Chapter 1 – What is the Pre-U?

Students typically pick up to 4 subjects, to be examined at the end of Year 13 on the last two years of study.

If you are aiming for the full Cambridge Pre-U diploma you will need:

  • Three Principal Subjects
  • The Global Perspectives and Research (GPR) course

Your diploma mark is based on the total scores of your three Principal Subjects and the GPR component.

The GPR aims to broaden students perspectives beyond subject specialisation. It is taken over two years: in the first year, students study Global Perspectives and develop research and thinking skills on a range of international issues, which are then put into practice in the second year for the extended project (the Research Report).

Within the Pre-U Diploma it is possible to substitute one or two of the Principal Subjects for A-Levels.

It’s also possible to take individual Pre-U subjects rather than the full Diploma, in combination with other qualifications (such as A-Levels). In fact, it seems that many schools are treating the Pre-U as an extra exam board, rather than embracing the diploma in full.

There are currently curriculums for 25 Pre-U subjects, though schools will likely not offer all of these.

Additionally, there are 9 subjects offered by the Pre-U as ‘short courses’ (equivalent to AS-Level) to be taken over 1 year. However, these are not as popular and may not be offered by many schools.

Universities will likely expect you to have studied at least three Principal Subjects and/or A-Levels (it’s a bad idea to study the same subject at Pre-U and A-Level).

Your subject choice will be important, as it will determine which university courses are open to you. In the Pre-U you can choose any combination of subjects. We have written a guide to choosing the subjects you study at A-Level here, and the same considerations apply to Pre-U!

In short, you need to think about:
1. What you like;
2. What you’re good at;
3. What you’d like to study at university afterwards.
Not all universities will include the GPR component in their offers, but it can make your application more competitive.

Cambridge Pre-U is very liberating for teachers the two years and the scope of the syllabuses have given teachers back an opportunity to shape students’ learning to suit their strengths and weaknesses.
– Winchester College

The grading of Pre-U work as a 9-tier system.

Pre-U Grade A-Level Equivalent
D1 Beyond an A*
D2 A*
D3 A
M1/M2 B
M3 C
P1/P2/P3 Below C