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Alternative qualifications – research
carefully to check that they'll be suitable.

Alternatives to A Levels

While A Level qualifications are very much valued, there are other pathways to university.

BTEC or OCR qualifications

  • These are work-related and designed to help learners acquire work-related knowledge and skills often offered at further education colleges.
  • They are available at different levels which can be compared to other qualifications.
  • An increasing number of students mix A levels and BTEC/OCR or vocational qualifications. Some attract UCAS points in the same way as A Levels do, although they are not all suitable preparation for all university courses.

Cambridge Pre-Us

  • This involves studying a range of courses in a single qualification. There are 26 principal subjects available, and each is a two year course with exams at the end.
  • You can take up to four Pre-U subjects, and they can be combined with other qualifications such as A levels.


  • These are academic programmes with a range of subject options and levels of study.
  • There are Scottish, Welsh, and International Baccalaureate qualifications.

Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers 

  • The main qualification required for entry into higher education if you live and study in Scotland.Highers and Advanced Highers are considered the equivalents of AS and A levels.
  • There are over 60 subjects and you usually study four or five Highers subjects.
  • Each Higher is made up of units. You need to pass all units and the course assessment to achieve the qualification. 

Read about Choosing Scottish Highers.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and Interdisciplinary Project

  • These are taken alongside A levels or Scottish Highers and involve doing an independent study of your choice.
  • The qualifications are worth the equivalent of an AS level and usually involve a written research report on a subject of your choice which need not be linked to your other courses.
  • Supervision from a teacher in school/college is required. Some universities look favourably on this extra qualification as evidence of independent study and breadth.

If you are considering other qualifications as an alternative to, or alongside A levels get advice from your school or college and do some research to check that your qualifications will be suitable. If in doubt, get in touch with university Admissions or Schools Liaison teams and ask.