British vs American Education Systems

I was engaging in some friendly Internet banter on Gawker the other day and ended up (after being asked to do so) explaining the American education system to some Brits.  There is a lot of confusion on both sides, partially because the systems are really different.  I can’t say I think one is superior to the other, but they both have strengths and weaknesses.  Thought it might be helpful to provide a real breakdown of how they differ.  I can’t guarantee I’ll get everything right, but I think this should be mostly accurate. I’m going to deal with lower education first, and discuss universities later.  Otherwise this will be a very long post.

First, the British System

the_inbetweenersMost importantly, you’ll notice the uniforms.  Uniforms are, I think, a government mandate.  Blergh.  So glad I didn’t have to deal with that.  On the other hand, I think I wore a black Old Navy fleece pullover for about 6 months straight in high school, so maybe it wouldn’t have been so different.  Still, I got to choose the black fleece pullover.  An illusion of freedom is helpful for those under 18, who have no actual freedom under the law. I think there are a few schools in the UK without uniforms, but probably over 90% require uniforms.

The British system starts out similar to the US System.  You have the option to attend something called Nursery School, which is similar to our Preschool, until you’re 4.  After that, you go to Primary School from ~4/5 years old through ~11 years old.    The first year is called ‘reception’, similar to our kindergarten. After that, you start with year 1, then year 2, etc., etc., very similar to our 1st grade, 2nd grade.  Things don’t really become vastly different until you’re nearing adulthood.

When Brit kids are in year 6, they sit an exam called the Sats (in no way related to the US SATs), which helps determine what classes they can/should take going forward.  This is, I imagine, similar to our basic standardized tests in elementary/middle school, when it comes to format and material.  The big difference is that it makes a difference in what classes you can take going forward.  More of a placement test.

After year 6, if you don’t get your Hogwarts letter, you go to Secondary School.  Instead of having a Middle and High school as we do, you go to Secondary school from about 11/12 y.o. to 16 y.o., from year 7-year 11.  Somewhere in there you take another Sats test to help with future class placement.  But the first big deal stressful test you need to take in your young life is the O.W.L.s….no, that’s not right.  The GCSEs (stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education). I think you study the subjects for year 10 and 11 and then take the tests in year 11, but I could be wrong on that.  According to Wikipedia, the grading goes like this:

The pass grades, from highest to lowest, are: A* (pronounced ‘A-star’), A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Grade U (ungraded/unclassified) is issued when students have not achieved the minimum standard to achieve a pass grade; the subject is then not included on their final certificate.

The GSCEs help you determine where you go next.  Government mandated education in the UK stops at 16, not 18 as it does here.  So if you want to be done with school and go work at your uncle’s garage, go for it.  If you want to go to University, you need to continue with school.  You have two options; you can go to ‘College’, or you can stay on at your Secondary School in something called ‘Sixth Form’. Both options prepare you to take your NEWTs A-levels.  From what I understand, being accepted to Sixth Form is more competitive and difficult than going to a College, and there don’t tend to be a lot of other students with you.  This video talks about the differences, and the guy mentions that out of his entire Secondary School, there were only 30 classmates in his Sixth Form.

Note to Americans–if you’re in the UK and you say College, people do not think you mean University.  They only call it University.

You take your A-levels at 17 or 18 years old, and primarily they determine what Universities you can attend.  People generally take 3 or 4 A-levels (usually you study 2 per year, I think). I believe the closest equivalent we have in the US is AP tests.  They seem to offer A-levels in everything, though I don’t think each of these subjects is offered universally.  I feel sorry for anyone who, at 15, decides Accounting is the subject for them, but I am jealous that so many different languages are offered. Passing grades are A*, A, B, C, D and E.  Everyone stresses about their results, and I think these tests are the main qualification that universities look at before they consider you for admission. For Oxbridge, you need all As, at least.  That’s the minimum requirement.  For reference, if an American wants to apply to Oxbridge, they expect 3 AP tests with grades of 5, so they are fairly equivalent in the eyes of their Admissions Offices.  King’s College London, which is where I went (briefly), requires you to ‘pass 3 A-levels’, but if you look at their more prestigious programs (Law, Medicine), they require AAA or A*AA to be admitted.  An A* is like an A+; I think you have to get over 90% on the exam, but I’m a little unclear on that because a 90% on an American exam is usually an A- and an A+ is over ~98%.  A more average university, like the University of Surrey, requires 3 passes at A-level, but also looks at your GSCEs.  You need a C or better at Math and English, regardless of your A level scores.

A note about graduation–they don’t have one in the UK.  Because some students leave at 16, some at 17, the rest at 18, there is no one moment of ‘thank god that’s done’ as there is in the US.  They have something called a Leaving Day, I believe, but it’s not on the scale of a high school graduation.

Okay…so that’s most of what I know about the UK Education System.  If any of my UK readers would like to correct me, I’d love to know what I got wrong or left out.  Also, if any of you readers from the UK (or elsewhere) are confused about the US system, this bit’s for you!

graduationIt’s far simpler to explain. First and most important: very few schools have uniforms.

First, you can go to preschool or daycare when you’re very young.  Then, when you turn 4 or 5, you will go to Elementary school. This starts with kindergarten, and goes through 5th grade (in most places).  So you start at 5 years old and leave at 11, very similar to the UK.

Here’s where it starts to be different.  After Elementary school you go to Middle School.  This is from grades 6-8, so ages 12-14(ish).

After 8th grade, you move on to High School.  TV shows should give you a good indication of what it’s like. You go to High School from 9th-12th grade.  There are other words for your status during each year: In 9th grade you are a freshman, 10th grade you are a sophomore, 11th grade you are a junior, and 12th grade you are a senior.  No one really says ‘I’m in 9th grade’, they would say ‘I’m a freshman’. You study a variety of subjects, but everyone has to study things like Math, Science, History, English.  Usually people study a language, and most places require you to take gym.  The popular kids torture the less popular kids, but really everyone is incredibly miserable.

Pressure to prepare for college starts, in my experience, as a Sophomore.  You take some standardized tests to give you a hint of what your future hell will be like when you are taking them for real.  You can start taking AP classes, if they are offered at your school.  AP classes are similar to GSCE classes, I believe. You study a subject for (usually) a year, and then take a test at the end.  Grades for the tests are 1-5, with 5 as the highest.  3-5 are the passing grades.  You can take as many as you want, or take none.  They’re not required, but if you want to go to Harvard, they’re going to expect you to take whichever advanced classes your school offers.

In your Junior year, you take the SATs and/or ACTs for real.  These tests are measured differently, but they test very similar things.  A very good score on the SATs would be anything above 2000/2400.  A good score on the ACTs would be anything over 31 out of 36.  Again, if you want to go to an Ivy League school, you need to have nearly perfect test scores.

The thing to understand about American universities is that they look at you as a whole person.  There are your test scores (AP, SAT, ACT), but also your GPA (more on that in a minute), your extra-curricular activities like clubs or sports, and your personal statement.  Some do interviews, but it’s rarely a requirement.  Most schools have a huge amount of students apply, so they use things like GPA and test scores as a first step to weed out the least suitable candidate.  Then they start to look at the other materials. Just keep that in mind when I continue to describe all the shit you have to do to have a chance at a good university in the US.

So, GPA.  This is a confusing subject for everyone outside the UK, from my experience.  Your courses are graded with letter grades, but each letter grade has a corresponding numerical value out of 4.0 (usually).

  • A = 4.00
  • A- = 3.67
  • B+ = 3.33
  • B = 3.00
  • B- = 2.67

etc., etc for grades A, B, C, D (the passing grades).  We only have one failing grade, F.  For more info, this is a Wiki page that goes into specifics. I’m not going to attempt to explain grading on a curve to you in this blog.

So, your GPA is just your average.  If you have all Bs, you have a GPA of 3.00.  If you have 2 As, an A-, and a B+, your GPA would be 3.75   [(4.0+4.0+3.67+3.33)/4 classes=3.75].

I would say GPA is the number one thing universities look for.  An Ivy League school would probably not consider anyone with below a 3.5, unless they were a celebrity, Olympian, legacy, sports star, or had something else to offer the university. The majority of people accepted to an Ivy probably a 3.8 or above.  For your middling state schools, anything above a 3.0 is fine.

The good thing about a GPA is that it’s an average, and it covers all 4 years of high school.  For UK students who get nervous taking their A level tests, this must sound wonderful.  After all, if you bomb one test in the US, it’s not going to hurt you in the long run.  On the other hand, the GPA is a bit unforgiving.  If you have a bad year in your freshman or sophomore year, it’s really difficult to ever get your GPA back up to a respectable level.  To judge people for university based in part by their performance at 14 years old seems harsh.  So, there are pros and cons.

Generally, people take the SAT and/or ACT once more in their Senior year in an attempt to get a better score.  People apply to college (university) in the fall of their Senior years and usually hear back in the spring. You get in and you celebrate, or you don’t and you cry.

Two big events end the high school experience for most students.  Prom and Graduation.  These have been covered in countless shows and movies, so I doubt I need to explain them.  A prom is just a formal dance, the biggest one of your young life.  Graduation is the formal celebration of your being finished with school.  Since the leaving age in the US is 18, this is a big deal.  Celebrating together the end of this collective experience.  You have a ceremony and a boring speech, you wear robes, you get a fake diploma, your family takes lots of pictures.  Usually you have a party afterward. If you’re wealthy or lucky, your family buys you a car and/or a laptop.  If you are me, your family buys you a dictionary.  You are an adult and can now do what you want (in theory).

Next time, university!


164 responses to “British vs American Education Systems

  1. British school system is rubbish

    In the UK, primary school is from ages 4 to 11. Secondary school is from ages 11 to 16.

    • Susie Farmrbough

      nearly all right, but bit wrong on the A-levels
      we study AS-levels ( A.S. levels)in year 12, which is essentially half an A-level/A2-level. So after year 12 you still have a usable qualification. Usually you take 5 AS levels. (at my sixthform you took 4 AS-levels of your choice then it was mandatory everyone had to take a 5th, general studies or critical thinking ((subjects most universities don’t acknowlegde >_>)))
      Then in year 13 you get rid of general studies and one other subject and carry on studying the three you need to get into uni, take your exams and then you have actual A-levels or A2s (A-twos)
      It’s quite exceptional for someone to have 4 A2s, but I have heard of people doing it to get into oxbridge.

  2. British school system is rubbish

    Sixth forms are not part of schools. They are a separate stage between school and university. Some are located in secondary schools and some are not. It is not compulsory to attend them, unlike schools. People finish school before they can start at a sixth form.

    • Yep, I mentioned all that. Thanks!

      • Im british, and i love the british system, came to find out about american system, very informative, bravo. i am currantly at college and we study 4 subjects for two years, the course for each is two years long! not 2 subjects per year, 4 subjects for 2 years! but most people drop one as universitys only ask for 3 A-levels, oxbridge will want 3 A stars but most want an A and two B’s.

    • Since 2014 it’s now compulsory if you have not obtained a C or better in both English and maths.

  3. British school system is rubbish

    In the UK, people attend primary schools from ages 4 to 6. People attend secondary schools from ages 11 to 16.

    The sats (pronounced like the words bats and hats) tests in secondary schools are done in year 9 (ages 13 to 14).

  4. British school system is rubbish

    GCSEs are the final school exams. They are the qualifications that people can get from schools. You are right, they are studied for in years 10 and 11.

    In addition to doing the exams at the end of year 11 (the end of school), GCSEs also involve something called “coursework”. That is special items of work that have to be completed before the exams, for each subject that someone is to do an exam for. It usually means written work and is assigned to each class. It can be a kind of project with practical and written work or, just written work, depending on the subject. It is used as a precondition for people to do GCSEs. If it is not done for particular subjects, in advance of exams, schools will not allow people to do exams in those subjects. In other words, people who do not do the coursework for a particular subject are banned from doing an exam for it.

    This is a big problem with the education system because many secondary schools use a system called “setting” (what used to be called streaming, in the past) which means that many people in years 10 and 11 are dumped in classes with mediocre or incompetent teachers who are indifferent to their pupils. When it comes time for coursework, many teachers will assign it with a minimum of effort and explanation and for the rest of the time, will just leave pupils to get on with it by themselves. There is very little attempt at explaining it and no attempt at actual teaching. Little or no attention is given to most individuals and pupils are just left to work out what exactly they are supposed to do, by themselves. When individuals try to ask teachers for explanations and instruction, it is usually an uphill battle to get any and even then, it is not enough. (One teacher just said to me “oh, you know what the coursework is” and then completely ignored me for most of year 10 and all of year 11. Fortunately that was in a subject that was not necessary for my future) Many pupils do not complete or even do coursework, because of this. This situation is used to exclude certain people from exams and therefore, manipulate particular schools’ exam statistics. In the subject of foreign languages, the coursework is for pupils to speak words and sentences in another language, into a tape recorder, the recording then being sent off to an external exam board for marking. Incompetent language teachers use another method to get around coursework. They take individual pupils aside, teach them to repeat a few words and sentences (without even translating them into English) parrot fashion and then get them to repeat those on tape. That is done to make it look as if the teacher has actually been teaching instead of just telling pupils to copy random texts from textbooks with no English translations (with each text more random than the last).

    This was my experience from going to a total of two, different secondary schools and from discussing it with friends in other secondary schools.

  5. British school system is rubbish

    sats tests in year 6 don’t “determine what classes they can/should take going forward.” Year 6 is the final year of primary school so the tests don’t make any difference. They are done for the benefit of individual schools and schools in general. They are used to determine the position of schools in the league tables. When me and everyone I knew did the sats, that was the last that we ever heard of them. We were never given or even told, the results of them.

    sats tests are also done in secondary schools in year 9, at age 14. You mentioned that they are to “help with future class placement”. They are more than that. They are used to determine which classes people will be in, when the GCSE phase starts in year 10. That does not mean classes as in subjects but, it means classes in the “setting” system (what used to be called streaming, in the past ). The basic idea of this is described in a wikipedia article titled Tracking (education). Students are not told this until after the tests have been done. The tests are used by teachers in secondary schools to decide which “sets” (classes) students will be in, for all of years 10 and 11 (the rest of the time at school). These classes also determine which level of exam paper (higher, intermediate or foundation) can be done in GCSEs and therefore, also decide the maximum grade that students will be allowed to achieve in their exams.

    • SAT’s are carried thru’ into secondary and determine your progress from KS2 to GCSE i.e Level 5 means you should get A/A* if progress is not made by a school it will very quickly come to the attention of Ofsted.

    • British--- Lady

      im not sure how long ago your SATS in year 6 were but now it is very different. The children get told there results and the results will be sent to the secondary of which the child will be attending to determine what set they will be in (or whether they will need help in english or math’. sort of like you said about later on in education. Also for gifted students they can do GCSE’s early in year 9.

      • I am actually a current secondary student, and I took my SATs in 2013. It seems as though the educational system varies across the UK. In my area, SATs count for nothing, really, and nobody, not even the gifted kids, is allowed to take their GCSEs in Year 9. Year 9 is purely GCSE options year. The earliest we’re allowed to take them as final GCSEs are in Year 10.

  6. British school system is rubbish

    You wrote that “some students leave at 16, some at 17, the rest at 18, there is no one moment of ‘thank god that’s done’ as there is in the US.” That is not accurate. People leave school at 16. 17 and 18 year olds have already finished school. Whether they continue in education or not, 17 and 18 year olds are no longer considered to be in school.

    • Thanks for all your input.

      I’m confused about this one. If they’re still going to classes and taking exams, how can 17 or 18-year-olds not be considered ‘in school’? Is this just semantics? Do they still call themselves students?

      In the US, you say you’re ‘in school’ if you are in any type of formal education setting, from primary school through graduate school. PhD students say they’re in school, same as 11-year-olds. In the UK, what do they say? E.g. a relative asks what you do with your time now that you’ve finished your GCSEs. If you’re in 6th form, what would the answer be? If you’re at university, what would the answer be?

      • British school system is rubbish

        If people are in sixth form, they can say “I go to sixth form” or “I’m in sixth form”. People don’t call it school, even if the particular sixth form they attend is located in a secondary school. That’s because it is a separate stage of education from school.

        People at university can just say that they go to university.

          • The English Knight

            It is now a legal requirement that we go to sixth form or college, we are not allowed to leave full time education until we finish sixth form or college. Also sixth form can be part of schools or separate. For example I am going to Trinity sixth form, it is part of a secondary school but I did not go to that one, I am allowed to join the sixth form any way. Also, you kind of have to compete for places at sixth form since they are hard to get, luckily I got in! i’m doing Maths, Geography, Physics and Chemistry all 4 for 2 years straight.

            • Actually as well as college, alternatives to school include an apprenticeship/traineeship or part-time education + full-time work or volunteering (20+ hours). You don’t have to stay in school after the year you turn 16. You just have been in some form of education. Whether that is school/sixth form, college, apprenticeship or traineeship or part-time education + full-time work.


        • I’m afraid that I have to disagree with your first point entirely. We definitely say, when in Sixth Form, that we go to school, we are still studying at school, etc. I can’t think of anyone who would not use it like that.

          • Chris, did/do you attend a sixth form that is located at a secondary school?

            • Yes, I did. I was not aware that they were supposed to exist as sepereate entities though, but set in a school. It certainly did not feel that way, and I am not sure I agree with the definition that it is a seperate entity. However, I have never given it a thought before. However, I stick by my original statement that you would definitely still say “I go to school at XYZ.” No other way around it.

              • That explains it. I went to one that was not at a secondary school. It was completely separate from any kind of school and, no one there called it school.

                They are not supposed to be one kind or another. They vary. Some are located at secondary schools and some are not. Considering yours and another comment here, it seems that only people who did as you did, called it school.

                • I’d certainly go along with that. My secondary school had a sixth form as part of it and people that were in said sixth form called it ‘school’. That was reinforced by the fact that they had a full school day and wore uniforms (different ones from the rest of the school). I myself went to a separate sixth form college where we didn’t have uniforms and only had to be there when we had lessons; we just called it ‘sixth form’, though those that were doing more vocational subjects like Hair and Beauty called it ‘college’.

                  My younger sister, incidentally, went to the sixth form at her (different) school and they called it school too.

          • I say I’m going to sixth form because it’s something completely different to school and people get confused if I say school. Same for college and university.

      • AT College! But there is some confusion as a lot of Academies are called Colleges as well (Years 7 thru’ 11 or 13)!! Years R thru’ 6 is Primary, Years 7 thru’ 11 is Secondary Years 12 – 13 is Tertiary then comes Uni.

  7. I went to 6th form at the same school I did my GCSE’s so I still said I went to school ’cause nothing had changed much to me.
    Also, usually in yr12 (lower sixth) most people do 4 chosen subjects. Then they drop one subject and only carry 3 on until yr13 therefore only completimg 3 A-levels (I know someone who did 5 but she was insanely clever, whatever). If you drop a subject after doing it for one year, this is called an AS-level which is just half an A-level.
    So, I left my school (+ 6th if you’re particular) with 10 GCSE’s, 1 AS-level and 3 A-levels, hope this makes sense.
    They’ve also introduced UCAS points for getting into uni, have fun looking at that if you’re interested…

  8. Um, just correcting you on your A LEVEL bit: you take 3, 4 or 5 subjects in your first year at AS level which is half a course. In your second year you can drop some of these subjects or continue them at A2 level which once achieved is an overall A LEVEL. The courses take two years to complete so if you chose History, English Lit and Lang, Maths and Art then you’d get your grades which you must get at least 3 E’s in to be accepted into year 13 and if you make them and don’t drop anything you study those subjects again and would get 4 A LEVELS overall.

    Also college isn’t usually A LEVELS but diploma courses like hair and beauty, health and social care, childcare and fashion and design although that doesn’t mean you can’t take A LEVELS at college.

    Similarly you can get accepted into Oxbridge without 3 A’s as it’s all done on UCAS points. Generally a E at an AS is 20 points, a D is 30, C is 40, B is 50 and an A is 60 so a E at A2 is 40, a D is 60, C is 80, B is 100, an A is 120 and an A* is 140. You can only get an A* at A2 level and not at AS -seriously, it’s impossible.

    Things like the Duke of Edinburgh Gold award also help you get in without meeting the entry requirements. Similarly subjects are put in order of importance for uni’s so CORE subjects (English, Maths and Science) are the highest looked upon whereas Social Sciences (History, Geography, etc) are not so much and further from that Textiles and technologies (other than engineering) are one of the most disregarded subjects -some uni’s do not recognise them as A LEVELS.

    Also ignore the comment that said Sixth form and college isn’t a part of school: by their logic nursery isn’t a part of school because you don’t say “I’m going to school” you say “I’m going to nursery.” I’m in sixth form and actually all the people I know say “I’m going to school” not sixth form.
    If it’s a part of the education system (which it is) it counts as school.

    You’re information is so hopeful on the American stuff by the way 🙂

    • Thanks! Very helpful. The A-level thing is pretty complicated for anyone not involved to understand. And there’s not AS-level equivalent at Hogwarts, so I have no analogies to use.

      I’m glad you agree about the ‘school’ thing. Seemed weird to me, but obviously it differs depending on geography or personal opinion.

      • That’s the personal opinion of one, particular person. Sixth forms are not generally called schools. I could sort of understand someone calling it school if they go to a sixth form that is at the same location as a secondary school. That does not apply in general because a lot of them are not located at secondary schools.

        Using British Chippe’s logic, people might as well start calling nurseries and schools, universities, or universities and schools, nurseries, because they are all “part of the education system”. But why stop there? Extending their logic, people might as well start calling sats tests, AS levels, A levels, university exams or even the small tests that some teachers in some subjects give in years 7 to 9, GCSEs, because they are “part of the education system”. That is a recipe for confusion and ambiguity.

        • I think the problem from my perspective is that in the US, we refer to any formal education setting as ‘school’. If you’re 5 and going to elementary school, you call it school. If you’re 55 and attending university at night part time, you call it school. So the distinctions don’t exist for that word; it acts as an umbrella word to refer to all the different levels of formal, structured teaching/learning. It’s not confusing or ambiguous for us.

          Obviously that is not the case in the UK, however. But do you call all people in formal education ‘students’? Or do you refer to them by specific names based on where they fall in the education process? Would you call a primary school student something different from a uni student?

          • Children in schools are usually called pupils or school children. Sometimes they are called students. People in university are just called students.

            The American thing of calling all levels of education school, is very strange from my, British perspective. It is not logical.

            • What makes it illogical? I think it’s just different, not better or worse. The Brit way makes less sense to me, but that’s just because it’s not familiar to me. Vice versa for Brits.

              • It is illogical because it includes university which is by definition, something different from elementary/primary and high/secondary schools, in the UK and the USA.

                • But my point is that to us in the US, they are not fundamentally different. Your freshman year at university is considered your 13th year of school. They are all part of the same system. If you’re going for your PhD part time at night, you’re still going ‘to school’. We don’t use the term to refer to a building, or an age group, but anytime we’re in a formal and organized learning setting. We in the US and you in the UK use the word differently, but that doesn’t make either definition ‘illogical’, unless anything that is unfamiliar to you is automatically ‘illogical’ or wrong.

    • It’s all true except for the Oxbridge bit. Most Russell group unis ask for minimum but more popular courses, expect A* especially medicine or dentistry. Plus things have changed. By next year, AS will count to nothing and all A-levels will be taken at the end of Yeat 13.

  9. Just one small note, in this day and age less than 30% of state schools require the wearing of a uniform, this is a long way off your figure.

  10. I would say you are correct about uniforms, I know of no school that doesn’t wear uniform, I think like 90% of them do!! However I also agree with the person who said sixth form and college isn’t school, we all leave school at 16, that is our official leaving date, the last day of year 11 however then you can go on to college or sixth form which lasts 2 years – this is not school, you have left school, also most schools have prom at the end of year 11, kind of copied from the American style proms but not as big, not a big deal is really made of them, also we do have graduation, at the end of university 🙂 and to do with A levels, you can take 3,4,5 or more in your first year, then you take exams and these grades mean you have now got your AS levels, then your second year you can continue doing however many you want most people do 4 in the first year then drop one and get your A levels at the end of the second year – most universities expect no more/less than 3 A levels 🙂 I prefer the American schooling system, I think you get more subject choices in high school, do you know in general the choices of subjects you choose from in high school in America?? 🙂

    • Well, I can only give you my own experiences–it varies pretty dramatically in some parts of the country. But you have your basic subjects that everyone has to take to graduate: Math(s), Science, English Lit, Social Science. For Math, I started with Algebra, then took Trigonometry and Geometry, then Calculus. My school also offered more basic math for the kids who needed it, and they also offered Statistics. For Science, I took Biology freshman year, Chemistry the next year, Marine Biology the next year, and then my final year I took both AP Chemistry and Physics. They also offered things like Geology and Environmental Science. For English Lit, you’re on a track based on how well your teachers think you can do. There isn’t much choice there; you were either assigned to the advanced classes or to the regular classes, which you took for all 4 years. For Social Science, there were quite a few options.You can take American Government, European History, US History, Economics, Psychology, Philosophy, etc.

      In addition to those requirements, you get a number of ‘electives’, which you take for fun/to try new things. You have to take a certain number of them, because the school wants you to be well-rounded. We had a lot of art classes–photography, ceramics, drawing, painting–as well as computer courses, music (band, orchestra, choir, musical theater, etc.), and you generally have to take gym each term. And, to top all that off, you take a language for at least 2 years. My school offered Spanish, French, German, and Russian at the time. Now, I think Japanese or Chinese is often available, as well as maybe a form of Arabic? Depends on where you live. My boyfriend studied Latin at school, so it really varies. You get a lot of choices; I’d say the problem is fitting it all into your schedule.

    • Having a prom at the end of year 11 must be a very recent thing. There was no such thing in my day and I’m not exactly old or grey.

      The end of secondary school had no particular name. It was a day much earlier than it was for other school children. Everyone else in the years below year 11, that includes everyone in years 7 to 10, as well as everyone in primary schools, finished the school year in late July. For us in year 11, we finished in early July. All that happened then was that we had normal lessons until about 12 and then, we had to go to the school hall for a special assembly for year 11 students. Not much happened apart from a select few students receiving some certificates and recognition from teachers. Most of us were just bored and some did not even turn up. They bunked off and only returned once the assembly was over. When it was, we had to clear out our stuff from our lockers (nothing like those of high school students in America, they were tiny, wooden boxes in a wall, secured with a padlock) and then give back the padlocks and keys for them. Then we had to leave, a few hours before the normal time for the end of the school day.

      The rest of the time from then until the normal end of the school year was referred to as “study leave”. We did not attend school anymore but, were supposed to use that time to do final studying before the exams. On certain days during that time, the school held different GCSE exams for different subjects. We were each given a time table for when our, particular exams were and had to go in on each day that there was one. Not everyone had the same exams on the same days because, not everyone did exactly the same subjects or same exam (higher, intermediate or foundation level) even when they did the same subjects. These were held in the school hall during mornings. Once they were finished, we could leave until the next day that an exam was on the time table. They were random days, not one after the other. When the final one happened in late July, that was it. It was all over.

      From then on, we had to wait until a particular day in mid to late August, during the summer holiday when the schools were closed, known as “GCSE results day”. That involved going in to school one last time, to receive our GCSE results. They were little documents in envelopes that had the name and class of a particular student, on a little, sticky label on the front. There was a teacher with boxes of them, to whom we had to give our name and class and then they handed over individual envelopes. This was in the summer holiday when the school was not operating normally because the school year had finished. Just a few teachers and school leavers were the only people in the school then. A lot of people showed their results to each other and some did not. At that point, it was all over. We had finished school and did not have to return, ever.

      • I’m not sure how old you are Brian but I finished Year 11 in 2002, at a standard comprehensive school. We did have a Year 11 dance but it wasn’t a big deal, not everyone went (I didn’t) and it certainly wasn’t called ‘prom’. I think that might have been around the time British schools started copying the US tradition of a prom before you left school. By the time my sister was in Year 11, 6 years later, prom was an established part of the end of your school days; my old school had one at the end of Year 11, as did most, but in my sister’s school (which was a grammar school) they had it at the end of Year 13, as pretty much everyone stayed for 6th Form there.

        I would imagine that with the new laws regarding leaving age all schools will have their prom at the end of Year 13.

      • Proms have been around in the school in which I am a governor for at least 15 years!! Note as from 2014 ‘school’ WILL continue until you obtain at least C or better in GCSE English and maths whilst at 6th Form..

  11. I’m currently in year 11 (last year of high school) in the UK and as of our year it is now compulsory to stay in full time education until you’re 18, so it’s now very similar to the American system. This year I will do my GCSE’s that will determine if I do A-Levels or vocational courses at Sixth Form/College. Then when I’ve pass my A-levels (hopefully) I will be 18 so it’s like graduating from a US High School. I will then be able to apply for a place at a university, just like you do in America. So I believe it is very similar now compared to previous years.

    • I didn’t know that. Thanks for the info! More education is always better in my book, so I think this is a good change.

      • The issue many people have with this is that where a person who is not academically minded could previously choose to learn a trade, or go into the family business or even start their own business, if they’re so inclined, they are now forced to stay in formal education – which is absolutely not suitable for everyone. The rules do allow (as I understand it) for a wide range of learning (such as trade schools and apprenticeships) to be considered formal education but, in that case, why formalise it when it’s already working well enough, and much more flexibly, already. This is, in my opinion, more of the same when it comes to UK politicians trying to make us into a ‘little USA’, without understanding that we’re very different countries and that what works for one may not work for the other.

  12. An A Level is normally taken over two years and consists of an AS level (generally taken year 12) and A2 (year 13). Quite often people will start with 4 or 5 AS’s but will then drop one or two subjects, not completing the A2 part

  13. i’m planning to migrate to US and i have always followed the British curriculum and I have done up until AS for A-levels. So i’m actually not sure whether i should continue with this A levels and then apply for uni in US or i should just apply straight to Uni in US with SAT and AS. What should i do? i’m really confused. Some say it’s better to finish A levels while some say it’s not going to be very useful as i plan to join a uni in US. Please Help? :((

    • I haven’t gone through the college application process from a UK perspective, so I’m not an expert. I did some googling and found some links for you:

      Here’s my alma mater’s page on international freshman admission.

      Looks like they would expect you to continue with A-levels, but also take the SAT or the ACT. It says you can apply without completing your A-levels, but you probably won’t get in. If you do really well at A-levels, you may be able to apply the credit toward beginning classes at uni here (similar to how our AP tests work).

      Since my school was pretty good (top 10 in the country), I looked at a more average school to compare. UC Santa Barbara had about the same requirements. Finish your A-levels. Take the SAT or the ACT with writing. You should look at schools to see which universities you want to apply to; that will determine everything about what you need to do. A good resource is the Princeton Review:

      The thing to remember about the SAT is that it is not a knowledge test. You don’t need to spend 6 months studying for it. Buy a few books (if they aren’t in your local Waterstones, they should be on Amazon) and learn the format and strategy to the test. Take a few practice tests. Work on your vocabulary a lot. That’s it. In the US, we all take the SAT while we’re studying other subjects; it’s not something you study for specifically.

      My general advice is to do a lot of research on the different universities. Pick 5-10 to apply to, if you have your heart set on the US. Generally, people apply to a few ‘reach’ schools (they probably won’t get in), a few middle of the road schools (they may get in, they may not), and a few ‘safety’ schools (they’re pretty sure they will get in). It’s a lot of work. Unlike UCAS, each university will have its own application, its own application fee, and its own essay. Or essays. Start early, do research, be organized. Good luck!

  14. I am living in egypt and want to shift my son from British to American school . He is in year 9 right now which means grade 8 of American system . Please advise is it advisable to shift him next year .

    • That would be the perfect time to switch, I think. 9th grade in the US is the first year of high school. (Almost) Everyone is starting a new school, so he won’t be the only one. That’s easier socially, but it will also be easier in terms of curriculum.

      If you’re going to enroll him in public school, then he’ll go to the school assigned to him based on his address, so you may be able to find out what school this would be and get in contact with them. Any private school you are considering should be able to help you do some research and make decisions. Here’s a guide specifically for transitioning from a British to American school:

      I hope that helps!

  15. U can stay at primary school until, your 13 if u go to a prep school but only some schools let u join at 13 and mainly private schools do

    • To clarify, primary schools cater for pupils in Reception (the year you turn 5) through Year 6 (the year you turn 11). Preparatory (‘prep’) schools operate a separate system, catering for pupils from Nursery (the year you turn 4) through Year 8 (the year you turn 13); in some cases this is split into two stages with the earlier one called pre-preparatory school (‘pre-prep’) and teaching pupils from Nursery to Year 2. A prep school isn’t a primary school or vice versa, they just both cater for roughly the same ages of children. In most (possibly all) cases prep schools are independent schools, while primary schools may be state or independent.

      All schools will allow you to join at 13 if you meet their standard entry requirements. You can switch between education systems and between state and independent schools as necessary.

      • cdfbrown, Reception classes are for children aged 4. That is the year and age at which most people start school. The legal requirement for starting school might be age 5 but, most people start in Reception, at age 4. It is the first year of school and is for ages 4 to 5.

        • I know Brian; that’s why I said the year you TURN 5, not when you are 5. That is to say the school year (Sep 1st – Aug 31st) during which you will turn five years old. 🙂 As such anyone who’s birthday isn’t on 1st September will indeed start school at age 4. As for it being the first year of school, it is the first COMPULSORY year of school and the first year of infant/primary schools, but Nursery starts a year earlier and as my above post mentions that’s the first year in pre-prep/prep schools.

        • The term used is ‘rising 5′. which means you will be 5 during that school year – September thru’ July.

  16. When I went to school in the 90’s we had a regular school uniform – grey jumpers / cardigans with white shirts/blouses and grey trousers/below knee skirts. In the summer the girls wore checked or striped two coloured summer dresses. Later on they changed it. We (the pupils) were asked to design a new uniform. Then a week or two later we had a fashion show with Pupils modelling the new school uniform – black jumpers, black trousers/skirts with a polo shirt of yellow, blue, green or red. Thus we were put in colour houses. Not to extent of Harry Potter Houses. It just made the teachers jobs easier for Sports Day. Instead of deciding which pupil would join each team (teams named after colours), they just put all the yellow polo shirt pupils together etc. Before we had the new uniform, girls weren’t allowed to wear trousers.

    We had one foreign language teacher who left the school shortly after I was half a year into Year 8. I just thought I’d add that because I’ve read other English pupils taking foreign languages for GCSE’s. To my ears that’s really strange because like I said our French teacher left 2 years before I entered GCSE level and she never got replaced.

    We had a leavers disco which Year 10 – 9 could also attend. This happened during a school day after the first lesson in the afternoon. So we’d bring party clothes to school, get changed after the lesson, have the disco, get changed back into school clothes and catch the buses/coaches to go home. Can’t remember when we had it though. Either before or after we took our GCSE exams. We had a leavers ceremony where we got our certificates and were presented our certificate of achievement books which also had our school reviews for the year in. I think we got out GCSE results through the post before the ceremony took place. Can’t remember for sure though.

    Grading varies from school to school. In my school no one got failed. A – was high, B – was high, C – was high, D/E/F/G was a pass.

    US Classes = UK Lessons
    US Grades = UK Years (each year has a home classroom which we call a Form Room – for example, Year 7’s Form Room was the Art Room)

    Back then 5 or 6 GCSE’s was the minimum.

    I’m sure we’re a minority but in my school in appreciation for the lunchtime staff’s hard work, in assembly every week a year from Secondary (my school was all in one – primary, middle and secondary but still a small school) was selected to wipe the tables, stack the chairs, put them both away, mop down the floor and use a dustpan and brush.

    Unlike in the US, we stay with the same bunch of pupils from our Year (our age group) for each lesson and we move together through the corridors to our next lesson. Not sure if it’s still the same now. Primary is different. Primary school children stay in same classroom for all lessons. Except for P.E.

    Lastly primary/secondary school children/teens are called Pupils. In my day they weren’t called Students until they were in college and university.

    • Thanks for all the detail! Very helpful. Looks like I need to edit my post a little with some of this new information.

      Of course, I have to generalize on both sides, because education isn’t done exactly the same way in all parts of the US or the UK. There are regional and cultural differences here that I didn’t really touch on either.

      • Also the Leavers Ceremony was in front of the Whole School, parents could attend too. In the Summer Holidays, the Leavers came back for a GCSE Certificate Presentation. The Leavers dress in smart home clothes. For this Presentation, only Parents, Leavers, the Head Teacher, the Form Teacher and Certificate Presenters attend. Afterwards there’s a little buffet and a little gathering to say goodbye to the teachers. In my school, we had autograph books (similar to US Yearbooks but smaller) so our teachers and friends could write little messages. Wishing us good luck for whatever we did in the future.

        • Interesting, that’s a bit different from my experience. Rather than a ceremony we had a leavers assembly, just for Year 11s and associated staff members, where speeches were made and prizes given out. That took place before we went on study leave and did our exams. After the exams were done the Leavers Dance took place for those who wanted to attend. There was no certificate presentation for us – we just turned up to collect our results on results day; the results were in plain white envelopes with our names on them and the teachers were ready to talk with anyone that didn’t get what they wanted/needed. Those that didn’t collect their results had them posted through and that was that. We did have yearbooks and people also traditionally signed each others shirts on the last day of school before study leave.

          • Well I describe it as a “ceremony” but it was actually called a “Leavers Assembly”. The school hall wasn’t huge. It was big enough to fit everyone in but it was cramped. They decided to do it landscape so the stage would wider. But it made the gap between the Pupils and the Stage narrow. I remember tripping up either whilst stepping up on stage or stepping down. Plus to make it worse, the youngest pupils were sitting on floor. I remember almost stepping on someone’s hand!

            • I remember similar cramped assembly conditions during whole school assemblies.:) I think it’s because in the UK most of our schools were originally designed before education was attended by everyone, so less space was required, coupled with the fact that the idea of pupils from several different year groups coming together for assembly is a relatively new one. We had our whole school assemblies in the sports hall and it was still cramped. The American style auditoriums seem much more fit for purpose, though I don’t know if that’s a standard model throughout the USA. Perhaps britishaisles could enlighten me?

              • We had three occupied spaces in the hall for the Gymnastic Apparatus (which the special “leavers” stage was leaning against), the stacked up pile of lunchtime tables & chairs (the chairs where the Parents sat were half leaning against them) and a piano (luckily at the other side of the hall).

                • I think you must have been at a smaller school than I was. We had three halls: the school hall, which was fairly small but did have it’s own small stage and was generally used for lower school/upper school assemblies, the sports hall, which was the largest space and had it’s own storage areas but was still to small for the whole school to fit in comfortably when it was used for whole school assemblies and the gym, which was in between the school hall and sports hall in size and which had all the equipment folded against the walls; the gym wasn’t suited to assemblies due to having poor access. The school hall and gym were also used for sitting exams.

              • I went to both public (free local) schools and private (semi-exclusive, expensive) schools in the US. In elementary school, we had a large gym for some assemblies, but our cafeteria room also had a stage and was used for some assemblies, and for school plays. In middle school, we had a proper auditorium with a proper stage and that was used for assemblies and plays. I think we had one dance in the final year of that school, and that was in the large gym. Our ‘graduation’ from middle school was also in the gym, with bleachers on the side for relatives.

                In my local high school, we had a few gyms and a few auditoriums, so plenty of space. That school was relatively new (circa 1950s), so there was tons of room. I also spent a year at a private school near Baltimore. It was much older and smaller. We still had a small auditorium, and that’s where we had a daily assembly. There must have been a gym as well, but if don’t remember ever going in. I did horseback riding for my sport, so I was never in the gym.

                I think it varies, but nearly all schools have a drama department and athletics requirements that necessitate a large amount of space. That being said, I grew up in the Midwest, which didn’t become very populous until the 20th century. There are probably older and smaller schools in New England.

                • Interesting. Perhaps the main difference necessitating the larger gathering spaces in the US is the drama side of things. In my school we had a small drama room for Drama lessons, but apart from those lessons there was very little in terms of performance and theatrics. The stage in the school hall was occasionally utilised for guest performers/speakers but the only performances the students put on tended to be required parts of English or Drama lessons and those didn’t use the stage. The Drama department was tiny, as was the music department. My Sister’s school put more emphasis on drama and music and had an accordingly larger stage, however as a more academically selective school (a grammar school) it was much smaller than mine and so the stage was only slightly larger while most of the facilities were much smaller.

                  I’m talking about our secondary schools here. In primary school there was just one school hall, which was usually divided in two by a partition wall, and every gathering took place there; this required the erection of temporary staging from time to time.

                  • Hi I’m currently in my last year of secondary school (year 11) and are school seems to be a lot more American, we have a large new cafeteria that is quite modern the tables and seats are stuck to the ground, We then have a theater that looks a lot like an auditorium this is were all the assemblies take place and things like that we then also have a sports hall that is pretty big this is were are exams take place, the sports hall and the local Church(i always thought that was kind of weird) which literally the schools connected too. Also are schools pretty different from the other local schools we leave 40 mins before every other local school (2:50) due to us only having half an hour lunch(which still feels too long) we are also the only mixed school for a few miles which seems kind of strange?

                    • Hi Kieron. Very unusual! The more American style can be explained by the fact that you have newer buildings but as for the rest… I think the only explanation is that you’re going to school in the fifties! In all seriousness though, with single sex schools usually being the province of independent schools and the occasional grammar school, it suggests to me that you probably live in a particularly wealthy area with a disproportionate number of those schools – likely one of the home counties. As for being connected to a church, I don’t know if you’re out in the countryside and the school was once part of the church? Are you sure it isn’t a church school now, as that would explain a lot (including the irregular timings of the school day). I think you must be the only person I’ve ever come across who’s said their lunch our is too long!

  17. UK Education System;
    Year 6 = 10/11 Years old
    Year 7 = 11/12 Years old
    Year 11 = End of Secondary School – 15/16 Years old.

    However the leaving age has been increased to 17 as of 2nd September 2013 and it will be increasing to 18 in 2015.

    Here’s some CnP from

    In England, you must stay in some form of education or training until the end of the academic year when you turn 17, if you left year 11 in the summer of 2013.

    This doesn’t have to mean only staying in school, it can be:

    full-time education, eg at a school or college
    an apprenticeship
    full-time employment (over 20 hours a week) combined with part-time education or training

    You’ll have to stay in some form of education or training until you turn 18, if you started year 11 in September 2013 or later.

    In Scotland, if you turn 16 between 1 March and 30 September you can leave school after 31 May of that year.

    If you turn 16 between 1 October and the end of February you can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.

    In Wales, you can leave school on the last Friday in June, as long as you’ll have turned 16 by the end of that school year’s summer holidays.
    Northern Ireland

    In Northern Ireland, if you turn 16 during the school year (between 1 September and 1 July) you can leave school after 30 June.

    If you turn 16 between July 2 and August 31, you can’t leave school until June 30 the following year.

  18. Do you know the difference between Public, Private and State Schools in the UK compared to the US?

    • The way I understand it, what the UK calls ‘public’ schools is what we would call private schools in the US. You pay tuition, they tend to be better academically (but not always). Eton, Harrow, etc.

      In the US, we have what we call ‘public’ schools, which I think translates to UK state schools or local schools. Tax-funded, free to attend, where you go is determined by where you live.

      I’m not clear on what a UK ‘private’ school is, if it’s different from either one of those categories.

      • Yes you’re right. UK Private Schools and Public Schools are fee paying. But Public Schools are different. They’re exclusive/elite. They were originally catered for Royalty and the very rich. Most Public schools require a common entrance exam in order to join them. There are all girls schools and all boys schools in the UK, as well as Co-ed like in the US.
        The riff-raff don’t get into Public Schools.

      • Partially correct; as you might expect it’s all down to funding. State schools are, unsurprisingly, funded by the state. There are also faith schools, funded by religious communities (Catholic schools ect). You then have what are technically called ‘independent schools’, which are funded from independent sources – simple enough so far. The confusion tends to arise from the fact that independent schools are split into two unofficial groups: public and private.

        Back in the day education was reserved for the very rich and those in particular regions or religious groups that were lucky enough for their community to provide schooling. Public schools were set up with the idea that anyone could join the school (subject to passing any entrance exams) as long as they could pay the fees, hence why they’re called ‘public’ as opposed to exclusive. Naturally it was only the elite of society that could afford these fees so they were exclusive by default. After state funded schools were set up any new independent schools became known as ‘private schools’, to show that they were privately funded, but the older schools continued to be known as public schools and for various reasons do still cater for the ‘elite’ of society.

        In general state schools are free to attend, independent schools charge annual fees and faith schools may be free or fee paying, depending on the exact nature of the school.

  19. Although most details in this article is correct, Scotland has a different exam course from England, We sit a course called Nationals in S3 and S4 ( Age 13 to Age 16). If we pass our exams with a A or B, We then are aloud to sit a Course known as Highers. We usally choose our subjects at the end of S2 for the Nationals, and at the end of S4 for our Highers.
    * The Nationals are split into National 4 and National 5. National 5 is for the more capable students, while National 4 is for people who find National 5 too dificult.

  20. British Student

    I’m British and here’s how the education system works:


    Infant school:
    5-6 years reception
    6-7 year 1
    7-8 year 2

    Junior school:
    8-9 year 3
    9-10 year 4
    10-11 year 5
    11-12 year 6 (Take SATs to determine set)

    Secondary school (you can pay to go to a private school instead):
    12-13 year 7
    13-14 year 9
    14-15 year 10 (Take GCSE exams to determine college and
    15-16 year 11 university) (Some schools start exams early)

    College (optional):
    16-17 year 12 (Take A-Levels to determine university)
    17-18 year 13

    University (optional but requires payment if decided):
    no age requirement

    • British Student, these are the names of the stages in some cases (though preschool is more of an informal descriptor than an official stage name) but you’re a year too old with the ages up until Year 9 – which gets back on track because you missed out Year 8. Reception is for 4-5 year olds, Year 1 for 5-6 year olds, Year 2 for 6-7 year olds and so on. The Nursery stage would be in the preschool section for 3-4 year olds and anything prior to that is more of a child minding/day care service than formal education.

  21. Most of the article seems to be correct. But from what I have heard, UK year 1 and US Grade 1 are not really the same. I think Kindergarten is the American version of year 1.

    I live in England. A lot of schools are different in each region of the country.
    This is my experience:
    When I was 3/4, I went to a nursery, where you basically played all day, learned the alphabet, numbers and other basic stuff. You only went for half the day, either in the mornings or the afternoon. It isn’t compulsory to attend a nursery, but most people in my area did.

    From nursery, I moved onto reception. (Note, sometimes nursery is called FS1 or foundation stage 1, and reception is called FS2 or foundation stage 2) Both the nursery and reception were part of my primary school. The only real difference between nursery and reception is that reception is both morning and afternoon.

    In year 1, you have to follow the national curriculum, which tells each school what they have to teach. You have to do maths, English, pe, etc. My school also had a swimming pool, so we had to do swimming as well as pe.

    In year 2 we did the key stage 1 sats. This was really a way to see how students are progressing compared to others in the country of the same age.

    In year 3-5 you carry on with school subjects. Nothing really happens.

    In year 6 you take the key stage 2 sats. I had to take them in English maths and science, but now you only take them in English and science. You get a grade from level 3-5. 3 is below average, 4 is average and 5 is above average.

    You then move to a secondary school ( Years 7-11). Places are usually given to those that live closest to the school. My school had quite good facilities. There was a gym, sports hall, dance studio, theatre hall, track fields, football fields etc. We had lockers too. In year 7 we had to take maths, science, English, history, geography, religious studies, it, pe, French, Spanish or german, art, drama, music, dt (which includes cooking, woodwork and textiles) and citizenship. We had to do all of these subjects until year 9. When I was in year 9, I didn’t have to do sats, as they had been scrapped. I still had to do tests though, for setting in GCSE classes.

    In year 9, I also had to choose the classes I wanted to do for GCSE. Well there wasn’t really much of a choice. This varies from school to school, but I had to choose a language- I chose French. A creative art- I chose Fine art. A humanities subject- I chose History. And one other- I chose geography. We also had to do maths (and additional maths if you were in top set), English (and English Literature if you were in top set), science (or separate sciences-biology, chemistry, physics if you were in top set), IT, Citizenship, Religious Studies and PE. Basically a lot of subjects with no real choice.

    I took my GCSEs in year 10 and 11- Now they are only allowed to be taken in year 11.

    You apply for sixth form college in year 11. You can take as many A-Levels as you like independently, but most colleges recommend you to study 4 or 5 for AS Level and drop one before taking A Levels.

    • Some differences from my school experience but otherwise pretty similar. Having a younger sister who has more recently gone through the system I can tell you that these days they tend to drop two subjects after AS Level, taking three on to full A Levels.

      FYI Kindergarten is actually equivalent to our Reception but, as they start school a year later in the US, the children are the same age as our Year 1s.

  22. A note on school stage naming conventions. Depending where in Britain you go to school you may encounter slightly different arrangements of schools. These are the ones you get in England and Wales:

    1. Nursery School
    2. Infant School
    3. Junior School
    4. Senior School
    5. Sixth Form College (this may be combined with stage 4)/Further Education College

    1. Nursery School
    2. Primary School
    3. Secondary School
    4. Sixth Form College (this may be combined with stage 3)/Further Education College

    1. First School
    2. Middle School
    3. Upper School

    1. Pre-preparatory School
    2. Preparatory School
    3. Public School/Private School

    1. Preparatory School
    2. Public School/Private School

  23. Sorry cdfbrown. I was talking about the age similarities between kindergarten and year 1. I am currently taking A-Levels and most people in my college have chosen to drop 1 subject rather than 2. But I think this may have something to do with the area I live in.

    • Ah, I see. Sorry if I came over as lecturing you on something you’re obviously doing as we speak! It could be your area or maybe they’ve gone back to four across the board now, since it was three years and three months ago that my sister finished school (she finished uni at the end of the last academic year and looking at doing a masters next year after a year out). I also know that some people do choose to do citizenship as an additional A-Level, as it’s considered a non-subject that gets you an extra grade with barely any effort – I think communications is viewed similarly as a subject in the US.

      Of course it could be that you happen to be in a particularly academic school or are a particularly academic bunch of pupils… or both. 🙂

  24. I’ve experienced both systems, although I missed the high school experience sadly 😦 I moved from California to Leicester (of all places) England just in time for my GCSE’s and went from graduating middle school and finishing 8th grade straight to Year 10. I even switched schools and the education didn’t get any better. I think there’s a lot that needs to be fixed within the British education system.Check this article out.
    I was an A student, 3.9 was the lowest I let my GPA go to in middle school. Then I moved here, hardly learnt anything and got 7B’s, 1C and 2D’s. The C and 2 D’s were in coursework subject as my teachers used the “setting” method and I had no idea how to complete it. I was 10 marks off of an A the first time I took my final maths exam, so they put me down for a retake. I had three months of maths lessons before the retake, which landed me 5 marks from an A. I literally just got by on the algebra and pre-algebra classes I took in middle school. If I would’ve gotten the chance to take geometry before moving here like I would have been placed in during my freshman year, I would’ve aced it. The maths lessons were so disorganised. They placed me in third set at first, which was a joke as, again, I was algebra competent and students in the third set were asking for reminders on how to add double digit numbers together (NO JOKE). Even in top set, one day we would be doing algebra, the next we would be doing geometry, the next trigonometry, etc. I like how, in America, it’s consistent rather than switching in between topics every other day. Anyway, sorry about the big, unorganised rant. I’m up doing a (British) college assignment for my BTEC course and it’s 6AM. Plus I’ve run out of coffee. .

    • It seems really stupid for them to zoom back and forth between different types of math. We definitely don’t do that here; you get a whole semester/trimester on just one subject in math. You get a year on most types of science, so you can really learn it in depth. On the other hand, if you’re really terrible at geometry, and really good at algebra, it might be nice to have that variety.

      I went to a very good public school for most of my time in school. But, just like in the UK, there are good and bad public schools, good and bad private schools. It seems to mostly depend on where you live. But there are undoubtedly a lot of problems with both systems. It looks like if you want a really good education, you should move to Finland:

    • While every school is different and I obviously can’t really speak to your personal situation, it sounds like a lot of your problems may have come from switching systems at an awkward point in your own education. As far as the maths goes, it would certainly be difficult to quickly get used to a completely different style of teaching to the one you were used to. From my own point of view I’d find it very strange to work on one aspect of maths to the exclusion of all else for a time, then stop it completely and start another. The more holistic approach, to me, makes it easier to learn and retain the information and to then use it in a real world situation, where the majority of people will just come across little bits of maths, here and there, in no particular order rather than coming across relatively deep maths problems that take a long time to work out.

      That’s just my view on things. The different approaches could explain why in some cases the British are often seen as more well rounded individuals while the Americans are seen as, relatively speaking, less so but you produce more experts in particular fields of study. Just a thought. 🙂

  25. I went through the entire school system in the UK, from age 3 in nursery (or preschool), right through to A-Levels at age 18. I didn’t go to sixth form but a standalone college that was actually in the top 10 in the country at the time. You had to get very high GCSE results to attend.

    I’ve been in the US now for almost 7 years, and my children are working their way through the school system here. My daughter is currently in 4th grade (age 9) and I feel that she is being taught at a higher level of work than she would be in the UK in the equivalent Year 5.

    My son will be starting Kindergarten in the fall right before he turns 6 in November – to me this seems old to be starting compulsory schooling, but he has been in preschool since age 3, and it has been very structured. He is already reading and writing as a result of his preschool experience.

    I don’t think you have much incorrect information in your article above. However, just like in the US, schools are different depending on the county you are in.

  26. With A Levels, you study all of them at once (most people take 3-5 A Levels), and there’s two levels of testing, AS Levels and then the full A Level. Some people will drop an A Level after AS. Also, UK universities look at more than grades. Most require you to apply through UCAS, which awards you points, so I guess it’s a bit like GPA. You get points for your GCSEs, A Levels and other extra curricular things like EPQs or DofE awards and music exams. They also look at personal statements, and to get into a good university you would have to have extracurricular activities, work experience and volunteering. Also, I’ll just explain GCSEs a bit better. Everybody is required to take Maths, English Language and Science, and most schools require you to take English Literature as well. With Science, there are different types of GCSEs- most schools offer Double or Triple. Double gives you two GCSEs whilst Triple gives you three (one for Chemistry, one for Biology and one for Physics) and requires extra exams. At my school, we were also required to take at least one language, and we could choose from French, German, Spanish or Mandarin. There’s also two different types of exams you can take, Foundation or Higher. You can only get up to a C with Foundation, whilst with Higher you can get all the way up to an A*. And the law is just changing here in the UK so that everyone has to stay in school until they’re 18. Oh, and Sixth Forms and Colleges aren’t the only options for post-16 education, you can do apprenticeships too.

  27. I’ve been here in the USA for the past 12 years, originally from the UK. Moved here with work…. As an employer (hiring manager) the challenge I find hiring ‘educated’ employees in the USA vs overseas is that the age-to-attitude maturity gaps are quite broad and a good grade doesn’t always seem to relate to academically capable.. For example the USA grading system seems to take into consideration a variety of aspects (as tot he post above the whole person).. one one hand this makes sense, however if the whole person partakes in what is considered by the school as ‘valuable’ like sports, social engagements, volunteering – it doesn’t mean they are really all the capable of doing the job their degree may takes may suggest. I have discussed this with many folks here in the USA, listened to chats about ‘when I was at school’ and the number of ways to boost a grade seem quite varied – perhaps that explains why so many universities have such a large proliferation of high GPAs (besides that fact when students pay $10s per semester failing them would loose revenue -I am not saying university/college in the USA isn’t hard – it’s just different and very expensive (MBA at a well known college can run you upwards of $80k all in). The UK and EU systems although perhaps not considering the ‘whole person’ tend not to give bonus points for being a great sportsman, great guy or girl hence perhaps the academic rating is a bit more realistic and why the proportion of ‘university educated’ individuals is lower?

  28. In Wales, Uk we start school at the age of of 3 if you go to an English language school as you have to have A few welsh language lessons. In welsh language schools here.. You start at the age of 2/3 as the education is entirely in welsh and this is a second language to some 2/3 year olds. In welsh language schools in Wales we don’t have English lessons until year 3 (half way through primary school). In welsh language schools there is no need to take the SATs as there is only one possible school to go to in each area but we have a series of tests which depict which sets we are in going from high to low 1-9.

    • That’s very helpful, thanks for sharing! It’s a lot harder to find info on the Scot and Welsh systems, so I appreciate it.

      • The Welsh system is based mostly on England’s, apart from the compulsory Welsh lessons/GCSE. (Northern Ireland has compulsory Irish Gaelic lessons and GCSE too.)
        The Scottish system is very different, as education is fully devolved for Scotland, from the little I know it is more like the US system – more breadth than depth. Also they have different term times – they start in late august and finish mid June.
        All Scottish universities have 4 year courses, unlike the common 3 years in the rest of the UK. (Most 4 years course in the rest of the UK will be because the student has decided to take a year of work experience after their second year in Uni – if you are doing a language course it is compulsory to work in a country that speaks the language that you’re studying. ie; Austria if studying German.)
        They have exams in ‘secondary school’ (don’t know the scottish equivelant) called National 4&5 (previously Standard Grade.) and Highers and Advanced Highers. Most Universities in Scotland would only require Highers.
        The last paragraph comes from the ‘Education in Scotland’ Article on Wikipedia.

  29. close enough although there are two stages of the A level

    in year 12 (lower sixth) you are required to take an AS level in all your A level subjects

    in year 13 (upper sixth) you take the A level itself, the AS level counts towards the final A level grade but is a qualification in its own right

    then it is off to the dizzying heights of academia, where everything you learnt in A level is proved to be wrong/overly simplified!


  30. It is compulsory to carry on till 18 years old. I believe to an extent having a middle school is better than jumping straight to secondary school like here in England. As you get 11/12 year olds following of the ways of 16 year olds with make up boys etc almost as if they’re forced to grow up. Although I think the uk is better to the extent that we go to college and sixth forms separate so people are 16-18 there and it forces you to mature and realise your future. And colleges and sixth forms are basically mandatory now and piss easy to get in to. From a 17 year old English sixth form student aha 🙂

  31. People usually only drop one for definite not two. People usually start at 4 a levels. They drop usually to three unless you are struggling but most people go to sixth forms as they’re academic so if they drop they will drop to 3. But now the government doesn’t have the funding so we cannot pick up an alevel and they will probably get rid of general studies now. They also got rid of January exams so watch the uk fail education wise -_-

    • Not that getting rid of General Studies is that much of a loss – look on UCAS practically all the Uni’s will say minimum of 3 A-Levels at Grade X, excluding General Studies. It’s like the Short-course Citizenship of the A-Levels.

  32. You mentioned about about getting to leave education when you are 16(not sure if someone else already commented this but) the law now is that you have the take some form of further education (sixth form/college) after you complete your GCSE’s therefore having to stay in education until 18 years old this law was applied to my year in school which is this year as I have to stay on for another two years and so I am doing A Levels.:)

  33. You make it sound like sixth form is of a lower level to collage! I went to collage and study “BTEC national diploma level 3 + C&G” Which is worth 3-5 a-levels depending on what grade you get (Ucas points equivalent). My subject was ‘Electrical / Electronics engineering’ and was divided into 16 different classes over two years. in which after when you move onto university you are not told what you learnt before was wrong. The confusing most people have is because sixth-form tend to only offer one level of difficulty. collages will have a vast range of entry levels of a subject and tend to be more “working world” orientated. also offer a lot of subjects that with physical work like motor repairs, engineering and work based apprenticeships. A-levels don’t translate into the working world as well (in particular subjects) as knowing the theory does not guarantee you can perform the task. which is why employers struggle to find great employees out of sixth form. a good example of when i went to apply for my first job out of collage/sixth form. I was up against an A-level student in electronics. He had the same level of the written tests we had to take in the interview. however he did not have a clue how to rewire a simple 230v plug and swapped the live and neutral wires and incorrectly connected the earthing wire.

    however that said. other subject excel with a-levels as they cover subject which is used in a range of areas elsewhere. ie maths, languages, accounts and sciences. they can be used in all walks of life and look good on a CV.

    Subject in the arts however tend to have no meaning other then entry to university. I find it hard to understand how you can expect to grade someone on a painting or pieces of music when it is supposed to be about personal expression.

  34. As of last year or so education in England had changed. Rather than being able to leave education at 16 the minor must stay in some sort of education or approved training until their eighteenth birthday. In some cases a minor can leave at the age of seventeen from college if they completed a full time year king course. But if you take a part time 2 year course you will be able to leave at the age of eighteen. Sixth forms are all over the county, some inside of secondary education and some are separate. Some schools, like my own, have an advanced placement in which the students will begin their GCSE’s a year earlier and study a higher test and in result get higher marks. To get into these classes you had to show signs of advanced ability or the possibilities to achieve higher than average.For these classes the students sit an exam in the last two years of school some times last three years. I had started 5 of my GCSE’s in year nine along with a small portion of other students. In the UK we do have a few middle schools and as I am aware they work the same as the American Middle schools do. Hope this helped ☺️

  35. An interesting thread – impressed by its duration! I went to school in the USA (high school in the early 90s) and my kids are now in school in England (Yorkshire), so I thought I would pass on a couple of tidbits. I actually went to a secondary school of sorts in Virginia (grades 7-12; ages, therefore from 12-18), so there is some variability within the USA – not a guarantee ‘middle school’. I think one major difference, which has been clearly highlighted, is that in the UK, studying towards the chosen degree/profession begins pretty early – this is in contrast to the US; this is true really even past the secondary system. Medical school is still largely a postgraduate educational system in the US (there is usually a requirement to have a first degree), while in the UK, the medical school begins at 18. Not sure which is better – the US system provides a little more latitude, which is good if one is not sure about their career ambitions early. The UK system is good is you have a keen idea as to what you wish to be, as you can really focus on that, and avoid the courses that you may find uninspiring.

  36. Excellent article! It’s rather good to see someone understand a foreign education system just in theory. A few points I’d like to add/correct you on. (Very small points.)

    The uniform isn’t a government mandate. Most schools have realised that a large amount of bullying occurs due to people wearing certain types of closed, so keep Uniform because of that. But a school can have a uniform or not. Also, the majority of Colleges have no uniform, and some sixth forms.

    When you’re talking about Year 6 SATs, you said that it makes a difference in what subjects you can take? That being the difference? But I couldn’t tell if you meant that about SATs or the US equivalent. But, if you are talking about UK SATs, they don’t effect your options in Year 7-9, the meerley place you in certain sets – so you’re taught in the same level groups as other pupils. It also gives your new high school an idea of what you’re like. Also, Year 9 SATs are no longer exist, and it’s becoming increasingly popular for Year 9 pupils to begin GCCE’s towards the end of Year 9.

    Also, you don’t do 2 A-levels per year in Sixth Form or college. You do 4-5 “AS Levels” in Year 12, which are basically half of a full A Level, but they’re their own qualification. In Year 13, you go onto take 3 or 4 of those AS Levels and turn them into full A-Levels. You can also take on another AS level if you wish to add to your qualifications.

    Although some of the more traditional “red brick” Universities are sticking to asking for certain grades, most Universities are asking for UCAS poins (each grade at A-level is worth so many points) – Universities know that not everyone can get three A’s in every subject. Whereas points allow for people to have a more varied grading.

    I do think there is a lot of pressure to have the right grades, traditionally. But, in reality – UK universities are very bothered about what type of person you are, and if the course is right for you, not if you’re right for them. Interviews are common here because Universities know they can’t understand who you are from a 4000 character personal essay, a teacher reference and some grades.

    But, loved the article!

    • This is going to be about the last paragraph – but it depends what sort of grades you’re expecting to get – the more A’s you need – the higher chance of an interview. I’m expecting/hoping all C’s and two universities only needed an interview – one was on the phone and most of that was him talking about the course really – the other was very informal and was just a few questions with two other people being interviewed at the same time. The other three just accepted me and invited me to the applicant day – which were all on the same day, so but I managed to rearrange two, but the other one was up north (although everything’s up north to me! :)) but like an 3 hour train journey with a change…

  37. Just to confuse you more, in some parts of the country we do have middle schools – so we finish *first* school in year 4, middle school is from year 5 to 8 (grd 4 to 7) then we start upper school in year 9 until year 11.
    Some areas have infant (nursery to year 3) and junior schools (year 4 to 6) schools but they can be referred to ‘primary school’ together.
    When I went to sixth form, I changed schools and because it was across a county border (Where they only had primary and secondary.) and it was so weird seeing all these tiny year 7’s running all over the place!
    SATs in years 2/6/9 are basically just for the national league tables, and they are used to place you in classes based on abilty, although if they see you are performing well, then you are likely to be moved up a set, also placing isn’t always that logical, as they will use an average of your SATs results (from English/Maths/Science.) to place you – meaning that I was placed in the 3rd set out of 5 for Science when I had got the higest level on the paper the year before. Also the year 2 and year 8/9 SATs have been scrapped and they’ve stopped the Year 6 science as complusory. But mostly they’re used as an end of year test to see how they improved from the year before – because they are very widely distributed, and the results are understood by many people.

    I had a ‘prom’ in year 8 (Last year in middle school.) But it was basically like a school disco but in fancy dress. Year 11 I didn’t go as at the end of the year I had no friends. This Friday I have my Year 13 ‘Graduation Ball’ where we have a presentation of the whole year with our family and a meal all together.

  38. Forgot to mention these two things but you’ll have an assembly on your last day, and from then until your exams are finished you are on study leave. But you have ‘prom’ after the exams are all finished.
    Also in rural areas where there may be only a couple of high schools in the district. (same division as a county in the US) then there will be a bus service run by the county council as suprise, suprise (!) you don’t normally get bus services run regularly in the rural areas unless it’s touristy. In order to be eligiable for a free bus pass on a school bus you have to live a within a certain driving distance from the school *and you must be living the same county as your school.
    *This becomes bigger, the higher up in the school system you are, as there are more first schools than middle schools, and more middle schools than upper schools, ect…

  39. In England, we actually study all four A levels at the same time. At the end of the first year, when we take a the exams in all of them, we have a qualification called an AS level, which is like half an A level. We then drop an A level, and carry on the other three to a full A level. 🙂

  40. So I am an American high school student and I will be going into my junior year of high school this upcoming year. It has always been a dream of mine to foreign exchange to England for a year either in my senior year of high school or sometime during college (university). Does anyone think that this may be possible or are the two system too dissimilar?

    • I think it would be very difficult during your high school years. But you can definitely go for it at university! You could go to a UK university for your whole BS/BA if you wanted–most of them list GPA equivalents somewhere on their admissions websites. If you go to a US university, almost all of them have study abroad programs/offices. Mine made it really easy for me. And I was able to still use US grants and loans to pay for my tuition abroad. I’d make enquiries when you consider your college choices, see what they offer and how they can help. Good luck!

  41. Sadie fitzgerald

    There are two different school systems in the uk, there is the one that you was talking about that goes from reception-year 6 and then from year 7, to year 11. But, there is another way that goes from reception-year 4 (first school) then year 5-year 8 (middle school) and then year 9 to year 11 (high school) its quite confusing

    • Yeah, I did that! My boyfriend (lives in a different county) finds it really confusing! Then with main system they can split into infants (r-2) and junior (3-6) as well, which I find a bit strange, and I just tend to lump it as primary school!!

  42. Reblogged this on Have Fun Learning English and commented:
    For the 2de class. What’s the difference between American schools and British schools?

  43. The SATs in the UK are just for statistics I think. We also have exams called CATs (Cognitive Abilities Tests) which I think if I remember correctly measure your quantitative, verbal and non-verbal abilities and are taken in year 7 to help place new students at secondary school in ability groups for some subjects but I had to take them at the beginning of year 5 and year 9 because I go to a school part of a group of schools that have 3 school stages instead of just primary and secondary (I went to a primary school until I moved in year 5 though). 100 is the average score, but the scale goes from 0-141 (I got 136 for the overall average in my last CATs (/^.^)/ ).

    Also, you have to stay in education until you’re 18 now, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be Sixth Form or College.

  44. SATs are taken at the end of Year 6 in ‘Mental’ Maths, Maths, English and some schools do Science (I didn’t sit a Science SAT paper, thank God!). SATs are graded as 5A, 5B, 5C, 4A, 4B, 4C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 2A, 2B, 2C (I can’t remember if they went into Level ones but 5A was the highest grade until recently when an additional grade: 6C was added by the government, becoming the highest possible grade to achieve in SATs).
    ‘Mental’ Maths comprises of a single sheet of paper given out with 20 boxes for you to write your answers. A tape is played where a woman (in my SATs) read out questions and gave you around 10 seconds (I think) to answer them in your head, without the aid of a calculator, and write the answer down. It was normally questions like: ‘Andy had 15 sweets, he decided to share them so he gave 7 to his little sister. He went to the shop and bought 38 more sweets. How many sweets does Andy have now?’ or ‘If I add the sides of a rectangle, a triangle and a pentagon, how many sides do I have?’. I remember Mental maths as being very easy and straightforward, Maths comprised of two papers, calculator and non calculator, full of questions to be finished in an hour and each paper out of 40 marks. English comprised of two sections, reading and writing. I still remember my reading paper (I’m in year 11 now), it was about the ‘race to antarctica’. The reading paper is essentially a comprehension paper- You read a text and answer questions on that text with the harder questions asking you to scope out the feelings of the characters and make subtle inferences. I didn’t sit the science paper and anyone who I ask about that paper roll their eyes and tell me to let them suppress bad memories…

    I definitely remember that there wasn’t a great emphasis on these exams when I was in Primary, sure we missed out on some fun activities but I didn’t revise for these at all and received 5As for all the papers. My little cousin is in Year 6 now and it’s crazy, she has to come to morning classes everyday and saturday classes to ‘revise’ for her exams… what!!!???
    (I loved my Year 6 teacher, she bought in chocolates for us to eat during the exams!!! :] ).

    SATs decided what ‘sets’ you were going into and your ‘target’ grade for GCSEs at your secondary school. You had to apply to a secondary school as you wouldn’t automatically get a place in the closest school. The sets system in my school are- SET 1, SET 2, SET 3, SET 4, SET 5, SET 6. SET 1 is the highest SET, with target grades of Bs and above (B, A, A*). SET 6 was normally the ASDAN kids- kids who can’t speak english and SET 5 were the kids who had learning disabilities. These SETs were the same until Year 8 (again, in my school we started our GCSE work in Year 9 so we could sit some exams early in Year 10). ‘Target’ grades were determined by our ‘baselines’- the posh term for our SATs scored in Year 6, basically the computer’s guess of what grade we should achieve by the end of our school years. However, we also have ‘predicted’ or ‘forecast’ grades which are completed by the teacher and depends on homework and class work, so a person can have a Target grade of C in Maths but their forecast grade could be an A. Depending on the predicted grades, SETs for GCSE classes were sorted.

    Now it gets a bit confusing. There are two types of qualifications in secondary, GCSEs and BTECs. BTECs are more vocal courses and are 100% coursework (normally), meaning that the less academic students can still get good grades. BTECs are offered in courses like Childcare, ICT, Business etc. GCSEs comprise of two ‘tiers’- higher and foundation. You have to be entered for one of these tiers for your exam. The only GCSE I do that isn’t tiered is History. Foundation papers only grade up to C so the highest grade you can achieve is a C, however, the paper is very easy compared to the higher paper. The higher paper grades up to an A*. Both have U grades. Higher papers have the graded A*, A, B, C, D, E, U. Foundation papers have the grades C, D, E, F, G, U. Anything under a C is a fail at GCSE. BTECs are graded as DISTINCTION, MERIT, PASS, or UNCLASSIFIED.

    There are 3 different exam boards you can do GCSEs with and it’s up to the school to choose. The boards have different specifications and teach different content for the exams. They are EDEXCEL, OCR and AQA. EDEXCEL is supposed to be the easiest and is very popular (it’s not the easiest but the content is interesting- thus the interest in this board). As an example, here are my subjects: Triple Science- EDEXCEL, English language- AQA, English literature- EDEXCEL IGCSE (stands for International GCSE), Maths- Edexcel, Business- EDEXCEL, Language- AQA, RE- EDEXCEL, History- OCR.

    Some of these do require course work or ‘controlled assessments’ which is a posh term for course work that HAS to be done in timed conditions with a teacher present and no outside help. I have recently completed my controlled assessments for English Lang, Science, Language and History. I am in the process of completing my Business Coursework. English Lit is 100% exam (for EDEXCEL anyway, other boards ask for course work).
    My controlled assessments for Eng Lang account for 40% of my grade, my History one accounts for 25% of my grade, my Business will account for 60% of my grade, my Language one accounts for 40% of my grade and my science one accounts for 25% of my grade.

    You could previously sit your GCSE exams in November and January and then also the Summer, May, June and July ish. Now it’s changed, exams start in May and finish in June (I only have 2 exams in May, the rest are in June). Before you could re sit your exams if you failed but now that’s been scrapped, your first grade counts (unless you retake in college which you can). You are supposed to get study leave before your exam but more and more schools are opting out of it as students blow the time watching TV or going out instead of revising.

    My school uniform is okay. Fine, it’s really dorky but compared to some other uniforms I’ve seen, it’s a blessing. It’s a black blazer with the school emblem, red jumper, white shirt and red and silver tie, black trousers or skirt which is lower than your knees (compulsory to wear tights under it). Once I saw students from another school wearing a Green and white striped blazer which had like a long tail- :O weird.

    I have already started applying for Sixth Forms/ Colleges. The closing date for applications is averagely mid Jan. Some have already closed and some will close on the 30th of Jan. Sixth forms, especially Grammer School ones ask for very high entry grades. I think typically it’s Grade B in maths and english (if you’re not studying them, if you are then higher grades are needed), 5 A*-B grades and a minimum of grade A in the subjects you want to study.

  45. Another thing is that GCSEs are like Life and death to most teachers, resulting in Saturday and Sunday classes, from 9 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon (Though, free pizza and Milkshakes at my school, whoop whoop- finally a school’s realised how to motivate students). Holiday Revision classes which mean that we don’t have a holiday and After school revision classes till like half 6 (my school finishes at 3.15). It sounds depressing but to be honest it shows how dedicated a lot of teachers are, I mean they are missing their holidays too.

  46. Lydia Robinson

    The writer of this blog has missed out the BTEC qualifications for the UK education system.
    After high school, not all students either study A-Levels or go to work. At many colleges, and most recently Sixth Forms, BTEC’S are separate qualification from A-Levels. BTEC’S come in various different levels: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. Level 1 is considered basic education of the subject, Level 2 is at a GCSE level and Level 3 is at a A-Level level. There are various different subjects which can be taken as BTEC’S. For example, Plumbing, Engineering, Health and Social Care, Animal Care, Childcare etc. Level 3 courses usually take 2 years of studying to achieve and are accepted in Universities.

  47. Very interesting and helpful. I have four kids just finished the UK system and taught in primary education for ten years. Now teaching overseas and trying to get my head around the US system and the differences – not right or wrongs; just differences.
    It’s worth noting that in the UK each county educational department approached things quite differently and I have been involved in four. So ‘generally’ the Y6 SATs help the secondary school know the student’s potential but will generally reassess using their own tests before grouping and some don’t even do that. But it’s true that the 1st SAT score at the age of 6/7 indicates what they should achieve at age 10/11 and so on. But yes fortunately age 14 SAT has finished as are AS levels. Teaching the test, in any country, is going to spoil the learning.
    For me, what I have discovered working overseas is actually how good the British system is – thorough and yet flexible. We rarely back class a student, they will get support but remain with their peers. Adult education is common and encouraged. Education is free until 19 and there are some good options that have appeared more recently (well maybe the last 10 years!) We “finish” school at 16. Most school will have a prom which is a big affair – although not compared to the USA 🙂 Students then have choices depending upon their school and their grades. Some schools do not have a 6th form (calling it school is the norm) and so students can choose from a variety of colleges. If you have done poorly in your GCSEs a change can be the boost you need. Some prefer to stay in the familiar for another two years – there is always a change of attitude and expectation by the teachers for these 6th form students. My youngest son completed his AS’s but on researching for his university options decided he needed a more practical foundation so opted out of school, and transferred to complete a course on Sound Production and Music Technology. The course was free but he loved out of the area so we had to pay for his accommodation. The school/college was amazing and a wonderful opportunity.
    The vast difference for me as a teacher at primary/elementary and secondary/middle and high school is that in the UK we teach a cyclical method and repeat subject each year (until they are dropped) and build upon the foundation in the US it is more a case of studying for a period and not always being required to cover again (I hope I’ve got that right) but my friends call it being signed off. “We’ve covered that subject and don’t need it again.” That just feels weird to a Brit.
    We can both learn from each other but try not to knock it until you’ve had experience. I value the British system more now that I live elsewhere. Incidentally both my husband and I were failed at our school (the days of grammar becoming comprehensives) and opted out but graduated from university as adults with four children that needed a lot of attention! I did it full-time in four years (one free foundation year) and my husband did a modular course while working full-time and looking after the kids because I was now teaching!!! There are a few grants available for mature students which help with book fees and travel costs as we both travelled from home on a daily basis.
    Oh ~ I like that one can graduate only once because it makes it such a special and awesome event. Unless you take subsequent degrees of course.

  48. You are required to further education till 18. College, Sixth Form, or Work. The famous Universities are called Oxford and Cambridge but I think you got mixed up a bit. In the UK we secondary school , high school as well. In the south it’s Secondary School and in the north it’s called High School. As we have different nations we have different laws we have different Education Systems. Due to this some nations are smarter than others. Scotland is highest then England and the bottom is Wales where I live. In Scotland if your in year 7 to the rest of us it’s year 6. So they still stay in primary school when it’s they’re year 7. Scotland have SCE (Scottish Certificate of Education). Wales and England have the same GCSE’s and are looked at in the same way but have slightly different papers. In the UK in College you do BTEKS and courses which lead to doing coursework throughout the year and possibly exams again. They can be new or carried on from school. In terms of AS Levels you have to do coursework and exams. These are slightly harder. For most sixth forms you need to have 5 A* to C grades (a good basic education). For college you need at least 3 E grades grades. In the UK depending on the school you have 3-4 subjects that you choose to study for GCSE’s. These can vary. There’s things like French, Geography, History, GCSE PE (Physical Education) and mandatory are English, Maths, Science, PE (not GCSE PE), Religious Education

  49. Here’s a fun fact: Sixth Form/ college doesn’t have a uniform. Also, sixth form students are normally located in a separate building or wing, but because their classes are at different times and some classes require specific rooms, one normally sees sixth form students walking around during lesson times.

  50. It looks as though this is a couple of years old now so I’m here to clear some stuff up about the British system that has changed slightly. In year 2 you take (optional, may I add, but most schools have them to show general improvement) your SATs, which you prepare for in year one with what we called PIPs. Then in year 6, after gathering all of your primary school knowledge, you take your final SATs. These basically count as nothing for your future but show that you attended primary school, basically. In your first few weeks of year 7 you take CATs, which are computer assessment tests to grade you and put you into class sets for the rest of the year. You take mock exams at the end of each year, which are held under GCSE conditions, to prepare you for the stress, or so I’ve been informed. In year 9, when you are 13/14, you take your options for GCSEs, and you will study these through year 10 and 11. At the end of year 10 and 11 you take GCSE exams. When you have finished high school, although you don’t have a graduation, there is a Leavers’ Assembly and a prom. Until you are 18 you must participate in something, i.e. college, sixth form, apprenticeship, full-time job, etc. And may I add that there have been many uniform strikes in my school in particular, I don’t know about others.

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