Quick Guide to English Universities

Posted by


An English student’s path to university is different from an American’s path to college, but this short breakdown of the differences can help you better understand your British peers as you start at your host university. Click below for a quick bit of revision. (That means studying, just FYI.)

So What Are A-Levels Exactly?

A-Levels are the exams that English students take in order to determine which university they will attend. British students apply to university before taking their exams, and receive an offer in response; for example, one university might offer a student acceptance if they achieve three As and one B on their exams, while another university might offer the same student acceptance if they achieve two As and two Bs. Exams are held in May and June, and the results are revealed in late August. It is only after A-level results are announced that English students can determine which university they will attend.

A-Levels differ from the American SAT in that they are entirely subject specific. While some American students may take one or more SAT Subject Tests, these exams are often used as supplementary evidence of academic achievement, and are not, for example, required by the University of California in order to apply or be accepted. When it comes to standardized testing, American universities tend to use the general SAT exam to measure a student’s university potential, which measures reading, writing and mathematics all in one go.


How Many General Education Requirements Are There In Addition to a Major?

Unlike at American universities, English university students are not required to take any general education classes. Instead, they take classes that focus solely on their area of study (i.e., Biology, English), and their area of study is selected from one of the subjects they were tested on for their A-levels. Instead of having a major, they are enrolled in a course of study that they will follow through to graduation. This means that switching majors is far more difficult in England than it is in the US, and happens significantly less often.