The Student Room Group

General questions as an international student

Hi, I have no clue what I'm doing. I am planning to apply to a few universities in the UK within the next two years or so and am doing self-study for A levels. I already have a degree in mathematics, but decided I hated the path I took and want to switch. I'm from the US, so all I've known are ACTs, SATs, and AP exams.

I was wondering if someone could help explain the different textbooks and revision books as well as if I'd need to take the GCSEs?

For example, I'm looking online under AQA and see that they have an "AQA A Level Biology (2nd edition)," "AQA A Level Biology Year 1 and AS (2nd edition)," and "AQA A Level Biology Year 2 (Second edition)." Is it right to assume that the first book is the combined topics from years 1 and 2?

Then for the revision books, do they come out every year...? I'm used to seeing AP exam books every year in local bookstores here in the States, but are revisions the way to go for recent changes in how the tests are written? If so, how many years back do I need to go?

For reference, the university I'm mainly looking at lists their A-level Standard Entry Reqs at AAA with 2 being biology and chemistry, and the other being either math or physics. It also lists GCSE English at grade B or 6(?). Could someone explain the GCSE part to me? We don't have an equivalent test in the US, but we have the tests I previously mentioned. I can easily retake the SATs again alongside the UCAT.

Thanks all
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by soulpomegranate
Hi, I have no clue what I'm doing. I am planning to apply to a few universities in the UK within the next two years or so and am doing self-study for A levels. I already have a degree in mathematics, but decided I hated the path I took and want to switch. I'm from the US, so all I've known are ACTs, SATs, and AP exams.
I was wondering if someone could help explain the different textbooks and revision books as well as if I'd need to take the GCSEs?
For example, I'm looking online under AQA and see that they have an "AQA A Level Biology (2nd edition)," "AQA A Level Biology Year 1 and AS (2nd edition)," and "AQA A Level Biology Year 2 (Second edition)." Is it right to assume that the first book is the combined topics from years 1 and 2?
Then for the revision books, do they come out every year...? I'm used to seeing AP exam books every year in local bookstores here in the States, but are revisions the way to go for recent changes in how the tests are written? If so, how many years back do I need to go?
For reference, the university I'm mainly looking at lists their A-level Standard Entry Reqs at AAA with 2 being biology and chemistry, and the other being either math or physics. It also lists GCSE English at grade B or 6(?). Could someone explain the GCSE part to me? We don't have an equivalent test in the US, but we have the tests I previously mentioned. I can easily retake the SATs again alongside the UCAT.
Thanks all

Hi!!

im not really sure how international applications work tbh but since no one else has replied yet i thought id try to help 🤧

Yes the first book is the combined topics from both years

Im not sure what you mean by how many years you need to go back but I dont think new revision guides come out every year, probably only when the specification is updated. Theyre never changed drastically though so you don't need the newest edition, just refer to the specification for the course to check what you need to know. Most people use CGP revision guides if you're not sure what guide to get, and there are some really good notes people upload here that you can use.

The way the tests are written really don't change much so you can use the free past papers on the exam board website to practice , that will be an accurate idea of what your exam paper will be like

I don't think you will need to take GCSE's, even though theres no direct equivalent unis will still accept something else instead. Since you mentioned UCAT im assuming you want to apply for medicine so for an example, brighton n sussex med school says

'Pass High School Graduation Diploma with GPA of 3.3 overall AND a score of 1300 in SAT Reasoning Test (SAT).
In addition pass 3 Advance Placement (AP) Tests with minimum scores of 5 in each including Biology and Chemistry OR pass ACT with a composite score of 32 and pass AP Tests in Biology and Chemistry with at least a score of 5 in each.
English language and Maths requirements: A grades or equivalent in High School Graduation Diploma English and Maths subjects taken in each of the year 12 AND a score of 1300 in SAT Reasoning Test (SAT).
Degree: Pass bachelor's degree with CGPA of at least 3.3.'

If you're not sure which one they accept as an equivalent to a GCSE, you can just email their admissions team to ask

And if you didn't already know, you'll probably have to apply to unis through UCAS (our admissions system). Also try to get some medical setting work experience/volunteering since unis require it for med. Application deadline for medicine is sooner than most other subjects too, in october ish i think? so keep an eye out when you apply

Most people apply using predicted grades from their college, but since you're self studying you'll need to find someone who can give you predictions or you'll have to wait to apply after you've sat the A level with your actual grades, you'll also need to find someone to be your reference i think?

Since you're doing a levels i assumed your application process would be similar to ours, but take everything with a grain of salt 😭, you can find more info about applying as an international student on the UCAS website

good luck with everything!! <3
Original post by chomchom.
Hi!!
im not really sure how international applications work tbh but since no one else has replied yet i thought id try to help 🤧
Yes the first book is the combined topics from both years
Im not sure what you mean by how many years you need to go back but I dont think new revision guides come out every year, probably only when the specification is updated. Theyre never changed drastically though so you don't need the newest edition, just refer to the specification for the course to check what you need to know. Most people use CGP revision guides if you're not sure what guide to get, and there are some really good notes people upload here that you can use.
The way the tests are written really don't change much so you can use the free past papers on the exam board website to practice , that will be an accurate idea of what your exam paper will be like
I don't think you will need to take GCSE's, even though theres no direct equivalent unis will still accept something else instead. Since you mentioned UCAT im assuming you want to apply for medicine so for an example, brighton n sussex med school says
'Pass High School Graduation Diploma with GPA of 3.3 overall AND a score of 1300 in SAT Reasoning Test (SAT).
In addition pass 3 Advance Placement (AP) Tests with minimum scores of 5 in each including Biology and Chemistry OR pass ACT with a composite score of 32 and pass AP Tests in Biology and Chemistry with at least a score of 5 in each.
English language and Maths requirements: A grades or equivalent in High School Graduation Diploma English and Maths subjects taken in each of the year 12 AND a score of 1300 in SAT Reasoning Test (SAT).
Degree: Pass bachelor's degree with CGPA of at least 3.3.'
If you're not sure which one they accept as an equivalent to a GCSE, you can just email their admissions team to ask
And if you didn't already know, you'll probably have to apply to unis through UCAS (our admissions system). Also try to get some medical setting work experience/volunteering since unis require it for med. Application deadline for medicine is sooner than most other subjects too, in october ish i think? so keep an eye out when you apply
Most people apply using predicted grades from their college, but since you're self studying you'll need to find someone who can give you predictions or you'll have to wait to apply after you've sat the A level with your actual grades, you'll also need to find someone to be your reference i think?
Since you're doing a levels i assumed your application process would be similar to ours, but take everything with a grain of salt 😭, you can find more info about applying as an international student on the UCAS website
good luck with everything!! <3


Yeah, I'm applying for medicine. I dont want to apply as a graduate, but rather start undergrad from scratch since I never took medical related classes during my studies. I'm pretty sure my SAT score isn't good anymore, so I'd need to take it again.

I was looking at University of Glasgow and reached out to them and they said they'd want me to take A levels, so I'm going about it that way.

I looked into it further and the only way for me to take A levels is if I do Cambridge international A levels, and it seems I wont need revision books.

I'll look into volunteering though since I haven't been able to land a job is the hospital system here with how stuff is.

Thank you for the advice!
Reply 3
Original post by soulpomegranate
Hi, I have no clue what I'm doing. I am planning to apply to a few universities in the UK within the next two years or so and am doing self-study for A levels. I already have a degree in mathematics, but decided I hated the path I took and want to switch. I'm from the US, so all I've known are ACTs, SATs, and AP exams.
I was wondering if someone could help explain the different textbooks and revision books as well as if I'd need to take the GCSEs?
For example, I'm looking online under AQA and see that they have an "AQA A Level Biology (2nd edition)," "AQA A Level Biology Year 1 and AS (2nd edition)," and "AQA A Level Biology Year 2 (Second edition)." Is it right to assume that the first book is the combined topics from years 1 and 2?
Then for the revision books, do they come out every year...? I'm used to seeing AP exam books every year in local bookstores here in the States, but are revisions the way to go for recent changes in how the tests are written? If so, how many years back do I need to go?
For reference, the university I'm mainly looking at lists their A-level Standard Entry Reqs at AAA with 2 being biology and chemistry, and the other being either math or physics. It also lists GCSE English at grade B or 6(?). Could someone explain the GCSE part to me? We don't have an equivalent test in the US, but we have the tests I previously mentioned. I can easily retake the SATs again alongside the UCAT.
Thanks all

I can't help you with your A-level or GCSE questions, as I am from the US as well, but I'm kinda surprised that the Glasgow uni wanted you to do A-levels. I applied to 5 universities through UCAS with my US qualifications (2 APs, an SAT, an ACT, and an AA degree), and was accepted into all of them. Just suggesting that A-levels or GCSEs aren't needed, but maybe I am misunderstanding your situation.
Original post by LeeJ9
I can't help you with your A-level or GCSE questions, as I am from the US as well, but I'm kinda surprised that the Glasgow uni wanted you to do A-levels. I applied to 5 universities through UCAS with my US qualifications (2 APs, an SAT, an ACT, and an AA degree), and was accepted into all of them. Just suggesting that A-levels or GCSEs aren't needed, but maybe I am misunderstanding your situation.


I wish that were the case. I'll be 25 the next testing season, so I can no longer take AP exams. My SAT score was pretty high up there, but I think it's because I'm applying for their medical school? I emailed the application office and they said they'd want me to take the A-levels.
Reply 5
Original post by soulpomegranate
I wish that were the case. I'll be 25 the next testing season, so I can no longer take AP exams. My SAT score was pretty high up there, but I think it's because I'm applying for their medical school? I emailed the application office and they said they'd want me to take the A-levels.

Maybe it's that specific uni. Did you ask any other universities and get the same response? I would think they would just take your degree. But if you are deciding on that specific university, I guess you would have to follow their rules.
Original post by LeeJ9
Maybe it's that specific uni. Did you ask any other universities and get the same response? I would think they would just take your degree. But if you are deciding on that specific university, I guess you would have to follow their rules.


Maybe it's because I don't want to use my degree? I got sick a lot and failed classes because I missed too many classes and auto-failed. Professors didn't believe me when I was admitted to the hospital and that situation tanked my GPA. It took me a few years to get my health under control without going too far into what happened.
Reply 7
Original post by soulpomegranate
Maybe it's because I don't want to use my degree? I got sick a lot and failed classes because I missed too many classes and auto-failed. Professors didn't believe me when I was admitted to the hospital and that situation tanked my GPA. It took me a few years to get my health under control without going too far into what happened.

Ohhhh, that makes a lot of sense then. Sounds rough, good luck on getting those qualifications.
Original post by LeeJ9
Ohhhh, that makes a lot of sense then. Sounds rough, good luck on getting those qualifications.


Thank you, I appreciate the help!

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