Difference between Tenby Schools A Levels and NCUK International Foundation Year

The big question that most students ask after they’ve graduated from school is, ‘What should I do next?’, or ‘Should I go for Foundation or A Levels?’.

In this article, we asked our Head of International, Secondary, Mr. Jeff Ison, and Head of Sekolah Sri Tenby, Seconday, Ms. Saw Hooi Chin, on what are the difference between A Levels & NCUK International Foundation Year (NCUK IFY).

#1. Programme Overview

A Levels

A Levels (short for Advanced levels) are school-leaving qualifications that are taken by most students in the UK.

Students usually choose three subjects and take two years to study for these A-levels between the ages of 16 and 18. Students choose 3 or 4 subjects which are studied in isolation from each other.  Each subject’s syllabus aims to provide breadth and depth of knowledge while developing skills that are subject specific but also prepare students for education at university.


The International Foundation Year is designed specifically for students looking to study a degree programme in the UK or overseas.

The IFY programme prepares students for study in a full range of disciplines.

Students choose 3 academic subject modules which will be broadly leaning towards a discipline (e.g. science, business, engineering, humanities). In addition to the academic subjects, students also study English for Academic Purposes which gives students an English language grade that is equivalent to IELTS and suitable for visa purposes for entry to NCUK universities.   The programme prepares students for a smooth transition to their chosen degree programme by focusing on developing their learning skills, subject knowledge and related capabilities required for successful study at undergraduate level.

#2. Progression to University

A Levels

A Levels are widely recognised and are a respected pre-university qualification globally.  Upon successful completion, students normally pursue studies in the UK, but A-Level also gives you access to many universities worldwide, including Ivy League universities in the US.

A Levels can progress to all degree disciplines depending on the subjects students choose.


Compared with an on-campus Foundation Years, the NCUK qualification allows progression to multiple universities in multiple locations rather than just one university. The International Foundation Year guarantees a place at an NCUK university in either the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US or Malaysia including Russell Group and Group of Eight universities. In order to qualify for the guarantee students, need to meet the conditions which is 3 grade C’s and a grade C in English. The NCUK IFY can progress to all degree disciplines depending on the subjects students choose.

#3. Curriculum Highlights

A Levels

Emphasises on analysis and application of knowledge.

Subjects taken are usually related in some way, allowing you to gain in-depth knowledge in subjects and areas that you are passionate about.


Subjects are usually related to your chosen field of study (e.g. mainly science subjects for a Foundation in Science course).

Subjects are considered comparable to A Level in outcome.

#4. No. of Subjects

Students take a minimum of 3 subjects & a maximum of 4 subjects in A Levels. The NCUK IFY requires students to take 3 academic subjects and English for Academic Purposes.

#5. Exam Structure

A Levels are mostly 100% exam based which is divided in to two stages, AS Level & A2 Level. There are some subjects with coursework elements.

The NCUK IFY is a combination of coursework (20%), end of semester 1 test (10%) and final exam at the end of semester 2 which carries 70%.

#6. Duration

The duration of study for A Levels is 18 months ( 2 years with an end of year break), while the duration for NCUK International Foundation Year is 9 months.

#7. Who is it for?

A Levels

Students will need to be prepared to work hard and want to learn at a higher level than SPM or IGCSE. 

Students should be independent learners. A Levels support students who have an idea about what they wish to study next and therefore can do a specific selection of subjects and also those who are unsure where their future lies as studying a good selection of A levels can keep your options open.


Students who have completed SPM or IGCSE.

Students who have a clear idea that they want to go to university but are unsure of which university to choose.

Students who have a clear idea on what they would like to study, and want to get a head start on learning subjects in to get them ready for university. Students that would benefit from a course that is designed for students where English is their second language.

It really is up to you.

At the end of it all, the decision is solely up to you. No matter which is your choice of programme, our teachers will always be here to guide you even further.

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