British Educational System

In the British educational system, the children generally start school at the age of 5. It is their age at the 1st September that determines which year they start. Prior to this, there is an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) option, but this is not compulsory.


The primary education consists of six (6) years, and is divided into two Key Stages; Key Stage 1 (Year 1 and Year 2) and Key Stage 2, which consists of Year 3 to Year 6. The latter is generally split into Lower Key Stage 2 (Year 3 and Year 4) and Upper Key Stage 2 (Year 5 and Year 6). Most students are 11 years old when they finish the primary programme.  


At the age of 11, students generally start their secondary education. This can be divided into Lower Secondary (Years 7 to 9), Middle Secondary (Year 10 and Year 11) and Upper Secondary (Year 12 and Year 13). Lower Secondary is generally called Key Stage 3, and sometimes Secondary 1. Most of the students complete this Key Stage the year they turn 14.

After completing Key Stage 3, they move on to Key Stage 4, where they normally will study from the age of 14 to 16. At the end of Year 11, students will do their secondary exams, which in the United Kingdom are called General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). As these exams, and the curriculum they are based on, has a strong focus on Britain, some Exam Boards, like Cambridge International Examinations and Edexcel, have developed a curriculum and exams that have a more international approach, and therefore are more relevant for students studying at international schools. These exams have the same value as the GCSE’s, but they are called International General Certificate of Education (IGCSE).


 At GCSE and IGCSE, students are graded as follows:

 A*          (90 - 100 %)

A             (80 – 89 %)

B             (70 – 79 %)

C             (60 – 69 %)

D             (50 – 59 %)

E              (40 – 49 %)

F              (30 – 39 %)

G             (20 – 29 %)

U             (< 20 %)


Technically, grades A* to G are pass grades, whereas less than 20% is ungraded. However, the grades achieved fall into one of two levels. Level 2 are grades from C – A*, whereas grades from G – D are Level 1. For students to be able to progress to A-level (Upper Secondary), and also to later gain access to universities, most schools and universities will only consider Level 2 grades. In other words, students pass with > 20 %, but need > 60 % to progress to the next level.

Students normally study anything from 5 – 14 different IGCSE subjects, depending on each school. Students must pass minimum 5 subjects with a Level 2 grade (A* - C) to be accepted for A-level (Upper Secondary), and later university. These 5 subjects should include English, mathematics and the sciences (biology, chemistry and physics, or alternatively coordinated science).

The IGCSE results count to get into A-level (Upper Secondary). Five (5) subjects with Level 2 are also a prerequisite to get into (British) universities. However, here the results do not count, they are merely mandatory to have. To get into university, only the A-level results count. The exception is a small number of universities which accept students with IGCSE only. Please note that some universities might ask more than 5 Level 2 passes.


At A-levels, students are graded as follows:

 A*, A, B, C, D, E and F. E is the lowest pass grade, whereas F is a fail. The grades are converted to points, and university entrance is generally indicated based on a minimum number of points. Points awarded are as follows:


A*          140 points

A             120 points

B             100 points

C             80 points

D             60 points

E              40 points

F              Fail


Generally, three (3) A-levels are required to get into university, although at some universities two (2) A-levels are enough. 

 In conclusion, the British education system consist of a total of 13 years of pre-university study, where the students generally start at the age of 5, and normally finish by the time they turn 18.