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A guide to UK high school education

High school education can be broken down into three levels: SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels. These are three sets of exams taken throughout the secondary school experience to determine the level of achievement students. This article is a guide to UK high school education.

SATs

The Standard Assessment Test, or SATs are exams taken in year nine when students are 13 or 14 years old. They chart the pupil's success in the compulsory subjects that every student must take upon entering the school like Maths, English, Science, History, Geography, Music, Religious Studies and P.E. They do not count towards any certificate or award of education and so, there has been some debate as to the necessity of putting young students through the stress of these exams at such a young age. However, SAT results do give students a good indication about the areas that they excel in and subjects they may consider taking for GCSE level.

GCSEs

Standing for General Certificate of Secondary Education, the GCSEs are taken in year 11 at the age of 16. These comprise of the compulsory subjects Maths, English and Science as well as education in optional subjects that the student had chosen two years before. Up until 2008, these exams marked the end of compulsory education and students were able to leave school legally upon completion of these exams to satisfactory level. The education system has since changed and it is now compulsory for all students to remain at school until the age of 18. These results combine with the A-Levels in making up school tables and are the minimum requirement for jobs in the working world. In addition, some schools use GCSEs as a way of judging whether a student is capable of taking A-Levels, choosing only to accept students with a B or a higher grade in the subject.

AS and A-Levels

A-Levels, or Advanced Level is the highest award that can be given in high school. They take two years to complete and they are divided into two stages: AS Levels are the first year qualification, and if the subject is carried on to the second year, an A Level can be achieved. Some schools use the IB (International Baccalaureate) system in place of A-Levels to grade their students and while this is considered harder than A Level, they both are equally valid when applying to University. These are the qualifications that Universities look for and a student is expected to take three A-Levels in subjects relating to their University course, or that have a certain level of IB points in order to achieve a place.

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