Course Description

Cambridge Pre-U is a post-16 qualification that promotes independent and self-directed learning in preparation for undergraduate study and future careersThe Cambridge Pre-U in Mandarin Chinese equips students learning Mandarin as a foreign language with the skills to survive in a Chinese environment. The course also provides a stepping stone for university courses in Chinese and Chinese studies. As well as allowing students to develop their language skills, the syllabus fosters an awareness of Chinese culture and history. 

Entry Requirements

Achieve 5 or more standard GCSE passes or higher (grade 4 or higher).

If a student is applying for a course in a subject that they have studied at GCSE it is expected that a student would have achieved at least a standard pass (grade 4) in that subject.

The Cambridge Pre-U in Mandarin Chinese is a Level 3 qualification which builds on knowledge and skills in Chinese developed at levels 1 and 2 (GCSE level). Either a qualification in Mandarin Chinese, or a good grounding in the language, is highly desirable to achieve success in this qualification.

Course Content

Papers 1, 2 and 3 – Chinese language

Candidates develop their understanding of the Chinese language through the study of six topics across two years:

Topic 1 – family: we learn about the differences between British and Chinese families, as well as Chinese family values and how these have changed from one generation to another.

Topic 2 – young people: we study the attitudes, behaviour, interests, and aspirations of Chinese young people, and how they relate to their families and older generations.

Topic 3 – education: we learn about the differences between the British and Chinese education systems, the pressures Chinese students face, and the value placed on education in Chinese culture.

Topic 4 – the media: we study the role and influence of mass media, social media, and advertising in Chinese culture and its impact on people’s lives.

Topic 5 – work and leisure: we learn about Chinese attitudes towards work, including the balance between work and time for leisure and personal wellbeing. We also study the leisure industry and the role of technology.

Topic 6 – equality of opportunity: we learn about diversity and inclusion issues and compare attitudes in the UK and China; explore the disparity between urban and rural Chinese communities; and look at how equality has changed in the UK and China over time.

Paper 4 – Chinese culture
Candidates will also study two topics from Chinese history and culture, which are both studied and assessed in English:

History: the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, c.1934-1956. We study the tragic and troubled story of the foundation of Communist China, through world war, civil war, and revolution. We explore how the wars shaped the country China would become; how Mao Zedong achieved his position of leadership; and how the foundations of a superpower were laid at this time.

Culture: we study the emotional, controversial film The Blue Kite, overall winner of both the Tokyo International Film Festival and Hawaii International Film Festival. The film follows a young boy called Tietou through three phases of his life, moving from tragedy to tragedy.


Each component is assessed by a single paper.

Paper 1 – Speaking (20% of total mark): approx. 15 minutes

The speaking test consists of a prepared topic conversation and a general conversation. It is externally assessed by a visiting examiner.

Paper 2 – Listening, reading and translation (30% of total mark): 2 hours 30 minutes

This paper combines a dictation exercise, reading comprehension of short passages, understanding of common Chinese sayings (chengyu), and translation of a short passage from Chinese into English.

Paper 3 – Writing and usage (25% of total mark): 2 hours

Candidates will identify Chinese characters using their component parts, and write a short letter and a short essay in Chinese characters.

Paper 4 – Chinese culture (25% of total mark): 2 hours 30 minutes

Candidates will answer two long essay questions in English, one on Chinese history (the foundation of the PRC), and a second on Chinese film (The Blue Kite).

Future Opportunities

Mandarin Chinese opens up a completely different culture, developing language skills that will put you a step ahead in a global market. China sits at the forefront of many sectors including business, medicine, science and technology. A command of the Chinese language will make you an attractive proposition to any university or employer. Language study also develops memory and communication skills which can transfer to any area of your life. Finally, your knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture will help you understand the world of the future, as China is a superpower whose influence looks likely only to grow as the 21st century goes on. 

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