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Moving from the American system into the British system is probably one of the trickiest transitions of all, and success very much depends on the age of the student and on his/her ability and willingness to adapt and take on the extra work that will undoubtedly be required. It would be exactly like jumping onto a jogging machine already going at full tilt.  

It's obviously easier for students to make a reasonably seamless transition from an American school into, and back out of, an American school, but not just because the American schools are in step with the range and level of curriculum in the US and at international American schools. American schools are also very much geared to welcoming and absorbing new students, often with a structure in place to ease them (and their parents) into school life quickly. A side benefit is that they often also take full advantage of living in a foreign city, planning classes around the museums, theatre, concerts, history, etc whenever they can.

Getting into US universities is possible from either system

US universities are familiar with GCSE and A level qualifications but, unlike the UK uni system, acceptance at a US uni is not conditional on the A level results - especially since A level exams are not even taken until several months after US letters of acceptance go out.  Instead, the US universities will generally ask for GCSE's and AS level results, along with an indication of academic progress in the final (A2) year.

5 GCSE passes at grade C or higher are considered the rough equivalent of a US High School Diploma (without Honors or 'Advanced Placement' (AP) classes). This will be sufficient for a student to gain entry to less selective US colleges and universities. However, the student will have to wait until he/she is 17 years old to apply.

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    The GSGI features more than 280 articles geared to those moving from one country to another, not least the transitions into our out of the UK and British school systems. The Good Schools Guide International is the one-stop, education shop for ex-pats. Written specifically for parents, The Good Schools Guide International independently reviews the best schools for children 3-18, state or independent, across the globe. Read more...

  • Interpreting exam results, abbreviations, ages and stages

    Every school system and country has its own set of national or standardised exams. We're in the process of decoding the most commonly used exams in English-speaking school systems by breaking them into system-based articles with abbreviations, full names, information on how to understand the scoring systems, and how to interpret ranges or averages mentioned in this Guide. Read more...

  • The UK national curriculum, examinations and qualifications

    The National Curriculum is the framework used by all state schools in England. There are 4 key stages, with national testing at the end of each (the fourth being GCSE at which point the national curriculum no longer applies). By the end of key stage 1 (age 7), the average child is expected to achieve national curriculum level 2; this rises to level 4 at the end of key stage 2 and level 5 or 6 by the end of key stage 3. Read more...

  • Which curriculum will get you into university (UK or US)?

    Schools also sometimes suggest that, if you think your child will go on to a US university, it is not necessary to do the IGCSE examinations (even if students have followed a curriculum based on the IGCSE syllabus) as the US colleges/unis (universities)* only want to see internal grades and high school transcripts from the US system...and won't accept (or even understand) exam results from another system.  Read more...

  • Schools abroad: how do I even begin?

    Some privileged expatriates may get a “look-see” visit to their new location prior to accepting a posting - depending on a company's, or government's, generosity. If you are one of them, the time you have for your visit will never seem like enough, but a bit of judicious homework and planning can make you feel less like a well-spun hamster by the end of the day. Read more...


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