Mandarin Chinese Pre-U

Mandarin Chinese Cambridge Pre-U

The Cambridge Pre-U is an alternative post-16 qualification and is equivalent to one A Level. Through this Pre-U course you will develop key skills in preparation for university, including independent study, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Mandarin Chinese opens up a completely different culture, gaining language skills that will put you a step ahead in a global market, where China sits at the forefront of many sectors including business, economics, science and technology.

Why St Mary's

Our subject-specialist teachers are graduates of the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge and are passionate about the Chinese language and culture.

You will learn in small classes, with access to all the support you require to reach your full potential. We use innovative, engaging learning methods, including the iPad and Chromebook – to encourage you to become a more independent learner.

Our enriched learning opportunities can include:

  • China cultural trip (2018)
  • Various trips to conferences and universities

Enabling your transition from GCSE

In our small classes, you will have access to experienced teachers who can offer regular in-depth support, tailored to suit your strengths. One-to-one teacher surgeries are available to help build confidence and for additional support if required.

For students who attended St Mary’s Senior School, Mandarin Chinese is part of the curriculum from Key Stage 3 onwards, building a solid foundation for study at Pre-U level.

Course overview

  • Paper 1 Speaking – 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
    • Listening – includes pinyin dictation, short passages and long passages (20 marks)
    • Reading – comprises two passages of around 450 words in total, requiring answers in English (18 marks)
    • Chinese sayings (Chengyu) – requires translating and explaining the meaning of three given Chinese sayings (6 marks)
    • Translation – this section comprises a translation of a short passage (no more than 200 characters) from Chinese into English (16 marks)
  • Paper 3 Writing and Usage – radical, stroke order and grammar – requires identifying three characters by their radical and providing the number of strokes and stroke order and completing a cloze test.
    • Letter writing – a letter of 80 to 100 Chinese characters
    • Opinion essay – an essay of 175 to 225 Chinese characters
  • Paper 4 Chinese Culture – you will answer two questions in English, one from a choice of three topics on Chinese culture, and a second on Chinese literature and film. Topics: family, young people, education, the media, work and leisure, equality of opportunity.


  • Paper 1 Speaking (20% of total mark) approx. 15 minutes
  • Paper 2 Listening, reading and translation (30% of total mark) 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Paper 3 Writing and usage (25% of total mark) 2 hours
  • Paper 4 Chinese culture (25% of total mark) 2 hours 30 minutes
At a glance
  • Syllabus: CIE Cambridge Pre-U 9778
  • Paper 1 Speaking (20% of total mark)
  • Paper 2 Listening, reading and translation (30% of total mark)
  • Paper 3 Writing and usage (25% of total mark)
  • Paper 4 Chinese culture (25% of total mark)
  • Small class sizes
You will enjoy this course if you...
  • Have good attention to detail
  • Like thinking analytically
  • Enjoy discussing a range of topics
  • Are interested in Chinese language and culture

What our teachers say...

“I studied language and education as my undergraduate and postgraduate subject. Learning foreign languages allowed me to better understand different cultures and appreciate diversity. I believe mastering an Asian language, especially Chinese, offers students a key to a different world and helps them to become more critical, agile thinkers – skills that are essential to survive in our highly competitive era.”

One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese, and Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people.

China has the second largest economy in the world and will play a critical role in shaping the future of humanity in the 21st century. Studying Chinese opens up a rich and fascinating world of Chinese civilisation – full of poetry and stories, as well as politics and history.

Being able to collaborate and communicate with Chinese colleagues, in all fields – from engineering and science, through to law, business and politics – will give you the edge when it comes to moving your career, and perhaps the world, forward in the future.

You could choose to continue studying Chinese language or culture at university level, or pursue a complementary subject such as international business, economics, law, politics, psychology, and tourism.

Typically, studying Chinese opens up opportunities to work in business, education, translation or interpretation, international companies, journalism, law, tourism, politics and public relations.

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