A-Levels Vs. Foundation: What’s The Difference And Which Should You Pick?

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Taking the first step to further your education can be daunting. With a wide variety of courses out there to kickstart your tertiary education, you may be in a dilemma.

Fret not! In this article, we explore major differences between popular pre-university courses for SPM school leavers – the GCE Cambridge A-Levels and Foundation programmes to aid your decision-making process.


If you’re looking to finish your studies faster, then opt for Foundation courses which takes 1 year as opposed to A-Levels which can take up to 1.5 – 2 years. Bear in mind, short courses means classes are packed with shorter semester breaks and tighter study schedules.

Depending on the universities/colleges, Foundation courses will have 2-3 semesters in 1 year, while A-Level is split into two components — the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level (covers the first half of the syllabus) and the A2 Level (covers the second half). Although the A-Levels programme takes slightly longer to complete, you have a good opportunity to master your chosen subjects.

Tip 1: If you are eager to complete your studies, then a Foundation programme would be an ideal option. However, if you are willing to invest more time in mastering your study materials, consider A-Levels instead.

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A-Levels generally costs more than a Foundation programme. On the upside, you are actually gaining more in terms of higher learning standards with international recognition from the golden standard of Pre-University courses.

Foundation courses may cost lesser than A-Levels due to the shorter duration of study. Foundation programmes in Business or Media Studies may be relatively cheaper than a Foundation in Law course although it varies from one education institution to another. In a nutshell, Foundation programmes are often designed as a faster route to a specific degree for example, a Foundation in Law enables students to pursue a law degree.

Tip 2: If you have a large budget, you have the option of pursuing the A-Levels at your preferred education institution. Otherwise, consider Foundation programmes which may be relatively cheaper in some institutions. Remember to consider applying for scholarships or bursaries to fund your studies.


Foundation courses usually are for those who already know what career path they intended to take. The syllabus will then be tailored to fit the specified degree’s requirements.

On the other hand, A-Levels encompasses a broader and comprehensive syllabus. You will have wider choices but will not have pre-determined subjects in which you can choose anywhere from 3-5 subjects to study. A-Levels subjects are more in-depth and extensive hence, making it more difficult.

Tip 3: If you enjoy studying and are generally willing to invest more time in gaining in-depth knowledge, then A-Levels may be the better option. Competitive degrees like Law or Medicine also require a solid foundation provided by a comprehensive syllabus in the A-Levels course. Alternatively, if you are certain about your interest and area of study and prefer a faster route, then opt for a Foundation programme.

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Method of Assessment

The A-Levels programme is 100% exam-based which means all you need to do is focus on studying for one final exam without being bothered about completing coursework throughout your course of study.

If the pressure of sitting for exams tends to weigh you down, then a Foundation programme would be a better choice as it involves a combination of written exams and coursework.

Tip 4: If you prefer to be assessed throughout your course of study instead of sitting for one final exam, then opt for the Foundation programme. However, if you rather not be bogged down with assignments or presentations while studying, then  consider A-Levels instead.

At the end of the day, consider what course suits your needs and interests. With these basic tips, it is now time to get down to business and make the right decision!