• What is Sixth Form?

  • How and when to apply

  • How to find the right Sixth Form

  • Assessment

  • Fees

What is Sixth Form?

There are two types of Sixth Form in the UK. Sixth Form which are attached to schools and provide students with the opportunity to stay under one roof from Year 7 to Year 13 (or to join at Year 12) or independent sixth form colleges.

A school sixth form will prepare 16-18 years olds for university entrance through A-levels, IB, Highers or Pre U and some also prepare pupils for both BTECS and apprenticeships. Many independent school Sixth Form now also offer the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

Most Sixth Form colleges offer 16-18 year olds a wider range of subjects and qualifications than traditional schools. Most will also allow students any combination of subjects; there may be as many as 40 A-Level subjects to choose from as well as the EPQ and vocational and technical qualifications.

How and When to Apply

Schools with an existing Sixth Form usually have a minimum GCSE grade requirement which students must pass to proceed into the same school Sixth Form. This could be as many as 6 A*/A grades in GCSEs.

To join a different school Sixth Form for Year 12 the application process should typically begin 18 months before the student is due to enter the school. School Sixth Form have differing entry requirements but many are academically selective and competition for places is high. Most selective Sixth Form will carry out a two-stage assessment process that will include a written exam or computer-based test, and a face-to-face interview.

Applications to Sixth Form Colleges generally need to be in in the summer term before entry, usually a May deadline but many people will apply for Sixth Form College at the beginning of Year 13.

Choosing the Right Sixth Form

  • Decide if you want to do IB or A-Levels and make sure the Sixth Form you choose offers the syllabus and subjects you want.
  • If you want to do a particular university course or pursue a specific career, be sure to know the course or career requirements before choosing your A-Levels, IB or Highers subjects.
  • Think about the sort of Sixth Form you want. Considerations include staying at the same school for Sixth Form, moving schools or joining a Sixth Form College.
  • Consider a move to boarding for Sixth Form, particularly popular from single-sex to co-ed schools.
  • Ask how many pupils stay on into the Sixth Form? This is a good indicator of the strength of the school’s A-Level teaching. If the school has a very small Sixth Form, this could be due to lack of A-Level subjects offered or poor quality teaching.
  • What grades are required to stay in the same Sixth Form or to move to a new Sixth Form? Academic schools might expect six A*/A grades at GCSE to move into or join their Sixth Form.
  • Other considerations such as the state of the facilities plus the strength of the pastoral care offering are all important, too.


The majority of Sixth Form students study A-Levels. Others options include the IB, Pre-U and Highers. Both A-Levels and GCSEs have undergone major changes in the last few years. A-Level content has been revised and the syllabus is now linear – ie the exams are taken at the end of the two-year course. AS Levels still survive but no longer count towards A-Level grades.

Students typically study three to four subject for A-Level. The IB has greater breadth and students typically study six subjects.

The EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) is a Sixth Form qualification that provides an opportunity for students to extend their abilities beyond the A-level syllabus. It can also be used to earn extra UCAS points. It involves students choosing a topic, carrying out research, creating a report and delivering a presentation.


Independent Sixth Form Colleges charge between £15,000 and £25,000 per annum. Sixth Forms at day schools cost from approx £15,000 per annum to nearly £40,000 per annum for top boarding schools.