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There are more than 2,500 private schools in the UK educating children from all over the world, and like universities there is an informal ranking system for the schools based largely on the A level results that students achieve and the universities that students gain places at. As a consequence, many of the leading schools have very competitive entrance requirements with huge demand for a very limited number of places, therefore the schools can be very selective and will take the highest achievers they can.
Choosing the right school (private or state) can be difficult if you are not familiar with the British education system or entry requirements. So, what these requirements are?
Each level of education in the UK has varying requirements which must be satisfied in order to gain entry at that level.
For some schools, pupils and their parents may need to take part in an interview. Interviews are not meant to be scary – they are usually very friendly. They are a chance for you to ask questions, and for the school staff to find out what you are looking for.
Many schools hold entrance exams. Some schools hold exams as a way to select the most academically gifted pupils. Others do not select pupils based on the exam results, but use them as a way to identify what academic support you will need. Don’t be concerned about the exams. There are many different schools, catering for all abilities and talents.
Regarding English language skills, schools welcome pupils with a range of abilities, but some may recommend that you do a language course before you begin or when you have enrolled, to ensure you will understand your classes.
Entrance to take your GCSE’s (General Certificate of Secondary Education) will depend very much on the school with which you are attending as you will generally need to register with a school for your GCSE education years (14 to 16 years old). Apart from the school’s requirements, the main requirements by the exams boards in the UK is that you have a good level of English ability as the exams will be taken in English.
In the final two years of secondary education, most pupils take one of the programmes of qualifications. Depending on what programme you are looking at, the entry requirements will vary for international students.
A-level (Advanced Level) entry requirements will be very dependent on the school you wish to attend as to what the requirements are to study A-levels there. For example, a 6th Form College may require that you have at least 5 GCSE pass grades of C or above, compare this to an independent school who may require 10 GCSE pass grades of B or above. So this will be very much dependent on the school. You also need to consider that A-levels are a much higher level of work and so a very good understanding of the English language will be needed to work at this level. Some people say that A-levels are harder than most degrees programs as they prepare you for higher education.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is available at an increasing number of schools in the UK. Each school sets its own admissions procedure and there is no standard model. The top schools like Sevenoaks and King’s Wimbledon require registration over 12 months in advance. Schools like this require students to sit entrance tests in the 3 subjects to be taken at Higher Level in the IB Diploma Programme. An English language test may also be required for non-native speakers.
These programmes are highly regarded by universities, colleges and employers in the UK and around the world. The aim is to give pupils a good grounding in a variety of subjects, to help prepare them for further education or for a career.