Cambridge IGCSE subjects provide enrichment and engagement in areas not available within the standard curriculum.

...international in our nature and outlook

Cambridge International are the largest provider of non government education in the world, and are taught by over 11, 000 schools worldwide.

Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE)

Cambridge IGCSE is the world’s most popular international curriculum for 14-16 year olds, leading to a globally recognised and valued Cambridge IGCSE qualifications. 

A Cambridge education prepares school students for life, helping them develop an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning. These international qualifications are recognised by the world’s best universities and employers, giving students a wide range of options in their education and career. 

As PLC Sydney is a school that is international in both its nature and outlook, we offer the option of Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) in Years 9, 10 and 11 to supplement learning, in addition to the NSW Education Standards Authority courses (the HSC), as it enables students to sit examinations in globally recognised courses.

From 2024, Cambridge will be offered as an alternative or supplement to the HSC in Years 11 and 12. 

  • Computer Science
  • Global Perspectives
  • History 
  • Physical Science 
  • AS Level General Studies (Year 11 course)

What are A Levels?

Cambridge International A Levels are highly specialised subjects. A Levels are equivalent to and take the place of the HSC. They are the ‘gold standard’ of Cambridge, and act as entry qualifications for universities around the world. 

PLC Sydney currently offers Cambridge IGCSE subjects, the equivalent to the School Certificate, in Years 9 and 10.  IGCSE subjects transition into ‘A’ level subjects in Years 11 and 12.

The Cambridge ‘A’ level structure is different to the HSC. Students study four subjects in Year 11. This is called ‘AS’ level. Students can reduce this to three subjects in Year 12. This is called ‘A’ level. Students are able to study A level subjects even if they haven’t done IGCSE subjects in Years 9 and 10 electives, although this may involve some bridging work.

Universities attribute scores to each ‘A’ level grade. ‘A’ level grades are structured as follows: 

  • A* = 90+ = 6 points 
  • A = 80+ = 5 points 
  • B = 70+ = 4 points 
  • C = 60+ = 3 points 
  • D = 50+ = 2 points 
  • E = 40+ = 1 point 
  • F = below 40

For example, to access medicine at Oxford University requires 16 points, or A*, A, A. 

The A* at A Level is awarded to candidates who achieve a grade A on the A Level overall (80%), and who also achieve at least 90% on the uniform mark scale (UMS) across their A2 units.

It is possible to enter some universities in New Zealand, Canada and South Africa after Year 11 (AS level). CAIE results are based solely on examinations.

By 2024, PLC Sydney will introduce ‘AS’ level studies to students in Year 11 and 'A' level courses in 2025 (i.e. Year 12). These will be offered alongside the HSC. 

Why are we offering this? Why ‘A’ Levels? What are the benefits...

*Cambridge A levels provide students with an internationally recognised qualification, which make applying for tertiary studies overseas easier

*If you already know what you want to do eg medicine….you  can specialise earlier in your studies  but choosing the 3 or 4 subjects relevant to your degree and university entrance

*A student wanting to study Medicine at Uni, may choose Chemistry. Biology and Maths.

*English is not a compulsory subject in ‘A’ levels

*Depth of Knowledge: If you are interested in a particular subject area, ‘A’ levels will give you greater depth in that area.

*Student aren’t competing against each other (‘A’ levels don’t have ATARS, so there are no comparisons against other students in the state as there is with the HSC. Students are judged on their mark only.

Why stay with the HSC?

  • If you don’t know what you want to do or study as yet, it may be better to maintain a broad subject selection, so they you can keep your study and career options open.
  • There could be a risk that if you were to specialise in only 3 subjects and did poorly in one of those areas, this could affect your overall mark and therefore tertiary study options. 
  • The HSC offer breadth rather than depth, which may suit some students more than others.
  • HSC is offered through the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA)​ and ​requires students to study a minimum of 12 units in Year 11 and 10 units in their HSC Year (Year 12). A range of subjects is offered at PLC Sydney including English (compulsory), Music, Drama, Arts and Design, Languages, Social Sciences, History, Science, Mathematics, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. PLC Sydney also offers extension courses in Maths, English, History, Science, Music and Languages.
  • HSC marks are converted to a Statewide ranking called an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) used as the means to select students into tertiary courses. NB  ‘A’ level students are not counted in the ranking.
  • English is compulsory in the HSC

‘A’ Levels and the HSC - why do both? 

Many students choose to study both the HSC and A Levels eg HSC + 1 x A Level subject providing them the best of both worlds using A levels to supplement the HSC by furthering a student’s love and knowledge of a particular subject area. 

Not only do Cambridge/Pearson’s  ‘A’ Level subjects provide enrichment and engagement in areas not available within the standard curriculum, it is also an international qualification recognised by the world’s best universities and employers, giving students a wide range of options in their education and career. 

Until recently most Australian tertiary institutions used the ATAR as the means by which to select students into their courses. However over the last few years, many institutions are now choosing to look more broadly at their selection criteria. In 2019, 30% of PLC Sydney Year 12 students went into their HSC exams having already received offers into the university courses based on these changing entrance criteria including recognising a student’s participation in her community, leadership and co-curricular participation, external extension and enrichment reports etc Certain courses at University offer credits for the ‘A’ level  exams and/or credits for overseas placements - adding weight to a student’s opportunity for overseas course entry.

  • NB if a student is looking for OS university entrance, many tertiary institutions are now looking from Year 9 onwards - so both the IGSES courses in years 9 and 10, plus augmenting the HSC with ‘A’ levels holds weight. 

PLC Sydney will be introducing ‘A’ Levels in 2023.

  • In 2020, one of our Year 12 students achieved three A Levels  A* A* A in her Cambridge A Level Exams (equivalent of 99.9+) and gained full access to all Oxford University programs. She is currently studying Computer Science and Philosophy at Oxford.
  • In 2017, a student achieved a ‘Top of the World’ award for first in Cambridge International Physical Sciences Examination, across 11 000 Cambridge schools worldwide. 
  • In 2016 a Year 10 student received a Cambridge Outstanding Learner’s Award after being named ‘Top in the World’ in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Global Perspectives. This subject offers students the opportunity to think critically about local, national and global issues. 2016 was only the second year that PLC Sydney has participated in the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE).

PLC Sydney is proud to have been recognised as one of the 100 most innovative schools worldwide by Cambridge University.

Cambridge University identified PLC Sydney as a highly innovative educator, for not only incorporating digital technologies, creative classroom design, and innovative pedagogy and programs into the College, but also for its comprehensive Service Learning Program, where students are encouraged from a very early age to engage with the community by undertaking volunteer work at various local and international institutions, according to their school year. 

PLC Sydney is proud to have been recognised as one of the 100 most innovative schools worldwide by Cambridge University.

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