• British System (Following the British National Curriculum)

Academic year: September – May/June, divided into three terms.

Some preparatory schools still sit the Common Entrance, generally when pupils are aged 13 (hence it’s other name, the 13 plus). Common Entrance is sat in Year 8 in June. Pupils generally start in Year 2, aged 6. Year 1 (aged 5) tends to be covered in the final year of kindergarten. Subjects taken are English, Maths, 3 Sciences, a second Language (usually French), History, Geography, and ICT (computing). Some schools also do Latin and Religious Education as additional subjects for Common Entrance.

IGCSE’s (International General Certificate of Secondary Education): More difficult than its British equivalent GCSE’s, pupils sit up to 9 or 10 subjects (the actual British minimum requirement 5), including English Language, English Literature, Maths, combined Science (all compulsory) and usually a second modern Language, then a selection of choices which vary from school to school. These are sat in year 11, generally aged 16, in June after a 5-term course. Re-sits in November.

AS Levels (some schools in UK, for example Cheltenham, do not consider these necessary and they are not compulsory): Usually 4 subjects of the student’s choice, taken in year 12. Generally sat aged 17, in June after a one-year course (and worth 50% of the final A2 mark). Re-sits in November.

A2 (A Levels): Generally three subjects (carried on from AS) studied in considerable depth, requiring independent reading and research and a more mature approach from the student. Subject choices vary enormously from school to school, but many academics claim that the final marks carry more weight than subjects sat. A levels are taken in year 13, generally aged 18, in June after a two-year course (although AS course has already accounted for 50% of the mark, so effectively it’s a year). Re-sits in November. A Levels are recognised by universities worldwide.


  • American Academic Program

Academic year: August to May, divided into two semesters.

Advanced Placement Diploma: Students assessed continually through High school course work through small exams, assignments and projects (final grades based on the average of all these). Twenty-four Carnegie units required for graduation (leaving school) including 4 English, 3 Math, 3 Social Studies, 3 Science, 1.5 Physical Education (including Health), 1.5 Fine Arts and 0.5 Technology. In grades 9 – 12 one credit awarded for each one year course, completed with D– or above, and half a credit awarded for one semester. Ideal for those continuing their studies in North American or Canadian universities, also accepted in Australia, South Africa and some European countries, but not all UK universities. Less widely recognised internationally than IB or A levels.


  • International Baca laureate (IB)

Academic year: Aug/Sept – May/June, divided into terms or semesters depending on school.

IB is about the education of the whole person. Six examinations are sat in 5 or 6 subject areas, generally taken aged 18 in May after a 2-year cycle in eleventh and twelfth grades. IB can be taken at standard level, higher level, or as a full diploma. Students taking the IB diploma complete exams in 6 subject areas, three at higher level, three at standard level. English, maths, and an extra language are compulsory, while a science and a humanity subject must also be chosen. The diploma also includes the extended essay (an independent 4,000 word research paper), The Theory of Knowledge course and a minimum of 150 hours Creativity, Action and Service over two years: choosing from a wide range of activities including sport, community service, drama, and music. The IB organisation requests an assessment of students’ work from teachers throughout the course, thus avoiding total emphasis on the final exams. An IB full diploma is recognised by universities worldwide including top British universities.


  • Kenyan 8-4-4 system

Academic year: January – December, divided into three terms.

KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education): Following eight years of primary (in English) Standard 1 – 8: equivalent to British National Curriculum Year 1 – 8, taken at about 14 years in Standard 8. Sat in November. Five subjects: Maths, English, Kiswahili, Science, Social Studies, and Christian Religious Education.

KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education): Taken after four years of undergraduate studies (in English) Form 1 – 4: equivalent to British National Curriculum’s Year 9 – 12: AS level. KCSE taken at about 17 years in Form 4. Sat in October. Seven subjects from a wide range (Maths, English and Kiswahili compulsory). Forms One to Four correspond to the American high school 9th through 12th grades: The KCSE examination is in many ways equivalent to taking seven Advanced Placement (AP) tests over a period of a month.