Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

question27.pngWe have put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions that we have designed in response to the questions we receive regularly from students. If you can’t find an answer to your questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via the School Office. We will be very pleased to help you.






What does it mean to be inclusive at CIS?
It means that all students attend and are welcomed by our school in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school.

What is the English National Curriculum?
The national curriculum is a set of subjects and standards used by primary and secondary schools in England so children learn the same things. It covers what subjects are taught and the standards children should reach in each subject.
Against this backdrop, CIS is under a requirement to offer a rich, diverse and stimulating English curriculum that would appeal to its international student population.

What is Key Stage Three and Key Stage Four?
Key Stage Three (commonly abbreviated as KS3) is the legal term for the three years of schooling normally known as Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9, when pupils are aged between 11 and 14.
Key Stage Four (commonly abbreviated as KS4) is the final stage of our secondary school programme. Students aged 14-16 study five to eleven subjects, which they then study for two years before sitting their final exams such as the IGCSE exam (International General Certificate of Secondary Education).

What assement is given in Keystage Three and Four?
At Key Stage Three, internal continuous assessments are in class work, homework, projects and examinations. Examinations are taken twice a year. In addition to continuous assessment, Key Stage Four take a series of ‘mock’ examinations until they sit their final public examination starting in the main in the month of May.

What happens after Key Stage Four?
Key Stage Five (KS5) is a label used to describe the two years of education for students aged 16-18, or at sixth form, aligning with previous Key Stages as labelled for the National Curriculum. You will continue your studies in a few of the subjects you studied in Key Stage Four. This maybe taking on an A Level or further BTECs.



What is the difference between an IGCSE and a GCSE?

The acronyms IGCSE and GCSE stand for International General Certificate of Education and General Certificate of Education. There are no significant differences between our IGCSEs and normal GCSEs in terms of the qualification. It is simply that as we are an international school in addition to GCSEs we provide the international versions of Edexcel’s GCSE courses, which allows a wider variety of students to sit the exams. The qualification is equivalent once the exam is passed at the end of the course.

Who is the examining body?

All our IGCSE and GCSE subjects are accredited by the exam board Edexcel. Students will receive their certificates from Edexcel via the school.

What is the duration of the course?

GCSE and IGCSE courses generally last for two years. Exam dates are held every May/June.


What is an A Level course?

An A Level is a two year course that follows a specific syllabus provided by the corresponding examining body which is in our case Edexcel. The A Level course consists of the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and the A2 levels which carry UCAS points depending on the grade achieved. The A Level is on Level 3 of the National Qualifications Network (NQF). A Levels are assessed by exams which have to be attended in person. A Level certificates are provided by the examining boards through the school.

What is the difference between the AS and A2 Level?

The full A Level is divided into two halves. The first half is the AS and the second half is the A2. An AS or A2 course can be taken on their own and have a 1 year duration. The A2 can only be taken on successful completion of the AS and leads to progression to higher education such as an academic degree or employment.

Where do I sit my exams?

The A Level exams can be sat in our school.

What is the duration of the course?

The AS and A2 courses last for 1 year from the date of enrolment. The full A Levels last 2 years from the date of enrolment. The courses can start at any time but please take into account the schedule of the exams which are in May and June.



What is a BTEC?

A BTEC is a vocational qualification where students get specialist work-related skills in a particular subject. Unlike a more academic qualification such as A Levels, the course focuses on hands-on experience, with many programmes also offering students the chance to attain extra governing body certificates to help pursue a certain career.

Who is a BTEC suitable for?

Many early BTEC programmes are offered to school students aged over 14 to study alongside their I/GCSEs or as part of an apprenticeship, to help them gain skills in a particular career and boost their employability chances.

What subjects can I study at CIS?

There are literally thousands of different courses available for you to take, ranging from BTEC media production to BTEC hair and beauty. CIS offers BTEC programmes in IT, Applied Science, and Learning for Life. There are plans to widen this offering.

What are the different levels worth?

Like with any vocational qualification, there are various levels of study you can enrol on. The early levels (Levels 1 work out the equivalent of I/GCSEs, with how many depending on the length of the BTEC course.  A typical BTEC level three programme is the same standard as taking A Levels, while levels above that are on par with the early stages of a degree.

How does the BTEC grading system work?

There are three main grade levels for a BTEC; a pass, a merit and a distinction, with the latter being the highest of the three. These are abbreviated to their first initial, so a results page is likely to show the letters P, M or D on them. If you didn’t achieve enough points for a grade, then a result is deemed unclassified (essentially a fail). With each of the three main grades, you have to achieve a certain number of points, with the targets varying depending on the course and level. The best achievable grade is a distinction*, which is the equivalent of an A* in a more academic qualification.

How will I be assessed?

Written examinations are nowhere near as common of a way to assess BTEC qualifications, with coursework-style assignments and practical assessments far more frequent. With fewer written tests reliant on memory like I/GCSEs or A Levels, those who typically struggle academically may find this much more straight forward.

Will taking a BTEC stop me going to university?

You may think that studying A Levels or the international baccalaureate are the only ways to progress to university, but a BTEC qualification can be used as a way to get accepted on undergraduate degree courses. BTEC qualification grades are valid on the UCAS scale, which determines how many points you need to enrol on university courses in England. Getting a DDD (a triple distinction) in a BTEC Level 3 is worth 360 points, the equivalent of getting 3 A grades at A Level. Be aware though that not every university accepts BTECs, with some courses asking for specific entry grades in A Level subjects.

If I study a subject at BTEC, does that limit me to what I can study after?

No, not at all. Just like if you were studying A Levels or anther NVQ (National Vocational Qualification), once qualified in one subject you can go on to study a different topic in the level above. So, if you did a level three IT BTEC  before deciding you wanted to learn something new, you could switch to another subject at the next level up. The same applies if you’re looking to go to university, so don’t feel you’re permanently stuck with a particular subject.

But I’m still not sure on what I want to do…

Even if you’re still unsure as yet on the career for you, as a BTEC focuses on learning practical skills rather than taking lots of academic examinations, it means the experiences you’ll gain from it can be transferable to almost any other industry.



What are Functional Skills?

Functional Skills are practical skills in English, Maths and ICT for all learners aged 14 and above undertaking the foundation or vocational learning pathway. Functional Skills provide an individual with essential knowledge, skills and understanding that will enable them to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and work.

They are learning tools that enable students to:

  • apply their knowledge and understanding to everyday life
  • engage competently and confidently with others
  • solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar situations
  • develop personally and professionally as positive citizens who can actively contribute to society.

At what levels are Functional Skills qualifications available?

Functional Skills qualifications in English, Maths and ICT are available at Entry 1, Entry 2, Entry 3, Level 1 and Level 2.

How do Functional Skills levels equate to National Curriculum levels?

Entry Level 1 = NC level 1
Entry Level 2 = NC Level 2
Entry Level 3 = NC Level 3
Level 1 = NC Levels 4 and 5
Level 2 = NC Levels 6 and 7

What’s different about Functional Skills?

The biggest difference with Functional Skills is you can’t revise, you have to be functional. Functional Skills is about learning a skillbase, including communication, team working, presentation, and problem solving, that is then transferable to other areas of learning, life and work.

They help make sense of daily life, from getting the best deal at the shops, to applying for a job or using a computer.

Awarding bodies*




Are ASDAN courses comparable to GCSEs?

ASDAN qualifications are fully approved for use in schools and colleges, and teachers are encouraged to use their professional judgement in offering qualifications which reflect individual students’ interests and abilities, and which responds to their needs. They are allocated performance points for each level and these are comparable to other qualifications like I/GCSEs and GCEs. Although not counting in headline measures of performance tables, which focus on subjects and vocational qualifications, ASDAN qualifications have a recognised value in enhancing learning and contributing to meeting Ofsted requirements.

What is the New Horizon programme?

New Horizons is an activity-based curriculum resource which supports the delivery of PSHE, Citizenship and Careers Education. The activities also offer an opportunity to develop communication and numeracy skills in a life skills setting. The programme has been developed for learners aged 9 to 13 who have a special educational need. It is suited for learners achieving at lower levels of the National Curriculum than their peers. It is also suitable for learners working across the P Levels.

What is the New Horizon programme  PDP?

ASDAN’s established Personal Development Programmes (Bronze, Silver and Gold) offer imaginative ways of developing, recording and certificating a wide range of young people’s personal qualities, abilities and achievements, as well as introducing them to new activities and challenges. All the programmes link to nationally recognised qualifications.

They are pitched at learners aged 14-16 working at Entry level 3 and Level 1.

Programmes can count as half of the curriculum credits (six) required for the CoPE qualification at Levels 1 and 2. Progression is also available to Universities Award and qualifications such as Personal and Social Development.

  • Six credits (approx. 60 hours) are needed to achieve Bronze
  • 12 credits (approx. 120 hours) are needed to achieve Silver
  • 18 credits (approx. 180 hours) are needed to achieve Gold 

What is CoPE?

The Certificate of Personal Effectiveness is a nationally recognised qualification outcome of the ASDAN programmes. The qualifications offer imaginative ways of accrediting young people’s activities. They promote, and allow centres to record, a wide range of personal qualities, abilities and achievements of young people, as well as introducing them to new activities and challenges. Read an explanation of the purpose of CoPE at Levels 1 and 2. This course is for:

  • Students in Years 10 and 11, either within the whole school PSHE programme or within the option system
  • “High effort” students, or those described as Gifted and Talented in Key Stage 3
  • Students in Post-16 education, embarking on programmes at Levels 1 and 2

CoPE has been allocated performance table points – Level 1 is worth 25 points (comparable to a GCSE Grade E/F) and Level 2 is worth 46 points (comparable to a GCSE Grade B).

What is the the Excelsis Award?

The Excelsis Award has been designed for pupils in Gifted & Talented groups. It is available at three levels:

  • Foundation: aimed at ages 11-14
  • Intermediate: aimed at ages 14-16
  • Advanced: aimed at Post-16

Young people showing exceptional levels of competency for their age may complete the award at a higher, more appropriate level.

  • Standard Award requires 50 hours of activity
  • Honours Award requires 100 hours of activity
  • Internally moderated

What are short courses?

ASDAN Short Courses are flexible, portfolio-based programmes designed to accredit up to 60 hours of activity and skills development across a range of topics and curriculum areas.