What’s the Deal with “A” levels?

As an international student looking to study in South Africa, things can get complicated as far as qualifications and requirements go. How do A Levels fit into the South African application system?

If you have passed your A Levels, how do you use them to meet South African university requirements? Let’s take a look at how you can make the Advanced Subsidiary System work for you!

A Levels


The Cambridge International A Level is a qualification afforded to students who have completed a two-year course and passed the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). Students with this qualification have achieved at least an in E grade each of their course’s subjects.

A Levels vs. Grade 12

An NQF matriculation certificate is afforded to all students in South Africa who complete grade 12. The A Level qualification can be equivalent to a matriculation certificate.  This is only if the subjects completed during the course are equivalent to those required to complete grade 12. What does that even mean? Well, for instance, the student must at least take a subject that can be considered their first language, like English, Afrikaans or Zulu, as well as mathematics.

A Levels and Tertiary Education

For admission into a bachelor degree programme, most tertiary institutions require you to get a certificate of Full Exemption or Foreign Conditional Exemption from the South African Matriculation Board. In order to qualify for this exemption certificate, you have to have completed 2 subjects at A-Level with a minimum grade of E AND 3 subjects at O Level with a minimum grade of C. Alternatively, the student could also have done 3 A Level subjects (minimum grade of E) and 2 O Level subjects (minimum grade of C).

A Levels

Regardless of your qualifications, it is important for you to research the admission requirements for the degree course that you want to take. Each tertiary institution may apply strict admission requirements that you to have to meet in order to gain admission, this could include specific high school subjects.

Do I need to Calculate an APS?

The most common requirement is that you achieve a specified minimum Admission Point Score (APS). Usually, South African students use their average mark percentage to calculate their APS, but students with A Level results often encounter difficulty.


APS: Why they Matter

Being able to calculate your APS is important when applying for university. Here’s why universities use them and why you need to be aware of them.

Rhodes University has a great rating table that can help you calculate your APS:

Only 5 subjects completed at A Level, O Level, Higher International General Certificate of Secondary Education (HIGCSE) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) can be counted towards your APS.

**Remember if you have done you’re A-levels, you generally take courses from the other courses mentioned.

If you have done more than 5 subjects, then you would choose the subjects that are most applicable to your degree choice.

  1. Use your A Level grades to calculate the total number of points that you get per subject (Total Subject Points).
    A Levels
  2. Once you have calculated the total points for all 5 of your subjects, do the following calculation:

Total Subject Points x 0.2 = Added Points

Added Points + Total Subject Points = APS


Once you’ve calculated your APS, you will be able to decide on courses that suit you based on your qualifications.

So, if you’ve got your A-Level qualifications, remember that they can help you get where you need to go in South Africa – even if it is a little extra effort.


Institutions in South Africa

Browse through all the institutions in South Africa and find out everything you need to know to make the best decision you can make.

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