translating each countries’ own plethora of qualifications into another countries’ entrance requirements can be difficult. It requires calculating how much each qualification is ‘worth’. During applications, international students need to convince the universities they are applying to that their qualification is of equivalent academic ability to the standardized university entrance requirements to be accepted onto a university course.

Why should international students study A Levels for university entrance?

  A Levels No A Levels
British education system known for quality and internationally recognised UK education system has a respected history of academic success


Internationally recognised for ‘gold standard’ of high standards of achievement

Qualifications may be of lower quality


Quality qualifications not as easily recognised

GCSE and A levels are taught in English Proficiency in English can help studying internationally when courses are based in English


Having English speaking qualifications can aid student or working Visa applications


Less opportunity to develop English language skills


Less preparation for English taught international further education

Less English speaking experience for Visa applications

Many universities set A-Levels as the standardized entrance requirement for applicants Easier to understand what the qualification represents


GCSEs and A Levels are internationally acknowledged and easier to equate to university entrance requirements

More competitive in applying to top universities

Much more justification required during university applications


Universities have to translate the worth of national qualifications into their standardized entrance requirements

Employability Employers recognise British qualifications which can improve chances of employment


Demonstrates your commitment to education as a student and can give you a competitive edge

Employers may not recognize or understand qualifications or their worth


May not reflect a student’s attainment so clearly or easily on a CV

Inbuilt skills and preparation for university As the standard for university entrance British A levels are great preparation for the high standards of much of university education in the UK and elsewhere



May be less prepared for international university education requirements


How online schooling can help

Online schooling offers students the opportunity to study the English National Curriculum for internationally accredited International GCSE and A Levels, from anywhere in the world. They attend an online school and receive all of their lessons in real time, with experienced friendly teachers, who provide continual feedback. They can take their exams at their local examination centre. This costs a fraction of international schooling fees. Students don’t need to travel, as they can study from their own home as long as they have a stable internet connection. This means they finish lessons in the early afternoon, freeing up more time to pursue other interests. This method also encourages students to develop their independence as learners, which is excellent preparation for university. Online lessons can be tailored to students who excel in their studies, those with special education needs (SEN), and those who may have been excluded or chosen to leave school for various reasons.

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