The following aims to explain the complex inter-relationship of US and UK school qualifications. This is primarily an issue for UAE students from either British schools seeking to study at universities in the US, or American school students seeking to study in the UK.
The key issue to understand is that the High School Diploma awarded in US curriculum schools is not equivalent to A’ Levels awarded in British schools. The High School Diploma, despite being awarded on graduation at age 18 in US schools is, in fact, broadly equivalent (only) to GCSE qualifications awarded in British schools at age 16.
So how do students studying in British schools, or American schools, know which school qualifications are equivalent when applying to top tier universities?
The single most important answer lies in the agreed parity between US and British school qualifications between British A Level and US Advanced Placement. Not all American schools, however, provide AP options – and we believe that they absolutely should. More on this here.
Conversely, students at British schools studying for A Level will not face the same hurdle of graduating to an acceptable standard. Because A Levels significantly exceed the standard of the High Schools Diploma, British school students are likely to at least meet course entry requirements and in most cases secure course credits against their chosen undergraduate US degree
Advanced Placement and A Level Equivalence
The table below shows grade equivalencies between US Advanced Placement and British A Level qualifications:
|UK requirement (A-level)||Advanced Placement (AP) equivalent|
SAT and A Level Equivalence
The SAT is increasingly, and at least arguably, not sufficient, or recommended for students to be competitive, and particularly not to top universities- see why here and here. However, the following are the estimated broad equivalencies.
|UK requirement (A-level)||SAT equivalent|
|A*AA||1350 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 700 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|AAA||1350 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 700 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|AAB||1320 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 700 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|ABB||1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 650 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|BBB||1290 in the SAT Evidence-based Reading and Writing, and Mathematics Tests (combined) and 650 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|BBC||1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 600 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|BCC||1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 550 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
|CCC||1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 500 in three SAT Subject Tests* (each)|
A Level, SAT and Advanced Placement Equivalence
|A Level Equivalent||Advanced Placement (AP) equivalent||SAT Subject Test|
ACT and A Level Equivalence
In terms of ACT, the following equivalences between British A Level and American College Testing scoring are broadly accepted:
|UK requirement (A-level)||American College Testing (ACT) equivalent|
|A*AA||29 (from a single exam sitting)|
|AAA||29 (from a single exam sitting)|
|AAB||29 (from a single exam sitting)|
|ABB||28 (from a single exam sitting)|
|BBB||28 (from a single exam sitting)|
|BBC||28 (from a single exam sitting)|
|BCC||28 (from a single exam sitting)|
|CCC||27 (from a single exam sitting)|
GCSE and High School Diploma Equivalence
For applications to British universities, the High School Diploma does come into play with the requirement that all students have an acceptable basic education in English and Mathematics to GCSE level.
Here the broad equivalences are:
English: A Grade 12 in the High School Diploma is treated as equivalent to securing a GCSE Grade C in English.
Mathematics: A Grade 12 in the High School Diploma is treated as equivalent to securing a GCSE Grade C in Mathematics.
In terms of SAT scoring, English and Mathematics at GCSE and High School Diploma equivalence level can also, at least theoretically, be secured by a student achieving an overall SAT score of 1290/1600 (critical reading, writing and mathematics) with a minimum of 600 in each component.
Alternative ways to access a British University education without the grades/qualifications.
For those students that do not meet the exact direct entry requirements for a course at a British University, there may be an option to study a Foundation Year course at British universities, the successful completion of which enables seamless continuation to undergraduate study. The length of university study, however, required from this route, increases to four years.
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