5 Hidden Secrets About A Levels You Didn't Know

Think you know everything there is about A Levels? These little-known facts about everyone’s favourite pre-university programme might change your mind.

Updated 20 Apr 2020

5 Hidden Secrets About A Levels You Didn't Know - Feature-Image

A Levels is one of the most popular pre-university courses amongst SPM leavers, despite its notorious reputation for being challenging, competitive and even gruelling.

With so much information about A Levels flying around, you might think that you’re an expert about this prestigious programme.

But we’re here to spill some of the little-known secrets about A Levels — some of which are bound to surprise you!

#1. You can apply to public universities in Malaysia with A Levels

5 Hidden Secrets About A Levels-Apply to public U

You might believe that choosing A Levels over STPM, Matrikulasi, Asasi or a public university Diploma means all hopes of studying at a public university are dashed.

But hold your horses!

The truth is that A Levels is accepted by selected public universities in Malaysia.

This is a testament to the quality of an A Levels certification, which is often touted as the gold standard of pre-university courses.

It’s important to note that your chances of entry may be slimmer compared to your STPM and Matrikulasi peers, but it is by no means impossible. In addition, you will need to apply directly to the university and not through the Unit Pengambilan University (UPU), which typically manages applications into public universities.

#2. Not going to the UK? It’s also your ticket to an American dream

5 Hidden Secrets About A Levels-Accepted worldwide

You might think that A Levels is reserved for those jet setting to the UK, but in reality, the qualification is accepted worldwide. This includes the USA, where over 500 institutions recognise A Levels, including all Ivy League universities, such as Harvard, Cornell and Yale.

What’s more, you can even transfer your A Levels credits to certain American universities and shave off up to 1 year of study, depending on your grades and the university’s policy. This not only helps you save money but also the time as you would be exempted from taking certain modules.


 You can find out which universities accept the Cambridge A Levels qualification via Cambridge’s recognition search tool. However, it’s best to also contact the university for the latest information.

#3. There is an even harder A Levels

5 Hidden Secrets About A Levels-There is a harder A Levels

Are you hearing horror stories from your seniors about how difficult A Levels is? Wait until you take a peek at Singapore’s A Levels syllabus.

Yes, that’s right — in partnership with Cambridge, our kiasu overachieving neighbour in the south has developed their own version of A Levels that’s similar to the British A Levels, but on steroids.

Singaporeans can choose subjects from 3 levels, i.e. Higher 1 (H1), Higher 2 (H2) and Higher 3 (H3). Broadly, H1 is equivalent to AS (Advanced Subsidiary) while H2 is equivalent to the full A Levels. H3 subjects, on the other hand, are an extension to H2 with more advanced content. In fact, they can even choose H3 subjects that are taught by university lecturers, such as NTU’s Molecular Biology.

Talk about an accomplishment!

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#4. Not all A Levels subjects are created equal

5 Hidden Secrets About A Levels-Not all subjects viewed favourably

Now that you’re finished with secondary school and away from sticky compulsory subjects (Pendidikan Moral, anyone?), you may think that you have the freedom to choose whichever subjects you fancy.

However, did you know that not all A Levels subjects are viewed favourably by universities, especially prestigious institutions in the UK?

For example, the London School of Economics (LSE) prefer applicants to take at least 2 traditional academic subjects as these subjects provide better preparation for studying at LSE. This means that subjects such as Business Studies, Accounting and Creative Writing hold less weight in the eyes of LSE, compared to traditional subjects such as Economics, Mathematics and Physics.

Therefore, it’s important to consider your subject combinations carefully and do your research to avoid missing the entry requirements, especially if you are vying for a place at top universities in the UK.

#5. You can take A Levels without attending college

5 Hidden Secrets About A Levels-Take A Levels without attending college

Do you loathe going to college and prefer to learn at your own pace? Or perhaps you can’t find a suitable education institution with your preferred subjects.

Well, here’s some good news for you — you can get an A Levels qualification by registering as a private candidate. With syllabus guides and past-year papers made available on their website, Cambridge makes studying A Levels on your own an achievable feat.

However, do note that not all subjects can be taken as a private candidate. Practical and coursework-based subjects such as Music and Digital Media & Design are some of the subjects that require you to attend college.

While there may be numerous pre-university programmes vying for your attention, A Levels crams a comprehensive learning experience into a small amount of time so that you’ll get the most out of the experience. It’s no secret that it can be tough but the training you’ll receive when pursuing your A Levels will whip you into shape and help you take on your degree with ease.

Think you’ve got what it takes to study A Levels? Here’s everything you need to know about the programme.

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    Kamini Senthilathiban

    Kamini Senthilathiban

    Self-proclaimed pun-meister 6000. Kant stop, won't stop.