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Frequently asked questions about Cambridge Pre-U (CEI)

What is Cambridge Pre-U (CEI)?


Cambridge Pre-U is a post-16 development designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to make a success of subsequent undergraduate education. It challenges students to show not only a keen grasp of their subject, but also lateral, critical and contextual thinking. It encourages individual, independent research and learning through innovative approaches to curriculum and assessment.

How is Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) different from UK A levels? top

Cambridge Pre-U is designed as a coherent two-year programme of study. The structure of each Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) syllabus is linear, so students take exams at the end of the whole course. That differentiates it from the UK AS and A Levels, which are modular. Modular courses are assessed by module tests throughout the course.

How many subjects do I have to take? top

Cambridge Pre-U recognise's depth in student learning. It will require, as a minimum, that students study three Principal subjects and one Supplementary subject. Students can chose subjects freely from across the curriculum, plus a Curriculum Extension in one of the chosen Principal subjects of study. You would only take a Cambridge Pre-U subject at a supplementary level if you wanted a progress check or decided to drop a subject. Some able students may take more  either an extra Principal or Supplementary subject or an additional Curriculum Extension  but that is not a requirement of Cambridge Pre-U (CEI).

What exactly is 'Curriculum Extension'? top

Universities place great value on a students independent learning and research skills. 'Curriculum extension' enables a student to carry out independent research to extend their learning in a particular subject area. The outcome may be in the form of a long essay, portfolio or a written examination, as appropriate to the subject.

Are there any compulsory subjects? top

No. It's an entirely free choice.

Is Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) harder than the UK A levels? top

Syllabuses may appear a little more demanding because Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) optimise's the amount of time teachers can dedicate to teaching and learning - rather than simply preparing students for examinations. Students may also find the level of demand is different because of the linear structure (a structure which enables students to demonstrate their understanding of the whole course in an end examination and does not allow re-sits of individual parts) and because of an emphasis of knowledge in some unfamiliar contexts.

Do I get more university credit if I do the whole Diploma? top

Universities have indicated to us that it would be more impressive if a student applied to them with the Diploma. It is likely, too, that UCAS tariff points for the Cambridge Pre-U Diploma will be enhanced by the addition of the curriculum extension - only available to students doing the whole Diploma.

Is the structure like UK AS and A Levels? top

No. The structure of each Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) syllabus is linear, whereas UK AS and A Levels are modular (modular courses are assessed by module tests throughout the course). You can take a Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) subject at a subsidiary level, but you would take this only if you wanted a progress check or decided to drop a subject. You would be able to opt to receive a certificate or not at that point. If you take a subject through the two-year course at Principal level, you take all the papers in one examination session (either June or November).

How will it be marked? top

Most subjects consist of external examinations marked externally by CIE examiners. There is very little coursework. In subjects where coursework does exist, or where there is oral or performance/practical work, this may be marked by the teacher and externally moderated by CIE, or marked externally by CIE.

Will I still get grades? top

No. Universities tell us that they want greater distinction between good candidates and exceptional candidates so achievement in each Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) subject  and in the Diploma as a whole - will be reported on a numerical scale. We hope to match the scale to the number of points which each attracts on the UCAS tariff.

What happens if I do a mixture of Cambridge Pre-U and A Level subjects? top

We are developing a way in which universities and employers will be able to work out the relationship between A Levels and Cambridge Pre-U (CEI).

Are universities going to favor people with Cambridge Pre-U (CEI)? top

Universities are faced each year with candidates for admission who have taken a number of different qualifications from around the world. They cannot make any statements about preferring one set of qualifications over another. However, CIE has consulted extensively with universities - both admissions staff and faculty members - and continues to do so through the later stages of development and consultation. At least one representative from Higher Education is working alongside each of our subject development teams. Admissions tutors are aware of the rationale of Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) and have told us generally that they welcome a development aimed specifically at preparing students for the type of work they will encounter at university.

Is it only for public schools? top

Cambridge Pre-U has been developed by teachers from both the independent sector and the maintained/state sector with the intention that it would be available to both. However, until QCA accepts it onto the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), it will not be funded by local authorities for students in the state sector, nor will it appear on national league tables. Discussions are ongoing with QCA to begin the process of accreditation. It will probably take at least a year. Until the Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) is listed on the NQF, we can only say that schools not funded by the state may offer it.

Do I have to do 'Curriculum extension'? top

Curriculum extension is a compulsory part of the Cambridge Pre-U (CEI) Diploma. It is only available to students who want to complete the whole Diploma.


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