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British A-level exam (mathematics): comparison with the USE and the American SAT


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British A-level exam (mathematics): comparison with the USE and the American SAT


A-level has long been considered the "gold standard" of British education - but is it worth fearing like fire? We found a person who was able to compare math assignments from the A-level tests, USE and SAT (American format) - perhaps this can calm you down a little, or maybe it will show you which areas of knowledge should be paid more attention to.

What is A-level and what is it eaten with

A-level is a British exam (Sixth Form stage, for graduates 16-18 years old) and the program of the same name. Formally, these are grades 12-13, which are absent in Russia: not all students go to the Sixth Form, but only those who want to continue to study at the university.This stage is not considered compulsory, general secondary education is a GCSE diploma in the UK (14-16 years old). A-level is already a complete secondary education. Usually the course is designed for 2 years, sometimes it is possible to complete it in a year (an accelerated course), but you need to try very hard and prove that you will pull the intensity.

Even not everyone is enrolled in the program itself: you need to have a good GCSE certificate or an equivalent (average score of 4) and a high level of English. Very few subjects are chosen at the A-level: 3-4 for the first year (AS-level), of which 2-3 remain for the second. Moreover, in these subjects, the entire school course before that you must have time very well: if algebra and calculations were given to you with difficulty, a maximum of three, you will not be taken to the A-level Math course - you simply will not pull the level of difficulty.

In total, about 40-45 subjects have been developed at the A-level, but the "set" available for each school is different. In the selected subjects, exams are taken at the end of each year, and the marks for the tests at the end of the second year are decisive, they go to the diploma and are presented to universities. Maximum - A * (with honors), minimum - E.

Let's see what the British have with math?

A-level Math is designed for 90 minutes and is divided into 4 sections:

  1. Core mathematics reminds us of the Russian school course we are used to: equations, simplifications, logarithms, derivatives, etc.
  2. Futher pure mathematics is already "pure" mathematics, closer to the highest: complex numbers, series, matrices and other advanced concepts
  3. Statistics is a theory of probability and mathematical statistics
  4. Decision mathematics - "decision mathematics", a symbiosis of discrete mathematics and problem solving on graphs.

Let's see 10 examples of tasks from the Core mathematics section, since it is closer to the Russian format:

  1. Simplify the expression and solve the exponential equation.
  2. For a given function, find the point where its derivative is zero, the derivative itself, and the indefinite integral.
  3. Complete the square and solve the quadratic equation. Find the largest solution to an equation with a square change of variable.
  4. The task is textual: to analyze the properties of an arithmetic progression. The task is in two parts, and the second cannot be solved without the correct answer to the first.
  5. In this graph of the function (only the points of intersection of the coordinate axes are indicated), consider the change in the graph when the argument / parity and oddness of the function change. Tangent equation.
  6. Sequentially calculate the values of the members of the number series + solve the inverse problem.
  7. An equation is given where there are no real roots. It is necessary to prove “X satisfies the following inequality” and find the value of those satisfying X.
  8. Find the angle of inclination of the straight line using the equation. Make an equation for the second straight line, indicate the coordinates of points B and C, find the area of the resulting triangle ABCD.
  9. The derivative of the function is given, on which the point A belongs to the original curve - you need to find the function through integration and draw its graph, marking the points of intersection with the axes.
  10. On a given graph of the function, point A belongs to this graph: you need to draw up an equation of the straight line connecting points A and B, and determine the coordinates of B.

What conclusions can be drawn?

  1. The British (A-level) and American (SAT) formats are completely different: they ask different knowledge and in different forms.
  2. But the A-level exam is similar in many ways: we have a little more geometry, stereometry, tasks with parameters. True, more time is given for the exam (recall that only 90 minutes are allotted for the A-level Math).
  3. The pitfall of the British exam is the Futher pure section with elements of higher mathematics: it is not studied in our schools, only in universities.
  4. A-level is checked by automatic systems, so you need to be very careful when writing answers! If you ask for one number - do not write any more, ask for a specific algebraic expression - use only it.

In general, our "experimental" assesses the A-level Math at 7-8.5 points in difficulty, if the USE is taken as 10 points. Good news for UK university applicants. 

Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Kuban State University, Russia (World Economics); Westminster University (Business & Management).
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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