The General Certificate of Education (GCE) is a subject specific family of academic qualifications that awarding bodies in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Crown dependencies and a few Commonwealth countries, notably Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore, confer on students. (The Scottish education system is distinctly different from those in the other countries of the United Kingdom).
The GCE is composed of three levels; they are, in increasing order of difficulty:
In the past, a Scholarship / Special / "S-Level" / Advanced Extension Award (AEA) existed; an Advanced Supplementary Level (designated "AS Level" but not to be confused with the modern-day AS Level, which is lower than the A Level) qualification was also formerly available.
The General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A Levels) is an entry qualification for universities in the United Kingdom and worldwide. The US equivalent for that purpose would be the High School Diploma. However, in England and Wales, the high school diploma is considered to be at the level of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), which is awarded at Year 11. For college and university admissions, the high school diploma may be accepted in lieu of the GCSE if an average grade of C is obtained in subjects with a GCSE counterpart.
As the more academically rigorous A Levels awarded at Year 13 are expected for university admission, the high school diploma alone is generally not considered to meet university requirements. Students who wish to study in the United Kingdom may additionally participate in the Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, which are considered to be at the level of the A Level qualifications and earn points on the UCAS Tariff, or may opt to take A Level examinations in British international schools or as private candidates. Standardized tests, such as the College Board's SAT and SAT Subject Tests or the ACT, may also be considered.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) recommends that in addition to a high school diploma, grades of 3 or above in at least two, or ideally three, Advanced Placement exams may be considered as meeting general entry requirements for admission. The IB Diploma may also be accepted. For College Board tests, a minimum score of 600 or higher in all sections of the SAT or a minimum score of 26 or higher in all sections of the ACT along with a minimum score of 600 in relevant SAT Subject Tests may be considered as meeting general entry requirements for admission.