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Choosing what to study

A Level alternatives for university applications

While A Levels are valued, there are other qualifications like BTECs, Cambridge Technical, Baccalaureates and Scottish Highers that can lead you to university.

Trainer and apprentice in vocational training


  1. BTEC or Cambridge Technical qualifications

  2. Cambridge Pre-Us

  3. Baccalaureates

  4. Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers

  5. Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and Interdisciplinary Project

BTEC or Cambridge Technical qualifications

  • Designed to help students gain work-related knowledge and skills usually offered at further education colleges
  • Available at different levels that can be compared to other qualifications
  • An increasing number of students mix A Levels with BTEC/Cambridge Technical or vocational qualifications – most attract UCAS points in the same way A Levels do, although not all are suitable preparation for university courses

Cambridge Pre-Us

  • 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 combine them with other qualifications (such as A Levels)


  • 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

  • Main qualifications needed for entry into higher education if you live and study in Scotland
  • Considered 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 a number of units – you’ll need to pass all units as well as the course assessment to achieve the qualification

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and Interdisciplinary Project

  • Taken alongside A Levels or Scottish Highers and involve an independent study of your choice
  • Equivalent of an AS Level and usually involve a written research report on your chosen subject – it doesn’t need to be linked to your other courses 
  • Some universities look favourably on this extra qualification as evidence of independent study, but you’ll need supervision from a teacher in your school or college

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