What do I choose after my IGCSE? Foundation or A-levels? 

Foundation or A-levels

After the IGCSE, students will move onto their tertiary education. Depending on where you are looking to further your education in university, choosing the right path after your IGCSE is crucial. Many students might be torn between choosing Foundation or A-Levels. However, fret not, Tutopiya has listed their main differences to help students have a better idea when choosing what fits them best! 


What is Foundation?

Foundation refers to the Advanced Level Foundation offered as a pre-university program to bridge the gap between the years 11 and 12th of high school in other countries. The curriculum is based on A-levels and assured by the Pearson board that the program is reviewed annually to ensure the curriculum stays relevant and still serves as preparation to study at the degree level. 


The curriculum for the Advanced Level Foundation is an intensive and rigorous one-year program with content similar to the A-level course. However, it is specially curated for international students who need to close up any knowledge gaps. This program and syllabus are also designed to be more accessible for international students. 


What are A-Levels? 

A-Levels is short for Advanced Level. It is a tertiary certification that offers students entry to universities around the world. The A-Levels are typically taken at the age of 17-19 and it is a subject-based qualification. 


Read also: A Level General Paper 2 Tips & Skills | Resources & Summary


This article will cover several factors that separate them uniquely. 


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Foundation vs A-Levels: Length of Study

Since both A-Levels and Foundation offers the same pathway after completion, students might take into consideration both the courses’ duration. 


A-Levels is a 2-year course and students will be awarded the A-Level certificate after they have completed their studies. This certification allows them to pursue and enroll in a course at the university of their choice. 


The Foundation level, on the other hand, is an intensive one-year course. 


Hence, depending on whether you are rushing to complete your A-Levels, the duration can be a factor of consideration for students. 


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The A-levels curriculum offers students depth of study in a few specialized subjects. Students will choose three to four subjects to study and are given the flexibility to choose any combination of the available subjects offered at your institution. 


Just like with A-levels, the Advanced Level Foundation course also allows students to pick their own subjects and combine them in any way that suits their goals. The only difference is that the Foundation course is more specialized and focused. Foundation will prepare students for the basics of their chosen field of study. In other words, if a student wishes to pursue Engineering as a degree, the foundation course will provide students with a head start in learning the material that is required for an Engineering degree. 


Due to the shorter time frame, the subjects taught may not be as in-depth as the A-Levels curriculum. 


Depending on the degree and field students are looking to go into, we recommend that students choose their path based on the subjects that are required for their degree. In other words, it is important for students to research prior to enrolling in a tertiary degree and future paths. This will help students to save time in deciding which subjects to choose in their first year of tertiary education. 


Foundation or A-levels

Level of difficulty 

The A-Levels is said to be tougher than the Foundation as it is not only administered by well-established institutions such as Cambridge, but it also teaches students a more in-depth study of the subjects. 


Students are naturally expected to work hard for A-Level as their course is more intensive and papers are set and marked by esteemed external examiners. Whereas on the other hand, Foundation courses are often administered and curated by provider universities, and the standard and level of difficulty may vary and differ greatly from one institution to another. 


Hence, students are expected to research the institutions and schools prior to deciding on taking a Foundation course. As these self-administered Foundation courses can alter your chances of entering a particular course at a particular university. 


Foundation or A-levels

Assessment and grading 

A-Levels typically have a set of standard grading systems. For Cambridge A-levels, 100% exam-based, separated into 2 parts — AS Level and A2 Level. Your final A-Level grade will be determined from both AS and A2 levels.

Whereas for Foundation, the grading varies from institution to institution, 


The A-Level and Foundation offer two very different approaches to studying. If you are one who prefers exam-based grading, A-levels might be the one for you. This is because the A-Levels is an exam-based curriculum. Students will have to focus on the final exam after learning the theory and concepts. Additionally, you only have one chance to do well at the end of the 2 years. 


Whereas for Foundation, you might be doing loads of report writing, engaging in group projects, and taking class tests. These are grades that are distributed among many different assessments throughout the semester. This would mean that these assessment grades will contribute to a small but significant grade at the end of your foundation course. 


Foundation or A-levels


A-Levels are usually administered by well-established institutions such as Cambridge and Edexcel. The A-level of qualifications from these institutions is well recognized all over the world. It offers students the chance and opportunity to enroll in local as well as overseas universities with these qualifications. 


On the other hand, Foundation courses, since are mainly administered by provider institutions, may not be as highly recognized as A-levels. 


If you are looking to go abroad to further your studies in the future, the A-levels might give you a better shot at enrolling in overseas universities. 


In a nutshell, choosing a path is not supposed to be easy, but what is important is to know what is your end goal and to set your mind to it after you have decided. Tutopiya believes all students are capable of making a choice that is best for their interests and themselves. 

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