Candidates have to write an extended essay of up to 5,000 words
A new English Baccalaureate, designed to help universities identify the very brightest students, has been approved by the exams watchdog.
Exam board AQA said its Bac allowed candidates, who take it on top of three A-levels, to stand out from the crowd.
Candidates do an extended essay, 100 hours of personal development activity and an AS-level in critical thinking, citizenship or general studies.
At least 100 schools and colleges will offer the qualification from September.
This means it will go up against the government's flagship Diploma, a qualification combining theoretical and practical learning.
In April, exams watchdog the QCA approved the Cambridge Pre-U - another examination designed to stretch bright pupils.
The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance said it decided to develop the qualification because of "growing interest" in alternatives to A-levels and the need for universities and employers to identify the brightest students.
But the AQA said its Bac was designed to complement students' core A-level subjects and allowed them to build on them through wider learning
AQA director general Mike Cresswell said: "The AQA Bac, which has A-levels at its core, recognises students' achievements in both academic study and wider learning and personal development.
"Because it is based on A-levels, any school or college can make it available to students who wish to have the breadth of their learning formally certificated."
The qualification is similar to the Welsh Baccalaureate which is offered by all schools and colleges in Wales.
With the Welsh version, pupils need a minimum of two A-levels at grade E and above, but must also pass the qualification's core with modules in subjects including modern languages and politics.
They also get credits for activities such as community work and work experience, and for proving they are capable in key skills such as maths, ICT, languages and communications.
The International Baccalaureate, which is offered by some state schools, requires in-depth knowledge of six subjects, features an extended project and credits for personal development like work experience.
AQA says 36 pilot centres have already been approved to offer the English Bac, and that a further 67 have said they will run the courses from September.
In addition, another 34 centres have said they are thinking of launching the qualification in 2009.