Knowing your options: Your guide to the British education system


Choosing the right British institution to cater for each individual student’s requirements and learning style can appear to be an overwhelming decision. From verbal reasoning to numerical testing, from coursework to examinations, British students are subject to a variety of classroom styles and teaching methods.

The British education system was ranked sixth in the world in 2012, and ranked second in Europe in 2014, according to the BBC. “To maintain our position, we must continue to attract international students and promote the UK as a knowledge economy,” UK Business Secretary Vince Cable commented, making this the perfect time for international students to get to know their options and make the right choice when it comes to UK study.

British schools have maintained their excellent reputation for securing places in the top colleges for their students, and preparing young graduates for all aspects of university life.

For parents looking for their children to advance to top U.K. universities like Oxford or Cambridge, then a good British boarding school with a reputation for high quality teaching is the obvious choice. All British schools will offer the national curriculum and GSCE and A Level qualifications.

However, the best modern schools offer a truly global education, bringing students’ language skills to the necessary level for successful university learning and preparing them for entry not only to British universities, but the best universities worldwide.

At Ellesmere College, an independent co-educational institution located in rural Shropshire, students are supported and encouraged every step of the way, gaining outstanding examination results and places at their chosen university or college. With intensive language programs, International Baccalaureate, and SAT preparation, Ellesmere has the resources to deliver on parents’ and students’ goals, whatever they may be.

Read on to find out more about the options and examinations offered at Ellesmere and to better understand how each qualification works:

English for International Students (EAL)

International students are welcome as part of Ellesmere’s community and encouraged to fully participate in college life. There are students from some 20 different nations at the college, creating a truly international community.

A good level of English is an absolute necessity for study in the UK, so international students receive as much help and support as necessary to develop their language skills. The college’s EAL department aims to improve students’ levels of English thanks to an experienced group of teachers and effective learning programmes. Lessons are conducted in small groups to develop students’ confidence in English and to provide the appropriate instruction.


IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It is the preferred English language qualification of all UK universities. In Years 12 and 13 international students undergo group and one-to-one tuition as part of their exam preparation at Ellesmere.

To study the International Baccalaureate at Ellesmere College an IELTS score of 5.5 across all areas is the minimum standard needed, with the required IELTS score of 5.0 across all areas for A Levels.


Once students are aged 14 to 16-years-old (in Middle School) they begin a two year course for their GCSE options. While maths, English language, literature and the sciences are compulsory options for students, they then have the choice of a whole range of exciting and diverse additional subjects – from music to drama, from  history and the classics to studying a modern language. Testing is completed through examinations and coursework for some subjects, with oral examinations and presentations also required for modern languages and English.

International students may opt to complete the IGCSE English as a Second Language, with A and B grades accepted by many UK universities as part of the language entry requirement.

At Ellesmere, nearly a third of all grades during 2015 were the top A*/A and more than half of all grades awarded were in the A*/A/B range. Students in Years 9 and 10 also have the opportunity to complete some early GCSE’s and First Certificates in Spanish, French, Finance and Religious Studies.

A level and AS level

On entering Sixth form, aged 16- to 18-years-old, students will go on to complete either A Levels or the International Baccaleureate (IB) qualification. A levels (and AS levels during the first year of a two-year course) enable students to specialize and hone their interests as university options and choices for the future begin to be taken into consideration.

Students at Ellesmere College Sixth Form achieved a 98.9 percent pass rate during 2015. Nearly 60 percent of all grades awarded to Ellesmere students were in the top A*/B band with nearly 70 percent of girls achieving A*AB grades and a 100 percent pass rate.


It’s been a busy day for the class of 2015! Congratulations also goes to everyone who received their As level results…

Posted by Ellesmere College on Thursday, 13 August 2015


International Baccalaureate (IB)

Ellesmere students may also decide to undertake the IB, a demanding two-year subject programme promoting a more balanced subject profile and independent learning. The IB Diploma offers students a broad curriculum and a more balanced subject profile. In addition, the core of the programme adds considerable value to a Sixth Form education.

The IB diploma pass level of 24 points is given the equivalent value of BCC grades at A Level. Well over half of the Ellesmere IB cohort, 58 percent, achieved more than 30 points, the equivalent of A*AA grades at A Level.

More than 85 percent of Ellesmere Sixth Form students gain their first choice place in a wide spectrum of courses and universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group Institutions.


Felix, who was a keen athlete and drama student, talks about how Ellesmere helped him to achieve his own personal goals.

Posted by Ellesmere College on Friday, 11 September 2015


BTEC Sport

The BTEC award stands for Business and Technology Education Council. The qualifications are vocational and work-related, designed to accommodate the needs of employers and allow students to progress to further and higher education.

Ellesmere College also offers the BTEC Sport (Performance and Excellence). In 2015, all BTEC students obtained a 100 percent pass rate and all those on the course achieved either a Distinction or Merit award.

SAT Testing

The SAT is a globally recognised University admission test, focusing on students’ aptitude in reading, writing and maths.

Each year a number of Ellesmere students are interested in applying to universities in the U.S. In order to ensure that students have effective preparation for SAT and college assessments, Ellesmere offers a tutorial session once a week with a SAT specialist.

With its choice of A Levels or International Baccalaureate, backed up by excellent English language instruction, Ellesmere students are perfectly poised to secure places on the best university programmes in Britain and worldwide.


This article was sponsored by Ellesmere College. Founded in 1884, the college offers students between the ages of 7 to 18 the chance to achieve success in their studies within a happy, friendly atmosphere set in the beautiful English countryside. Located in stunning grounds covering more than 50 hectares, the college is near the historic town of Ellesmere, less than 100 kilometres from both of England’s second major cities: Manchester and Birmingham. Ellesmere students can benefit from the vast range of activities both cities have to offer, while enjoying a tranquil English country setting. Ellesmere is proud of its high education standards, preparing students for their GCSEs, A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate alongside a varied sports and social programme.