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Secondary education in the UK starts for at the age of 11 years old.

For international students coming into the UK for secondary education, it is common to either enter at the age of 11 or 13 to have one year in the school before starting the intense two-year GCSE.

GCSEs (General Certificates in Secondary Education) are academic qualifications that students in the United Kingdom work towards, from the ages of fourteen until sixteen.

Studying for the GCSEs is a significant period in students’ lives as it is when young people develop their skills in analysis, evaluation, research and cultural knowledge.

Compulsory subjects at GCSE are Maths, English and Science, whilst optional subjects include classical and modern foreign languages, arts and humanities subjects. A minimum of five GCSEs is typically required for university entry, however most UK schools will expect students to take between nine to eleven subjects.

A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate (IB) are academic qualifications that students in the UK work towards from the ages of 16 until 19. They take place in the final, advanced level of school education, known as Year 12 and 13 or Sixth Form.

A-Levels and the IB are two-year courses available to students following GCSEs or equivalent international qualifications. A-Levels are split into two separate strands: AS and A2. AS courses involve the study of four subjects one of which is dropped for study at A2. By contrast, the International Baccalaureate requires six subjects for study. A-Levels and the IB are far more in-depth and comprehensive than GCSEs and the majority of A-Level and IB subjects will need students to have attained successful grades in the same subjects at GCSE.