Pre-U Options: Cambridge A Level or SACE International?

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26 Jun 2020

4 Min Read

Josephine Serena (Editor)


Which pre-university programme should you pick? With so many pre-u programmes that are widely available these days, you probably feel lost and torn between the options.


Fret not. This article will help you distinguish the differences between the Cambridge A Level and AUSMAT (also known as SACE) to help you make an informed decision before you make your ultimate choice!

Origin & recognition

Cambridge A Level

It’s a pre-university programme administered by the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), in the UK. 

Besides the UK, it’s widely recognised by universities across the globe and is deemed as the benchmark for pre-university programmes.


It’s an Australian Matriculation administered by the SACE Board of South Australia.  Other than Australia, it’s also internationally recognised by universities around the world. You will be accredited with the South Australian Certificate Education (SACE) upon completion of the programme.

Which one should you pick? 


If you intend to further your studies in the UK and especially if you are eyeing the top tier universities, go for the Cambridge A Level programme. On the other hand, AUSMAT programme is the perfect choice if you are looking to further studies in Australia only. Both respective programmes are accepted by its many local institutions.

Programme duration

Cambridge A Level

The programme generally takes about 15 - 24 months to complete.


The programme generally takes about 10 - 12 months to complete.

Which one should you pick? 


Take the Cambridge A Level programme if you want to master your subjects thoroughly and not in a hurry to pursue your degree. AUSMAT programme is typically a faster option if you want a speedy route to your degree.

Programme fees

Cambridge A Level

For A Level, the amount you have to pay may differ according to the number of subjects you that you take. It also varies for local and international students. Check out the fees here.


The programme fees vary for local and international students. Check out the fees here.

Subjects to complete

Cambridge A Level

You will only need to take up to 4 subjects throughout your programme where 2 of them are core subjects and the rest comes with a range of subject options for you to choose as the final combination. Pick subjects that you’re comfortable with or in line with your strengths.


You will have to take up 5 subjects throughout your programme. If you're still unsure about your future degree, consider exploring your interests in Arts, Science, or Business. This self-reflection will guide you in selecting the best subjects for your SACE/AUSMAT studies, ensuring a well-informed choice.

Which one should you pick? 


For A Level, although your subjects may be fewer compared to other pre-u programmes, you will be studying in-depth into each of your chosen subjects and the difficulty increases as you progress. It’s recommended for those who wish to pursue a highly competitive degree programme such as law and medicine. 


You should opt for a AUSMAT if you prefer to cover more subjects rather than going too in-depth but still sufficient to build a good foundation. With this, you also have more flexibility to choose a variety of different subjects to study and can even select a combination of Arts, Science, and Business programmes.

Assessment format

Cambridge A Level

The programme is 100% exam-based and is divided into 2 stages — Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS Level) and A2 Level. 

The AS Level forms the first half and provides the foundation of A Level whereas the A2 Level is the second half which covers more complex topics of your subjects. 


Each stage contributes 50% to your final grades.


You will be assessed based on 70% of your college assessment and 30% based on your final examination. 


Your grades will be determined using the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score which will be calculated based on four of your highest-scoring subjects, and 50% from your 5th highest scoring subject at the end of the programme.

Which one should you pick? 


Albeit the lack of assignments and fewer subjects, A Level programme consists of many long lectures and piles of materials to read.

Choose this programme if studying for exams is your strong suit. You need to be diligent and consistent in your revision to be able to master and apply everything you’ve learned from day 1 to the end, to ace your final examinations. You only have 2 exams to determine your grades, which means you can’t risk either one.


AUSMAT is a safer option if you don’t want to put all your eggs in the same basket. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can afford to slack here as well. You will be continuously assessed, quizzed, and tested throughout your semesters which ultimately still means that you need to do your due diligence and maintain consistency in your studies as well. 


Choose this if you prefer a mix of coursework and exams.

We hope this helps you in deciding the best pre-u programme for you. Remember to do thorough research on each programme and institution and don’t make a hasty decision that you’re not comfortable with. 

If you still need help, it’s always worth it to seek out secondary opinions by speaking to experienced education advisors for more insights! Here are also some helpful questions to ask education counsellors during your appointment!

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