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scottish education system and oxbridge

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    my family are going to be moving to edinburgh and they wanted me to ask about the education system and how oxbridge accepts it.

    i heard that in scotland you dont have gcses and a levels but intermediate level exams at 16 and advanced highers at 18. Does Oxbridge accept these just like GCSEs? Are universities in england and wales similar?
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    (Original post by melanz)
    my family are going to be moving to edinburgh and they wanted me to ask about the education system and how oxbridge accepts it.

    i heard that in scotland you dont have gcses and a levels but intermediate level exams at 16 and advanced highers at 18. Does Oxbridge accept these just like GCSEs? Are universities in england and wales similar?
    Yes, and yes. Look at a few university websites to see the sort of offers they might make to Scottish students.
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    We have "Standard Grade" which is around about GCSE level, "Highers" which are probably just below A levels and "Advanced Highers" which are above A Levels.
    You would need to check the course requirements under Scottish Qualifications as it'll be slightly different.
    Hope that helped
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    (Original post by Agent Mulder)
    We have "Standard Grade" which is around about GCSE level, "Highers" which are probably just below A levels and "Advanced Highers" which are above A Levels.
    You would need to check the course requirements under Scottish Qualifications as it'll be slightly different.
    Hope that helped
    yeah thanks

    i heard from some people that it is harder to get into oxbridge if you are studying in scotland. why is that or is it just a rumour?

    for the "standard grades" which you take instead of GCSEs can you only take 7?
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    (Original post by melanz)
    yeah thanks

    i heard from some people that it is harder to get into oxbridge if you are studying in scotland. why is that or is it just a rumour?

    for the "standard grades" which you take instead of GCSEs can you only take 7?
    No, I know some schools that allow you to take 10, but our school only allowed us to take 8. Oxbridge want 3 As at Advanced Higher as far as I can remember.
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    (Original post by moonshine_1991)
    No, I know some schools that allow you to take 10, but our school only allowed us to take 8. Oxbridge want 3 As at Advanced Higher as far as I can remember.
    what is a realy good school in edinburgh? mixed/boys only
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    (Original post by melanz)
    yeah thanks

    i heard from some people that it is harder to get into oxbridge if you are studying in scotland. why is that or is it just a rumour?

    for the "standard grades" which you take instead of GCSEs can you only take 7?
    I would assume its just a rumour to be honest. I dont see any reason why you have less of a chance of getting into Oxbridge just because you studied in Scotland.
    It depends on the school how many standard grades you take, and obviously your ability aswell.
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    (Original post by melanz)
    my family are going to be moving to edinburgh and they wanted me to ask about the education system and how oxbridge accepts it.

    i heard that in scotland you dont have gcses and a levels but intermediate level exams at 16 and advanced highers at 18. Does Oxbridge accept these just like GCSEs? Are universities in england and wales similar?
    At a regular comp you'll do the following:
    3rd-4th Year
    Age 14/15/16 Standard Grades. You do 8 of these. They roughly correspond to GCSEs.
    5th Year
    Age 16/17 Highers. You can do 5 of these, which roughly correspond to AS levels. If you have trouble with a particular subject, or can't cope with the workload of that, you might do some Intermediate 2s* (Int 2s) instead of some of the Highers. Higher English was compulsary when & where I sat my Highers.
    6th Year
    Age 17/18 Advanced Highers (AH). Roughly correspond to A2 level. In 6th year you get a fairly big choice in what you take - there's lots of combinations. You could take 4 more Highers, take a mixture of Highers and AHs (eg I did 2 Highers, 2 AHs), all AHs (very few people do more than 3, although some do 4, mainly finding this quite difficult. This might all vary for private schools)


    *There's a fair few steps in between the core exams. Some schools do Int2s instead of Standard Grades, which is more challenging, some students struggling with Highers will do Int2s instead. There's also Intermediate 1s, which are easier than Int2s.



    As for Scottish education and Oxbridge, there was a vague fuss here a while back over Oxbridge saying they thought AHs were better than A-levels: Highers pass A-levels as Oxbridge gold standard

    Oxbridge seem to be better aware of the scottish system than other unis (both me and someone else I know got lower offers from Oxbridge than from other english universities), so you should be at no disadvantage from them.

    What could disadvantage you is the way the Scottish education system falls apart a bit after 5th year. In theory the system's good - lots of choice, keeping your options open, doing a broad range while specialising in specific subjects, but in practice, due, I think, principally to Scottish universities giving out Unconditional offers based on Highers sat in 5th year, the 6th year is essentially a waste of time for most people. You know how you do an extra year at scottish unis? I'm fairly sure that this is just to replace 6th yr school where most people don't do much - if you do get an A in your AH or A-level, you can go straight into 2nd year. In addition to students putting v. little effort & getting worse grades than they did in 5th year (lots drop out as well after getting unconditionals), the lack of need for AHs for entry to scottish universities means that AHs can be v. poorly provided for. E.g. at my school you couldn't do AH History, you could only do one AH language (which depended on the specific year, but no choice for you), no AH Geography, only 3 people did AH English etc. After I left, they stopped doing AH Biology, which would've kind of screwed up my university chances in England. At other schools they don't do AH Physics or Chemistry, which leads to people taking taxis to other schools for lessons, which almost always fails ands leads to people dropping the subject. Also, you have no AH textbooks or resources and no one gives a damn in your classes anyway. On the plus side, it's fairly easy to do relatively well.

    I may have answered this thread principally so that I could have a rant at the scottish education system...

    But yeah, you're probably seen as fractionally better in Oxbridge's eyes and any disadvantage will come from the last year of scottish education being a bit naff.



    (Original post by melanz)
    what is a realy good school in edinburgh? mixed/boys only
    Boroughmuir (mixed, state) is supposed to be good. There's lots of other comp schools that aren't good. Lots of private schools, mixed and unmixed, don't know about their quality, although imagine at least some are pretty good.
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    (Original post by melanz)
    what is a realy good school in edinburgh? mixed/boys only
    I would say Boroughmuir, The Royal High and James Gillespie's to be the best state schools in the city, all three are mixed.
    Private schools wise there is obviously Fettes and Loretto, which in my opinion are the best two, closely followed by Merchiston Castle*, The Edinburgh Academy* and then the rest (George Heriots, George Watsons, Stewarts Melville*)

    * boys schools.
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    If you're applying for Cambridge, then expect any offer to be at least A1 A A at Advanced Higher, in line with A*AA at A Level (if you're applying for a science subject, you may get a higher offer still). An A1 is an A, band 1 - the grades in Intermediate, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications are further split into two 'bands' which, for no good reason, don't appear on your certificate (so A1, A2, B3, B4, etc). An A1 at Advanced Higher tends to fall around the 80-85% range.

    Some schools in Scotland run the English system, or IB. Fettes do both, Loretto do A Levels, and I think Edinburgh Academy let you pick and mix Highers/A Levels.

    I posted the league tables (based on Higher A-C pass rate) in your other thread. They suggest the best state schools are Boroughmuir, the Royal High School and James Gillespie's; the best private schools running the Scottish system are George Heriot's, George Watson's and Stewart's Melville. Fettes and Loretto are probably above these, but also be aware that Fettes is the most expensive school in Scotland (with fees per term being slightly less than fees per year at many others). Loretto is rather small, and Watson's is (I believe) the largest in Scotland.
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    It is statistically harder to get into not just Oxbridge, but any of the more selective English universities if you study in Scotland. The reason for this is not that theres any favourtism or the exams are harder, but, as ixivxivi says, more to do with the education system post highers. If you are at a selective private school, you'll have little problem with at least giving it a shot, as advanced highers run in almost all subjects, and the support is there to take 3 or 4 of them. The problem arises at state schools, where (in my experience) advanced highers were only available in the larger depts, and subject to demand. Therefore, for a budding historian at a Scottish state school like the one I attended, the only advanced higher they could do (assuming maths, the sciences or another language wasn't their forte) was English- providing at least 10 people wanted to do it. So, while this student may have had 7As at higher, having just one advanced higher rules out England.

    However, this doesn't apply to every school- and while most students aren't in a position to sit three advanced highers, a significant chunk are, and won't be disadvantaged at Oxbridge because of it. The other thing to watch out for, which doesn't happen in England, is the way the system acts as a distraction to advanced higher students. In England, everyone in A-Level who has serious intentions of university is working their behinds off to achieve their grades. In Scotland, since the Scottish universities accept highers, you may find most of the year have offers at three or four very good Scottish institutions, and are now picking up the odd subject to avoid getting a job, and are intent on having fun for their final year. When 10 people have to work to get an A in Adv Higher, its not always the easiest when the other 90 are already into their courses and are having house parties every weekend. Since most Scots won't persevere with adv higher unless they want to go to one of about four English universities (or gain entry to second year in Scotland), then a good few decide enough is enough and take their (often unconditional) offers up at Gla/Edin/St Andrews and the like.

    In short, it can be done, and in some schools you'll have more chance than others, but it won't be easy, or without its complications.
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    It is worth noting that if you go to the Edinburgh Academy, Merchiston, Fettes (i.e. basically the more expensive private schools) you can follow the English education system either as well as or instead of the Scottish system.
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    (Original post by TheUnbeliever)
    If you're applying for Cambridge, then expect any offer to be at least A1 A A at Advanced Higher, in line with A*AA at A Level (if you're applying for a science subject, you may get a higher offer still). An A1 is an A, band 1 - the grades in Intermediate, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications are further split into two 'bands' which, for no good reason, don't appear on your certificate (so A1, A2, B3, B4, etc). An A1 at Advanced Higher tends to fall around the 80-85% range.

    Some schools in Scotland run the English system, or IB. Fettes do both, Loretto do A Levels, and I think Edinburgh Academy let you pick and mix Highers/A Levels.

    I posted the league tables (based on Higher A-C pass rate) in your other thread. They suggest the best state schools are Boroughmuir, the Royal High School and James Gillespie's; the best private schools running the Scottish system are George Heriot's, George Watson's and Stewart's Melville. Fettes and Loretto are probably above these, but also be aware that Fettes is the most expensive school in Scotland (with fees per term being slightly less than fees per year at many others). Loretto is rather small, and Watson's is (I believe) the largest in Scotland.
    Is the A*AA system directly relating to A1AA up here? Sounds odd as Camridge claim their typical Scottish offer is AAB, not AAA as in A levels. (Although everyone I know has been offered AAA or higher, as in your case)

    Since it is widely aknowledged, albeit relatively quietly, that Advanced Highers are marginally harder in general than A levels, and AAA at Advanced Higher is far less common than AAA in England, I see no reason for an instant one to one correspondence.
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    (Original post by abstraction98)
    Is the A*AA system directly relating to A1AA up here? Sounds odd as Camridge claim their typical Scottish offer is AAB, not AAA as in A levels. (Although everyone I know has been offered AAA or higher, as in your case)
    For what it's worth, whilst the university can claim what it likes, I remember almost every college stating their standard AH offer to be AAA (although, in fairness, one of our offer-holders was given AAB for Architecture at Selwyn - but he was the only one of about a dozen).

    I'm not saying there's a one-to-one correspondence, and I'm extrapolating from Trinity who did at one time have a page on their site claiming that AH offers would include bands (and that offers made this year were intended to be similar to those made for the 2010 cycle - hence why I've got AAA with two band 1s and English offer-holders, for computer science at least, have AAA with two of those at 90% or more). That page has since disappeared, but the assertion that AHs will be treated in the same way as A levels remains, which would suggest to me that it would not be unreasonable to expect it (or, at least, not to be surprised if it happened).

    After all, any difference in difficulty between AH and A level is small at best, but an A* at level is a fair step up from an A/A pair from Higher and Advanced Higher - it's much closer to A1/A1.

    So, in the end, this isn't a guarantee of anything - but if you want certainty, contact the university rather than posting on here.

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