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The basics
STUDY ABROAD : Subject Guides - Must read

What is a pre-masters course?

Not sure if you meet the entry requirements to study at MA or postgraduate level? Find out more about pre-master's courses and how they can help you prepare.

pre-masters courses abroad

If you have had your eye on studying a postgraduate qualification, and particularly a master’s degree you would have encountered pre-master’s programmes in your research. Sometimes it’s not always easy to understand the differences between the qualifications and courses on offer and why you would apply or enrol for a pre-master’s programme. We take a closer look at pre-master’s courses and programmes, demystifying the details.  


What is a pre-master's programme?

Pre-Master's programmes provide international students with a direct path to various postgraduate degrees at university. These programmes give you the academic tools needed for a full degree, such as academic writing, attentive listening skills, basic knowledge of academic terminologies and the confidence to succeed in your master's degree.


Pre-masters courses combine many elements such as academic subjects, study skills and English language training, all of which are designed to meet an international student's needs. Pre-master's programmes usually take about 12 months to complete.


What are the entry requirements for a pre-master's course? 

To enrol on a pre-master’s course, you need to satisfy a number of entry requirements. Of course, these requirements vary depending on each college/university's entrance criteria and the subject area you intend to study in. Some of the requirements you might encounter are:


• Recognised higher/advanced diploma in a related subject area
• Recognised degree in related field
• Honours degree in any subject
• For a two-term pre-masters, students need an English level equivalent to IELTS 5.5
• For a three-term pre-masters, students need an English level equivalent to IELTS 5.0


What type of subjects will I study on a pre-master's programme? 

The most common areas you’ll focus on include academic foundation skills such as academic writing (including essay writing, bibliography creation, creative writing and discussion). Academic styles in the country you wish to study in might be very different from universities in your country or that which you’re used to, so this is crucial to adapt to the academic style.


In addition to that, you can study the basics of the subject you wish to study in a master's degree course. For example, if you are going to study Business Management at MA degree level, you can study introduction-level business-related subjects such as business communication or marketing at an introductory level.


Why not take some time to check out some of the popular courses students take in the UK and the top five postgraduate degrees for international students in Canada.


Why study a pre-master's programme? 

Studying at a master’s degree level is a major undertaking, even if you’ve already studied at the undergraduate level. Plus if you’ve chosen direction slightly in terms of subject matter, this change can take some getting used to when you begin.


Through a pre-master’s programme, you develop a solid knowledge of the subject which you will need for the course material ahead of you. Plus by the time you start the full course, you will have already learned how to write essays and compose bibliographies, so this enables you to spend more time on research that is related to your syllabus, rather than your technical abilities. The courses are also a great way to enhance your English language proficiency and meet course entry requirements.


Moreover, you can also get used to living in a foreign country whilst studying a pre-master’s programme. Culture shock, integration and homesickness are sometimes distracting to your studies, but if you have previous experience of these issues then the transition is not so hard. It’s also always a good idea to do some research before choosing a destination to find a student lifestyle that may suit you best.


A student's pre-masters experience

Name: Eri Takayama
Studied: Pre-master's diploma in Business Studies
At: University of Greenwich 


Eri, why did you choose to study a pre-master's programme? 

First of all, I wanted to study for an MBA in the UK. However, I was not confident enough to enrol on an MBA course straight away, mainly because of my level of English. When I started the pre-masters course, my IELTS band score was 6.0. It was enough to study at the undergraduate level, but lots of universities required at least 6.5 for master’s courses and the MBA usually demands 7.0. Therefore, I needed to improve my academic English.


I had previously studied English and read lots of essays, but I was not so good at discussion or writing essays. So a pre-master's course was the ideal way to start my life in the UK and prepare me for the advanced level of study and understanding.


What did you enjoy the most whilst studying the pre-master’s programme?

I learned lots of practical skills, such as essay-writing. This knowledge gave me confidence in every aspect of academic life in the UK. At first, a couple of essays that I had to write in the programme made me panic, because I didn't know how to organise my workload or logically discuss my opinions. But after a while, I felt much more relaxed and confident. In addition to that, in the pre-master's programme, I met a lot of international students from various countries. It was great to meet lots of people, make new friends and see different cultures. Together, we were able to get used to British life together.


How did the pre-master’s programme help your studies? 

I ended up studying a two-year MBA course. In the pre-master’s programme, we studied the basics of business administration such as business communication, marketing theories and economics. Thanks to the pre-masters, I already understood the basics in these subjects, so it was very easy to start my MBA course.


Would you recommend a pre-masters to international students who wish to study in the UK? 

Whilst the pre-masters is not for everybody, I found that it gave me confidence and greater academic English skills. So if you need to improve your English or gain basic knowledge of your subject before enrolling on a long-term qualification, I would definitely recommend a pre-master's programme to you.


Now that you have more information and knowledge about pre-master’s programmes you may also want to read about pre-sessional English courses,  our in-depth guide to IELTS and information on the IELTS Indicator test. You can also check out our guide to post-study work options when you have qualified and search for your perfect course match using our bespoke tool.



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