Any of my friends know that I pretty exclusively complain about Maths and Physics work like they’re the only things I do with myself. Well, with the exception of Chemistry, that is all I do at school.
Most of my foreign friends seem to be slightly confused by the fact that I only do four subjects (Maths, Futher Maths, Physics and Chemisty) and they get even more confused when I say that two of my subjects are Maths. I mean, I don’t even like numbers that much…
The UK education systems (there’s more than one. don’t ask) are a bit of a mess, but as I start my final year at school, I thought I’d have a go at explaining at least the parts that I have to deal with
while procrastinating on my personal statement.
So if you live in England or Wales, you’ll probably take GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) at the end of Year 11 (10th grade in American), which is essentially equivalent to a High School Diploma. The average person sits exams in between 6 and 10 different subjects, which have to include Maths and English Language.
These used to be (literally until this year, so even I didn’t deal with this) graded between A* (a grade higher than A) and G, with C being a pass but the changed it to numbers between 9 (a grade equivalent to higher than an A*) and 1, with a 4/5 being a pass(?). People who do so horribly bad can have the honour of receiving a ‘U’ (personaly I have never encountered one myself, but I’m told they exist).
At most schools, they make you take at least Maths, English Language (and sometimes Literature), two Sciences ( from Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science) and one Humanity (from Religious Studies, History, Geography, Classical Languages, etc.)
At my school, we were expected to take Maths, English Language and Literature, all the sciences (excluding Computer Science) and a foreign language. They also made everyone start with 10 subjects (and really didn’t like anyone dropping any). And so, my final qualifications ended up being:
- English Language
- English Literature
- Biology (honestly, I really wanted to do Art instead of Biology, but I guess it is what it is.)
- (20th Century World) History
- Classical Greek
You sit them in May/June, get a really long summer holiday, and then you find out your results on a Thursday in late August, a couple weeks before the beginning of the school year.
So what do these have to do with applying to uni? Well, no one’s really entirely sure.
Some claim that you need 11 A*s to even think about applying for a competitive course like medicine or literally anything at Oxbridge, but there are stories of people with a mix of only six or seven As and Bs that got into Cambridge and Oxford, no problem. The general rule seems to be that getting five Bs will probably not create any problems when applying to even the more prestigeous universities (except Oxbridge, that’s another game entirely).
If you actually want to go to university, you first have to go to college and yes, they are different things (university is always university, school is always school and college is either school or college, never uni).
Anyway, this is way longer than expected so I guess I’ll talk about that tomorrow.