The Differences Between A-levels and Foundation

Other than STPM and matriculations, A-levels and University Foundation courses are the stepping stone on the road to an undergraduate degree in Malaysia. Both are also the pathway to a Bachelor’s from a UK university. Continue reading this article about A-levels vs Foundation to find out which is best for you!

A-levels vs Foundation-Infographic


Compared to A-levels, University Foundation courses take a shorter duration to complete. A-levels takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months (1.5 – 2 years) to complete while University Foundation courses takes 1 year. The shorter length does however mean a more packed schedule with shorter semester breaks and more classes. Conversely, A-levels is split into two components AS level and A2 level. AS level covers the first half of the syllabus while A2 level covers the second half. Each one taking approximately a year to complete and separately covers half of the overall grade.


The price of both Foundation and A-levels vary from institution to institution but in general, A-levels are much more expensive. Though, Foundations have a lower cost, they also change depending on the programme. For example, Foundation in Science is typically pricier than Foundation in Arts. The entry requirements are usually the same for both, at least 5 credits in SPM.


A-levels have a more broad and comprehensive curriculum. A-levels’ students have a wider choice. There are no set pre-determined subjects. Students are able to choose anywhere from 3 to 5 subjects to study (most students choose 3). For example, if you are interested in becoming an Engineer, you may pick Maths, Chemistry and Physics. However, you may also choose Further Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Critical Thinking. Hence it is slightly more flexible. If students want to keep their options opens with both Humanities and sciences, they can.

However, the contents of the subjects are deep and substantial. The knowledge you gain will be in-depth and challenging. It is also designed to examine student’s critical thinking and analytical abilities. All said and done, A-levels are more difficult.

Meanwhile, University Foundation courses are more focused and specialized. There are more general Foundation courses such as Foundations in Science but you can find also find very specific courses such as Foundation in Mechanical Engineering. It will quickly introduce you to the basics of your future course of study but not as thoroughly as A-levels. You will be given less options to pick and choose subjects as most universities have a fixed set module. Still, it is easier than A-levels. Overall, Foundation students have a higher pass rate.


With Foundation courses, students are assessed consistently throughout the year and semester. This is done through a mixture of assignments, presentations, group projects and exams. The final grade is weighted from each aspect of the entire process. Thus, you will be given the chance to grow and develop if you do poorly at the start.

As an A-levels student on the other hand, you are preparing for one big final exam at the end of the year, two altogether.  You will be able to study without distractions at the pace you desire but it may make things very stressful since you only have one chance. However because it is international there is wider range of resources to help you study for A-levels.


A-levels are administered by an external body, namely Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel. For this reason it is internationally recognized. Universities around the world from UK, US, Australian and Singapore accept A-levels. Hence, with A-levels you will have an easier time transferring to a university overseas. Meanwhile, because Foundation courses are tailored made for their own university. It is administered by the university itself. This makes it less likely to be accepted by other universities overseas.

A-levels vs Foundation, Which is Better?

In conclusion, we can’t exactly tell you which is better per se but A-levels does open more opportunities for you even if it is harder. So, if you are academically inclined, want to study abroad and have more options and don’t mind the extra cost, go for A-levels. However, if you know firmly what you want to study and want to complete your studies quicker, Foundation is where you can start.

If you need any more information on the next step, check out our Diploma vs Degree article. But if you want to start your journey of higher education with an A-level or Foundation programme, visit our University page now!

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