CIE AS Math vs NCEA Math for US/UK Admissions

Hi there, my daughter is struggling with AS Maths. She is is thinking of dropping it and self studying NCEA level 3 Statistics and possibly trying to Scholarship in Statistics. Will this affect her chances for US or UK admissions?

At the end of the day, I think it’s the results you achieve in whichever curriculum you get that really determines your candidacy for universities. I’d say that with all other factors unchanged, a top grade in A2 Maths is worth more than a top grade in NCEA Level 3 Statistics - however, it’s also a lot harder to achieve. I can’t predict how well your daughter will do, but I can give you some background on both of the subjects to support your choices!

First off, think about the other subjects that your daughter is taking. UK universities will typically require at least three really solid A2 grades for entry. A fourth A2 grade is supplementary to this, but note that most CIE students from New Zealand will already be coming in with 4 A2 grades. Also, they will want to see a range of subjects, so as far as the UK is concerned, I’d probably be leaning towards sticking out the CIE pathway. Again, though, this comes down to how well she thinks she can do - an Outstanding Scholarship in Stats would certainly add more value to an application than, say, a C in A2 Maths.

One thing to consider is the skill set your daughter has. As a general rule, AS Maths is very logical - there are rules to learn and apply, and once you have mastered these, you can generally do pretty well in the exam. Almost everyone finds AS Maths hard at the beginning - it’s a massive leap from IGCSE, and it takes time to settle in, but if you have a logical mind, it gets a lot better. On the other hand, Level 3 and even Scholarship Statistics are very much writing based. They still require proficiency in calculation, naturally, but there’s a lot more emphasis placed on writing ability than CIE Maths courses. If your daughter is a good verbal and written communicator, she might even find Scholarship comes fairly naturally - so it’s definitely something to think about.

The last thing I’d consider is the programme that your daughter will be doing at university. If she’s doing anything maths or science based, there’s not really too much option except for pushing through AS Maths - it’s just got to be done! Even if the subject isn’t a specifically stated requirement for the degree, it’ll be assumed knowledge and will be covered very quickly in the course, if at all. If, on the other hand, she’s set on pursuing the humanities pathway, and is adamant that AS Maths is not her thing, then perhaps Level 3 and Scholarship would be a better fit.

I hope this has given you plenty to think over - let me know if you’ve got any further questions!