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How to chart your child’s curriculum journey (from primary school on) so he winds up safely at a good university at the end – whether in the UK or the US. 

IGCSE, A levels, IB, AP?  If you choose one system and change your mind later, is your child doomed? Will he end up pumping petrol?

What’s needed to get into a UK university?

Occasionally schools advise parents that their child must do the GCSEs if he wants to go to a UK university, insisting that UK universities want to see British exam results and won't accept international school assessments (transcripts) or the internal certificates of, say, the IB Middle Years Programme or an American high school. 

Schools also sometimes suggest that, if you think your child will go on to a US university, it is not necessary to do the IGCSE examinations (even if students have followed a curriculum based on the IGCSE syllabus) as the US colleges/unis (universities)* only want to see internal grades and high school transcripts from the US system...and won't accept (or even understand) exam results from another system. 

However, expatriate parents wishing to send their children to the best schools available locally as they move around the globe might not have perfectly seamless, same-system options wherever they go. They might start out in one system, with their children’s careers mapped out for the next 12 years, and suddenly find they’ve arrived in a city that throws them off plan.

But very few realize that universities in both the UK and US are increasingly knowledgeable about each other’s systems, and are often willing to take students who have bounced through several curricula. In other words, parents might have more options than they know.  

Generally speaking, this presumption that good universities are not up to speed on other curricula and exams, or that they somehow won't find a way to enrol a bright talented student, is nonsense. 

It's probably safe to say that weaker students will be better off if they don't skip between systems, just because it's never easy even for the excellent student. But sometimes families looking for the best education they can find as they move from post to post have no choice but to shift to another system than the one their children were in before.

Happily, most colleges and universities have been au fait with other systems for some time, and have certain benchmarks they look for within those systems to find good applicants.

The IGCSE (or GCSE) is an important factor for UK universities admission IF the applicants have only done A-Levels, because students traditionally only do 3 or maybe 4 subjects. So, for example, a student applying for medicine might present a string of good Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math A Levels, but the admissions staff is able to go back to the earlier GCSE results to ascertain how the student has done in other areas (eg. Does this person know how to write?  How did he do on humanities? etc). The A-Level results presumably represent the student's strong areas, but the GCSE/IGCSE results help fill in the other blanks and embellish the A-Level portfolio.

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