Cambridge Pre-U

Sixth Form Curriculum Choices | PDF (788 kb)

Cambridge Pre-U

The Cambridge Pre-U courses were established in 2008 and Charterhouse, along with several other leading schools, was at the forefront of their development alongside the awarding body, Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). Pupils sat the first examinations in the summer of 2010. In order to take advantage of the best available subject syllabuses, the majority of departments now offer the Cambridge Pre-U. These courses will appeal to those who seek to specialise and will provide pupils with an opportunity to study challenging material in depth.

Pre-U courses are offered in the following subjects:

  • Art and Design
  • Business and Management  
  • Chemistry 
  • Classical Greek  
  • Economics  
  • French 
  • Further Mathematics 
  • Geography 
  • German 
  • History 
  • Latin 
  • Literature in English 
  • Mathematics  
  • Music 
  • Physics 
  • Spanish 
  • Theology, Philosophy and Ethics  

A Levels

There are some courses which are not currently offered by CIE and there are also some subjects for which an A Level has been chosen by a department as the best available course. However, like the Cambridge Pre-U courses, these subjects are assessed at the end of the second year of teaching.

A Levels are offered in the following subjects:

  • Ancient History and Culture 
  • Biology (International A Level)
  • Government and Politics 
  • Theatre Studies 


All pupils are required to take four timetabled subjects in the first year of their career as Specialists. They may choose four Full Course subjects, or three Full Course subjects and one Short Course. If they choose four Full Course subjects then these are studied throughout both Pre-U and A Level courses are terminally assessed at the end of the second year of teaching. Alternatively they may choose one of the Short Courses which are examined at the end of the first year.

The following subjects are available as Short Courses:

  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Ancient History and Culture
  • Business Studies
  • Economics
  • History
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Art

Subject combinations

The combination of Full Economics and Full Business and Management is not available (although one Full Course combined with a Short Course in these subjects is acceptable).

Availability of subjects

The timetable is constructed on the basis of individual choices made. Every effort is made to satisfy these choices, but timetabling constraints mean it is not possible to guarantee that all combinations will be possible.


Both Cambridge Pre-U and A Level courses are terminally assessed at the end of the second year of teaching.

Cambridge Pre-U courses are graded on a nine-point scale (rather than the five-point A-E scale at A Level): there are three Distinction, three Merit and three Pass grades. The three levels of Distinction grade are equivalent to or beyond that of an A grade at A level, and so the very best candidates are able to distinguish themselves by gaining higher grades than those that are available at A Level.

 Pre-U Grading  A Level Equivalence
 Distinction: D1  Beyond that of an A* grade
 Distinction: D2  A* grade
 Distinction: D3  A grade
 Merit: M1, M2  B grade
 Merit: M3  C grade
 Pass: P1, P2, P3  Below that of a C grade

Please use these links for further information on the Pre-U and  IB Diploma Programme.

Subject Choices and University Applications

University courses are increasingly flexible and relatively few have specific demands about what subjects are studied in the Sixth Form. Nevertheless, certain courses, particularly at Oxford and Cambridge, do have complex requirements and these should be checked by reference to prospectuses (available in the HE & Careers Library) and university and college web sites. These will give you full details of requirements for any course you are considering.

UCAS and all universities regard the Cambridge Pre-U as a suitable qualification in preparation for their courses. There is a UCAS tariff that enables universities to equate grades from A levels, IB, the Pre-U and other courses of study. Although three A level grades (or their equivalent) will continue to be the norm in terms of university offers, some universities require four subjects at AS level.  This is one of the reasons why the choice of a short course will be advantageous for those pupils who wish to focus on three full courses in their final year. The following guidelines on course requirements will also be helpful. The requirements relate equally to A level or Pre-U subjects.

Mathematics or Physics preferred. Portfolio needed (Art or DT)
Business Studies
Business Studies not necessary but confirms interest in Business
Computer Courses
Mathematics and science subject
English and theatre Studies preferred
Economics /Finance
Mathematics often essential and Furtder Mathematics sometimes preferred
Physics, Mathematics required
European Studies
Language required
Food Science
Chemistry and one other science required
Geology/Earth Sciences
One of Chemistry, Physics, + Mathematics preferred
Health Related
Chemistry and Biology and/or one other science
History of Art
A subject involving essay writing
Modern Languages
At least one language
Medicine / Dentistry
The science requirements for individual medical schools vary significantly and all potential medical applicants should check requirements on UCAS and with the individual medical schools.
Product Design (Art & Design)
Mathematics, DT, Physics preferred
One or more science/Mathematics subject required
Mathematics helpful
Veterinary Science
Chemistry, Biology and one other science/Mathematics subject required

Oxford and Cambridge Engineering/Science/Mathematics courses will also require Further Mathematics.

If you have any concerns at all about subject choices with regard to particular university courses please contact Mrs Angela Bailey in the Higher Education and Careers Department.

Contact Information

Telephone: +44 (0)1483 291606

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