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THE UK: Applying to University

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-masters courses and how they can help you prepare...

pre-masters courses abroad

Are you interested in studying a Masters programme but don’t quite meet the entry requirements from what you studied at undergraduate level? Perhaps you’ve slightly changed your course of study? Or your English level doesn’t quite meet the requirements for this more advanced level of study? You may even be considering studying at a different institution, one which has higher English entry levels.


What is a pre-masters 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 are usually 12 months in duration.


What are the entry requirements for a pre-masters? 

To enrol on a pre-masters course, you need to satisfy several entry requirements. Of course these requirements vary depending on each college/university's entrance criteria. Below is an example of the requirements you might encounter:

• 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 subject can I study in pre-masters programme? 

The most common subjects are academic skill foundation classes such as academic writing (including essay writing, bibliography, 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 study a pre-masters programme? 

Studying at masters level is a major undertaking, even if you’ve already studied at 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-masters 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.


Moreover, you can also get used to life in a foreign country whilst studying a pre-masters programme. Cultural shock, integration and home sickness are sometimes distracting to your studies; but if you have previous experience of these issues then the transition is not so hard.


Read one student's pre-masters experience... 

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


Eri, why did you choose to study a Pre-Master's? 


‘First of all, I wanted to study 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 undergraduate level, but lots of universities required at least 6.5 for Masters 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 was I 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-masters 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 now I feel much more relaxed and confident. In addition to that, in the pre-master's programme, I met a lot of international students from various different 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.’


What you are studying now and how did the pre-masters programme help your current studies? 


‘I am studying a two-year MBA course now. In the pre-masters 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.’



Read more:

Not sure about your level of English to study at masters level? Read our guide to IELTS.


And if you’re worried about studying in another country, our guide to culture shock might relieve some of your anxiety.

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