What are Pre-sessional courses?

Pre-sessional PathwaysThis week’s guest blog post is by Linda Hurley, Assistant Director of Pre-sessional Programmes at the University of Southampton. In it, she addresses international students’ questions about university Pre-sessional courses:

Being an international student on a summer Pre-sessional course in EAP (English for Academic Purposes) is a positive introduction to the academic life and culture at a UK university, and many former Pre-sessional students say how valuable it has been when they move on to their future courses. Courses may vary in length – at the University of Southampton they range from 16 weeks to 6 weeks, depending on students’ entry point (usually reflected in their IELTS grade). There may even be a pre-arrival online component to a Pre-sessional course. Most of the students who participate in Pre-sessional courses are required to do so in order to improve their academic English skills; however, some participants, who have already met their university’s entrance requirements, may choose to do a Pre-sessional course to improve their readiness for their future studies. Each university will have a website outlining their Pre-sessional provision for their own international students.

Pre-sessional courses provide an opportunity for students to work intensively on all their linguistic skills within an academic framework and their university environment. While IELTS is generally the recognised exam taken by most students when applying for entrance to their chosen subject area, it does not prepare students for the demands of academic study. On a Pre-sessional course, students will practise researching, preparing and writing long essays, and using academic sources to support their arguments. They may be required to practise giving presentations based on aspects of their research too. Reading journal articles, attending lectures and participating in seminar discussions are also key components of most university courses so a Pre-sessional course is a very useful ‘dry run’ for the real thing! Students’ progress and achievements are made clear both during and at the end of a Pre-sessional course, and tutors will always want to ensure that students are moving on to their future courses with the skills they need to do well. This means that ‘yes, the learning curve is steep’ and a significant amount of student work is produced during the course, but by the end, students will feel that the rewards and sense of achievement are definitely worth it.

Pre-sessional courses are also a great way to meet and make new friends and are, hopefully, a time to experience some of the best British summer weather! It’s a busy time and an opportunity to really focus on getting ready for your future studies.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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10 Responses to What are Pre-sessional courses?

  1. Ramahetlane says:

    when will be start pre session course

  2. Hakan says:

    Hello everyone,

    I am curious about presessional courses at University of Southampton. I’ve taken 6.0 point at IELTS exam and I’ve two options to fulfill the language requirement and then I’ll start master education at Southampton. One of these is taking 6.5 on IELTS and the other is attending 6-week presessional course by using 6.0 IELTS point. Do you have any experience about this situation? I believe that if I enter the IELTS again, I can take 6.5 points and I won’t have to attend presessional course whereas I have no idea about presessional course and presessional finishing exams on the one hand attending presessional course is beneficial to get used to the city. So, do you have any advice? Which option is much better as you?

    Thanks in advance.
    Best wishes.

    • That’s a good question Hakan and one that I’m sure many students think about. I believe, for a number of reasons, that you would benefit much more from doing the Pre-sessional course than from gaining direct entry with an IELTS score. Most importantly, you’ll learn a lot about, and get a chance to practise, the academic skills you’ll need when you start your Master’s programme. These include skills such as writing academic essays using and referencing other writers’ work, understanding academic lectures and giving academic presentations. During the course you’ll improve all your language skills with the additional advantage that you’ll focus on the academic language you need for your university studies. Finally, you’ll become familiar with the University and, as you say yourself, with the city of Southampton so that when you start your Masters’ programme you can ‘hit the ground running’!
      You can see more details about the Southampton Pre-sessional programme for Masters’ students here:

      Hoping this is helpful.

      Ceri Dunn
      Director – Pre-sessional Programmes
      University of Southampton

  3. Ali Salman says:

    Hi. Can I have a pre sessional course to join the foundation year next Sep? If yes then what is Ielts grade for that course to prepare for the foundation year?

    • Hi, the IELTS scores you need will depend on which institution you are applying to and which course you’d like to study. You should search University web pages to find out more details. Hope this helps!

  4. Hazem says:

    Hi. I want to ask for advice, i got 6 in IELTS, i feel deep inside that i can do more if i attend but i know also that having a presessional course is much more better. Am confused about one thing which is: if i attend to tge presessional course, at the end of the course is there a hard exam that i should pass at the university ? Because you know the biggest problem that i face in IELTS is the fear of the exam not the exam itself. And also i just dont want to pay money and travel and then facing another problem ! Can you advice please

  5. Khalid Khalaf says:

    Thank you for the valuable information you provide us with. My question is does the student have to start his intended master program immediately after the pre sessional course or he can defer for another term or year?
    Thank you