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How is the British educational system structured? What qualifications can I choose/ gain from a UK education?

In the UK, students start school at the age of 5 and finish at the age of 18. During the 13 years of education they gain a general knowledge until the end of year 11 when they take their GCSEs. They then specialise in the final 2 years of a study which culminates in either A Levels or the IB at the end of year 13. These qualifications enable them to apply to pretty much any university in the world.


The General Certificate of Secondary Education is a 2 year course starting at the beginning of year 10 and final exams are taken at the end of year 11. Between 8 and 15 can subjects are chosen, some are compulsory such as English, Mathematics, the Sciences and a normally a foreign Language.

The best grade that can be achieved is an A* followed by A, B, C, D, E and F. U being the worst which stands for Unclassified.

AS / A Level

The Advanced Level is a 2 tiered qualification, has a long standing tradition and is welcomed at most universities worldwide. The AS level is a 1 year course starting at the beginning of Year 12 and examined at the end of this first academic year. The full A level is a 2 year programme examined at the end of Year 13. Students normally specialise in 3 or 4 subjects and the combination is key to gaining a place at the university and the course desired.  A wide variety of subjects is offered ranging from the traditional to the more modern. 

Grades from A* to E can be achieved.

The IB

The International Baccalaureate Diploma originated in Switzerland and has considerable international recognition. It is taught at most international schools and accepted by most universities in the world. About 40 schools in the UK teach this qualification to ensure an even more international outlook. The IB is also a 2 year course, starting at the beginning of year 12 with final exams at the end of year 13.

Students take 6 subjects which are selected with their university and career plans in mind. They are encouraged to take their mother tongue language, a Foreign Language, Mathematics, a Science, Humanity and an additional choice. 3 subjects are taken at Higher Level (HL) and 3 at Standard Level (SL). 

Additionally, students have to write an Extended Essay (EE) and take part in the Theory of Knowledge course (ToK). They also have to prove that they have been involved in an activity for 150 hours for the final compulsory Creativity, Action, Service module (CAS).

In total students can achieve 45 points, 7 per subject and an additional 3 for EE, ToK and CAS.

Further Information Boarding Schools

The academic year in England starts at the beginning of September and is divided into three separate terms.
Most schools will encourage/expect students stay for at least one full academic year.
If possible students should start at the beginning of the academic year.
IB, A-Level, GCSE - qualification overview
English boarding schools enjoy an excellent reputation around the world. The main reason is the high standard of teaching.
Extra-curricular activities are a fundamental part of boarding school life. Students have the opportunity to gain experience and develop skills in many different areas.
The founders of Stanford & Ackel have gained their knowledge about boarding schools from two different perspectives.
A selction of our partner schools
Stanford & Ackel assist you in any way or form until the completion of the stay