Common questions regarding A levels in South Africa

What are A levels?

If you wish to study at a university in the UK, you will be required to have completed A levels in the relevant subjects. A level (Advanced Level) qualifications in any given subject usually take 2 years to complete. The first year is devoted to AS (Advanced Subsidiary) studies and the second year consists of A2 level work, the combination of these two courses comprising an A level qualification.

Where can I study A levels in SA?

There are a number of institutions in South Africa offering A levels. Some of these, such as the International School of Cape Town, offer traditional full-time schooling while others, such as Cambrilearn, offer private online/distance-education learning. Other institutions, such as Learning Unlimited, offer a more personalized curriculum which nonetheless fully prepares students to write AS and A level exams in the subjects of their choice. The emphasis in Learning Unlimited is placed heavily on customization so that the needs of those who are studying full time at a school but could benefit from extra tuition, part-time students and serious homeschoolers who may need more intensive help and intelligent and motivated students who actively seek intellectual challenges and stimulation can all be met.

Can I study for A levels online?

Yes, distance-education options are available. However, many online courses are extremely inflexible in both format and content and may fail to cater for different learning styles and bypass the needs of those who need more interaction and individualised attention to learn effectively.

What is South Africa’s A levels equivalent?

AS levels in a given subject are considered to be equivalent to a South African matric by Universities South Africa www.usaf.ac.za, formerly known as HESA (Higher Education of South Africa). More specifically, four AS level subjects and one IGCSE subject (the level of study immediately below and preceding AS studies) are required for university study. Despite these formal equivalencies we feel, based on much teaching experience, that even AS level exams in core subjects such as English and mathematics contain subject matter that is more advanced than that found in local matric papers and task types which place a greater emphasis on a student’s ability to apply what has been learned to new problems as opposed to rote learning.

It can be seen from the fact that only four AS qualifications are needed for university entrance at South Africa that full A levels indicate a level of education substantially in advance of a local matric. The fact that they entail a full additional year of study speaks for itself. In our opinion, and also that of Directors of Studies at highly-respected institutions at which the Cambridge curriculum is offered, full A levels in core subjects such as English and mathematics are at least 18 months in advance of our matric, not merely in the subject matter taught but also in the criteria by which students are assessed.

What is the difference between O levels and A Levels?

In South Africa the O levels were replaced by the IGCSE level. IGCSE studies in any given subject immediately precede AS level work and a student must have passed his or her IGCSE exams in any given subject to be allowed to proceed to the AS level.

Are there A level schools in South Africa?

See the answer to Question 2 above.

Can I study abroad with A levels?

Cambridge A levels offer frankly unequalled opportunities to study overseas for those who wish to do so. Cambridge exams are written in well over 100 countries world-wide, are recognised by the leading universities in the world, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT and have unsurpassed international recognition and prestige. This is so because of the very high academic standards that have to be met, especially by those who wish to complete their A levels. As indicated in the answer to Question 4 above, there is good evidence that A levels are about 18 months in advance of our local matric academically. They are valued so greatly precisely because senior administrators in university admissions offices all over the world know that those who have such certificates are truly university-ready in a way that very many of their peers are not.

What South African universities accept A levels?

All of them (provided they confirm to the HESA guidelines. (see link to the HESA guidelines)
All local universities accept Cambridge A levels provided the combination of subjects chosen conform to the Universities South Africa guidelines.

How do A level exams work?

Students who wish to write A level exams must enroll at a recognised Cambridge Centre as it is only at authorized testing centres that the exams themselves can be written. The relevant centre administers the exams and students’ papers are marked by licensed Cambridge examiners. As explained with reference to Question 1, obtaining A levels in a given subject necessitates a two-year course of study.

Can you study A levels via distance learning?

See the answer to Question 3.

What A level courses are there?

A vast number of subjects can be studied, spanning the full range of the social sciences, physical sciences and humanities. Detailed information can be found at the CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Education) website at https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/.

Is matric similar to A levels.

As indicated in the answer to Question 4 above, A levels are far more academically advanced than a South African matric. The mere fact that only AS levels are needed for local university entrance logically entails that A levels, a higher level of study involving a further year of study, must be significantly more advanced and challenging than matric.

What is the AS level?

As indicated in the answers to Questions 1 and 5, AS levels immediately follow the successful completion of IGCSE exams and are done in the first of the two years of work that lead to full A levels. AS studies are therefore of an intermediate nature, considerably more demanding than IGCSE work but less demanding than A level material in the relevant subject.

What does it cost to study A levels?

This varies depending on whether the student is a homeschooler and self-studying, or is enrolled at an academy with expert tutors, or is registered for online courses delivered to a large group of students as well as the number of subjects that are being studied.

How many subjects can you take in a year?

This depends on the individual student, but in our opinion it would be unwise to take more than 4 AS subjects per year or more than 8 IGCSE subjects per year