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Are more schools going over to Pre-U?

(32 Posts)
Hamishbear Sun 30-Sep-12 07:21:54

A school I am looking at has recently abolished A'levels and gone over to Pre-U.

The school says it is making this move because of the general dissatisfaction with the A and AS level system, the reported grade inflation and that courses have had the content reduced and are not challenging enough.

It apparently has an independent research and global perspectives element.

The school says that they believe the IB is too prescriptive and restrictive? They say if you have an gift in a certain area you might want to specialise and the IB does not allow you to do that. For example maths must be studied with the IB if you are wishing to specialise and study a language. Also budding scientists can't just study Physics, Chemistry and Biology alone with the IB .

So with the Pre-U, as I understand it, you study three main subjects then have the global perspective element and independent research report?

With Pre-U you can also get the diploma if you study French and Spanish A level but Pre-U English it seems - as long as you do the independent research report and global perspectives part.

I think, with Pre-U, you take an exam at the end of 2 years but he global perspective part and independent research part are examined at the end of the lower sixth. The global perspective part sounds interesting, lots of different themes to explore and the idea being you focus on a key challenge that you will perhaps face in adult life: China as an emerging superpower, medical ethics etc. Has to connect to a theme either: ethics, economics, environment, technology and politics. You take an exam, submit a piece of work and do a presentation.

With the independent research project you do a report of between 4,500 and 5,000 words at the end of the lower sixth.

Apparently UK Universities are very keen on the Pre-U - including Russell Group & Oxbridge. American Universities also view it positively.

The school says that the Pre-U is designed to be accessible to the same range of ability as A levels. A D2 (Distinction 2) is equivalent to A* at A level (with Pre-U there is a grade above A* - D1). A at A level is equivalent to D3.

Cambridge apparently have said they ask for 1 x D2 and 2 x D3 and Oxford either 1xD2 and 2x D3 or 3 x D3.

Cambridge seem very keen on Pre-U and I have to say I like the idea of the global perspectives element very much.

So is the Pre-U more popular than the IB? What are the pitfalls?


happygardening Sun 07-Oct-12 17:28:23

mummytime I know of at least three state grammar schools offering and I would quite fairly describe myself as pretty clueless about state ed. and this is an extract from the Cambridge Pre U website;
"Cambridge Pre-U, which aims to prepare students better for the rigour of university study, is growing in popularity in state schools across the UK, according to the latest figures from University of Cambridge International Examinations.
Take-up of the qualification, which follows a two-year linear programme with examinations at the end, is nearing 50:50 in terms of the state versus private school split, with 64 state schools and 74 independent schools entering their pupils Cambridge Pre-U subjects."

mummytime Sun 07-Oct-12 19:00:05

Well in my area I know only one school doing it State or private. 3 international and 7+ other private, and one state college doing IB. Just about everyone else does A'levels, some with other qualifications.
Admittedly this could all change, I even suspect some ofthe State schools will be considering IGCSE rather than Gove's new exam.

mnistooaddictive Mon 08-Oct-12 03:50:55

I only have experience of the maths syllabus, but I was amazed at just how difficult the questions are at pre U. There is far more content on the syllabus as well but the questions are phrased in a completely different way to alevel. They are the type if questions that it is so easy not to be able to even start or go down the wrong route. Personally I wouldn't want to teach it as I think even the most able students could very easily slip up.

happygardening Mon 08-Oct-12 07:35:25

There is a serious issue that needs to be thought about. Those who have sat the Pre U and done well are significantly more ahead than their peers when arriving at university. Many have also come from top independent schools so will also have gone beyond the curriculum. My concern and I also know that this has happened is that they get to university and discover that in the first year they are studying areas already covered and not even in the depth that they covered it at school and drop out after a couple of terms. This of course may not apply if you studiying a new subject e.g. medicine but may do if for example your studying maths.

slipshodsibyl Mon 08-Oct-12 08:48:14

Those who have sat the Pre U and done well are significantly more ahead than their peers when arriving at university

I'm sorry but it is most unlikely that you are able to substantiate this claim.

ZNevilleSmith Mon 08-Oct-12 09:53:19

Hi, I work for the exams board that offer Cambridge Pre-U (Cambridge International Examinations) and thought it might be helpful to share our latest Cambridge Pre-U facts and figures:

We have 152 schools in the UK registered to teach Cambridge Pre-U.
Of these, 72 are state schools and 80 are independent.

To respond to mummytime - we feel that the Cambridge Pre-U can be just as flexible as A Levels. Many of our Cambridge Pre-U schools offer Cambridge Pre-U subjects alongside A Levels, allowing greater choice for their students.

Cambridge Pre-U also offers Global Perspectives and Research (GPR) in which students are encouraged to develop as independent, critical thinkers and then, in the second year, to use these skills to produce a research report in a topic of their choice. Many schools have adopted GPR as a curriculum enrichment programme and universities tell us that GPR is great preparation for undergraduate study.

If there are any further questions about Cambridge Pre-U that you'd like us to answer, feel free to post on this thread or email us at

happygardening Mon 08-Oct-12 10:22:27

slipshodsibyl you are absolutely right I cant substantiate this but I have heard quite a lot of anecdotal evidence from others who've sat it and mnistooaddictive comment:
"I only have experience of the maths syllabus, but I was amazed at just how difficult the questions are at pre U. There is far more content on the syllabus as well but the questions are phrased in a completely different way to a level" also rather backs this up.
This is not a pissing match; "my child sits harder exams than yours" but I was raising an important point and something that could be of concern to both parents and children who may considering the Pre U.

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