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A question out of curiousity in regards to different school boards

  1. Jul 22, 2011 #1
    Okay , so I was just with a friend of mine who is doing A Levels , and he just finished his Grade 11 (AS). When i looked at his exam papers and his curriculum , it had SOOOOOOO much stuff that they haven't taught us yet in Toronto. Moreover , he has 1 more year remaining , while schools in toronto only give us a single semester per course. A question just of curiousity, people doing british curriculum learn so much stuff in high school while the school curriculum in Toronto is much easier, however they both end up at the same universities in the same classes. How do people studying in Toronto manage to cope up with the courses in University while they haven't studied so much of what british curriculum has :O
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2011 #2
    I don't know how much content (breadth/depth) is covered in Canadian high schools but A-Levels and the IB Diploma as well, include, if I am correct, less subjects than is studied in Canadian high schools. For A-Levels, it's generally 3 with an additional one at AS. IB, it's six, with usually 3 at Higher Level.

    In any case, the unusually low conditional offers from the Canadian universities makes a tad more sense now. I know somebody who was predicted 41/45 and got a conditional offer of 31 from McGill. I've seen lots of other people, albeit on the internet, who got offers as low as 28 from McGill and Waterloo. Of course, this is only anecdotal and these few candidates might have been exceptions...
  4. Jul 23, 2011 #3
    The English A-Level system is very very different than anything in North America. As someone who went from grade 10 in BC to A-Levels in the UK, it nearly killed me for the first 6 months. I think things have changed in the last 20 years to make it more modular, but trying to compare them is just plain difficult because of the level of specialization.

    If you think that many Canadian universities will give 3 to 6 (first-year) credits for a full A-Level, that gives you an idea of how they compare.
  5. Jul 23, 2011 #4
    British high school kids take fewer classes (3 subjects is typical). I guess they can cram more stuff in.
    The IB is gaining popularity, but is by no mens universal
  6. Jul 23, 2011 #5
    @ Thy Apathy :
    I dont really get what you mean by " conditional offer of 31 " ? 31 what ?. Sorry but im still a high school student and don't really know much about these things.

    @Sankaku :
    Oh , so basically your saying that A level students recieve the first year credits automatically ? or like they study the same thing in first year which they studied in A levels?

    @Streeters : Even though British curriculum students take 3-4 subjects per year , trust me it is still ALOOOT more harder. like lets say a student like me who wants to go into engineering ,our school requires us to take 4 courses per semester. Lets say i take Physics one semester and compare me to a student taking Physics in A levels. Their physics is MUCH more + they do 4 semesters of physics in 2 years , while i do only 2 semesters of physics in 2 years. Now when we both end up in University , how will a Toronto student who has studied only grade 11 and grade 12 basic physics be compared to an A level student who has learned waaay more advanced stuff in A levels?

    Basically , the point of posting up this topic is because I have seen that there are many uni students present here. You guys meet with all different types of people from universities around the world. So just wanted to know that like , why would A level teeeach so much advanced stuff as compared to Toronto curriculum? and woud A level students be having to learn the same thing over again in first year or what?
  7. Jul 23, 2011 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    How many people from the UK go to (undergraduate) university in North America and vice versa? :wink:
  8. Jul 23, 2011 #7
    @jtbell : british curriculum AKA 'A levels' is taught all around the world in many different schools including countries like Pakistan , India , Bangladesh , and the entire middle east.. many students coming from these countries apply to Universities in Canada.
  9. Jul 23, 2011 #8
    The first one. You can do your own research. A quick google search brings this up...
    (they are officially called GCE A-Levels)



    https://you.ubc.ca/ubc/vancouver/bpe.ezc [Broken]

    (1.5 UVic credits = 3 credits at most other universities)

    This makes sense, as many Undergrad degrees in the UK are 3 years because the final year of A-levels is roughly equivalent to 1st year University in N America.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  10. Jul 24, 2011 #9
    Actually the figure is about to rise dramatically.

    This year is the government decided to triple tuition fees, somore students are applying to the US because the financial disincentive isn't there anymore. Free markets, eh?
  11. Jul 24, 2011 #10
    While they may all be called A Levels, they are different for each country. A Levels in India is quite different from those in England, etc. You can check this out on Wikipedia.

    I thought that was because in America you have to take those general eduction courses (if you are a maths major you must take English, History, Philosophy etc.) but in British universities you do not, you just focus on one thing, more or less.
  12. Jul 24, 2011 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    That's probably part of the explanation. Also, to my understanding, in the British system students start specializing somewhat even at the high-school level (at least what Americans call high-school level), so they take a smaller variety of subjects and go into them more deeply. For example, I think British physics students already take in high school the first-year calculus-based intro physics course than American students usually take in the first year of university.
  13. Jul 24, 2011 #12
    Yes, this also plays a factor. I believe things have changed a little since I went, but my experience was:

    A-Levels: 3 subjects for 2 years and 100% of your mark was the exams at the end of the 2nd year (try that in North America). This is now split into AS and A2 years, so it is a little less insane. As it has been broken into easier chunks, students will often do an extra AS level now to hedge their bets.

    Bachelors Degree: 1 Subject for 3 years and the marks were based on 1 research dissertation and 6 exams at the end of the 3rd year. You got to choose the 6 exams from the various specialties in your field. I am sure this now varies by field and by institution.

    Because of the specialization, in the sciences people often go straight into a PhD that is only research and which lasts only 3 years. The system crushes a lot of good people, but if you are focused (and in a hurry), it is a fast-track to a degree. I have heard that students in the N. American system, who take longer to get to a PhD, often have more well-rounded skills and more teaching experience. I think it is also more forgiving when you are young and are still figuring out a direction. In the English system, you essentially had to know at age 15 what you wanted to do for the rest of your life, when you were choosing A-Levels.
  14. Jul 24, 2011 #13
    For students going from N America to the UK, you have to figure out the UCAS point system:


    Don't ask me about it, though. I am a little surprised that they give the same number of points for a 5 at AP (sciences) as they do for an A at A-Level.

    The point above about tuition increasing is a big one. Things could get very ugly. It looks like it will cost the same for someone born in the UK to go to Uni at home as to pay international fees at many good N American schools.
  15. Jul 24, 2011 #14
    Eh, come on now, the difference remains quite significant, even if British universities are going to raise the fees to the maximum allowed level.
  16. Jul 24, 2011 #15
    After looking at the links Sankaku posted, it makes sense.They usually give u few credits for doing A levels with a minimum grade of B , means A level actually teaches u first year university stuff...

    Thanks for clearing it up guys :)
  17. Jul 24, 2011 #16
    When applying to university, students don't always have their final grades in hand. The grades only come in a few months before the start of the first university semester, that is, assuming one has done their exams in the May/June session. Various examination bodies offer A-Levels and they have slightly different exam dates; some have them in January as well CIE, for instance, hold exams in May/June and Oct/Nov.

    I digress. When applying, students use a grade that was predicted for them by their teachers. Say, IB student James applied to McGill with a predicted IB grade of 42/45, he was given a conditional offer of 32/45. That is to say that McGill will accept him as long as he gets the required 32/45, or better, of course. My point was that, the "big unis" generally give out significantly higher IB offers. ETH Zurich, Imperial College and Cambridge generally give out offers of 39/45+, at times, even requiring specific grades to be achieved in Higher Level subjects.

    No. :lol:

    Physics remains algebra-based (and trig as well, I suppose?) throughout the two-year course. While do relatively advanced mathematics (calculus, ordinary differential equations, complex numbers) in the Maths course, it's used in that alone. If I'm not mistaken, a student not studying A-Level Maths, should be able to cope with the Physics, math-wise...

  18. Jul 24, 2011 #17
    Yes, I may have exaggerated. Although it does look like many UK schools will choose to charge the maximum. Here is a little unofficial comparison of Canadian International Fees (Undergrad Science):

    GBP v CAD as of today ~1.55 so 9000 pounds = 13,950 CAD








    Of course, there are other costs than just tuition, but I assume this is true everywhere. Moral of the story: Go to one of the smaller schools if you are an international student - better value for money. All of the above universities are good.
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