The education system in the UK is considered one of the best in the world, hosting some of the most internationally renowned universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London. One of the best ways to gain access to these universities is to complete A-Levels in the country first.
In the UK, once you complete your secondary education at 16 years old, you are required by law to stay in education until you are at least 18. There are a variety of different options within the British system, but if you want to study at university, the best path is undoubtedly A-Levels.
A-Levels are UK examinations provided by sixth form and tutorial colleges. They include standard subjects such as Mathematics, Sciences, English and History, but can also range to more creative or vocational subjects such as Fine Art, Graphic Design or Accounting. A-Levels normally take two years to complete, which takes students through until they are 18 years old. However, for particularly gifted and determined candidates, a combined year of study can be taken to complete two years of A-Levels in one. This is a good option for students who are retaking. Usually, if a student wants to study at a UK university afterwards, they will need to complete three A-Levels of their choice.
Some sixth form colleges teach the IB (International Baccalaureate), however it has been argued that these qualifications are restrictive due to maths and a language being compulsory for all students. Six subjects are required when taking the IB, whereas A-Levels it is only three, allowing for a deeper and more wholesome educational experience in your chosen subjects.
Sixth form colleges vary in size and structure in the UK. Most sixth-form colleges are actually part of a larger secondary school and will take most of their students from there. Others, are independent and take in students from all across the country, and all around the world.
The big question left would be how to choose the right college for yourself. Studying abroad, after all, is a big decision and you would want to make it right. There is no one answer that fits all requirements, but students should start by asking themselves the following questions:
- Do I prefer a small school with excellent student/teacher relationships or would I prefer a bigger school?
- Do I prefer a central, urban location like London or would I be better with a quieter, more secluded setting?
- Does the sixth form college have excellent graduate destinations? Where do their students graduate to?
- Will I receive special support when completing my university application to ensure the best possible chance of getting an offer from a top UK University?
By knowing clearly their own preference, students will have a much better chance of choosing the right place for them to start their education in the UK.
Author: Chris Mutter
Chris is the Academic Support Officer at Ashbourne Independent Sixth Form College in London.