Pre-U exams to be axed

Cambridge International will withdraw Pre-U exams from 2022 after finding they are too similar to reformed A levels

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Pre-U exams – an alternative to A levels taken by thousands of private school pupils – are to be axed by Cambridge International.

The exam board says reforms to the A-level system mean Pre-Us are no longer a “distinct alternative” to other types of exam and are therefore “unsustainable” to run.

The move comes despite the number of independent school pupils entered for Pre-U qualifications rising by 6.7 per cent this year, to 3,677 pupils.

Pre-Us were created by Cambridge International in 2008 “in response to needs that were not met by existing curricula”, according to the board. They were intended as an alternative, linear qualification to modular A levels and were adopted by many schools, the majority within the independent sector.


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They were originally intended to be a more rigorous linear alternative to A level. However, since A-level syllabuses were reformed as linear qualifications from 2015, there are fewer differences between Pre-Us and the revised A levels.

Christine Ozden, chief executive of Cambridge International said in a statement: “Internationally, schools do not see Cambridge Pre-U as distinct enough from our International A level to adopt it.  And with only a small number of UK schools using Cambridge Pre-U, it has become unsustainable for us to run.”

Despite this year's rise in independent school pupils being entered for Pre-U qualifications, Cambridge International will be withdrawing all Pre-U qualifications from 2023.

“The educational landscape has changed significantly over the last decade, and many features of Cambridge Pre-U which were distinctive and ground-breaking at the time are now part of the educational mainstream,” Ms Ozden's statement said.

Over this summer, the board consulted with UK schools offering Pre-U about the future of its 16-19 qualifications, and decided to withdraw five low-entry Pre-U subjects early.

June 2022 will be the final examination date for Latin, Classical Greek, Psychology, Russian and Italian, with resits available for these subjects in June 2023.

All other Cambridge Pre-U subjects will have their final examination in June 2023, with resits available for these subjects in June 2024.

In a statement, Ms Ozden said that the board’s first priority was to schools and pupils during the transition period as Pre-U exams were withdrawn.

“This week we will be notifying universities of Cambridge Pre-U’s withdrawal, and, in doing so, stress our commitment to its rigour and quality,” she said.

“We have close links with universities in the UK and overseas, and will ensure that universities continue to understand the achievement represented by each Cambridge Pre-U grade.”

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