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The UK Educational System

A few quick things should be said about the British Educational system for anyone thinking of coming over here to study. First off, British children go through roughly the same grades as American kids; however, at 16, they take tests to basically see if they are able to continue on with college/university, or if they should just go to a trade school. The children that pass the tests are able to continue with their education for two more years; at this time (roughly senior-year of high school for Americans) they take another test known as the A-Level. This test is a one-shot deal, and the kids take tests for three different subjects; normally, they plan on majoring in one subject in college. While they are waiting for their test scores, they have to apply to universities; they simply get a list of colleges and universities in the UK, choose the six that they most want to go to, and their grades and such are sent to these universities. If the University thinks that they would want the applicants to go to their school, the prospective student would get some information from the school, similar to the propaganda that we get from hundreds of universities. The student will apply and pick their major before they get their test scores back from the A-Level, and then, when accepted by a university, will choose.

When they get to the University, basically their classes are picked out for them in their major; thus, students graduating from Cardiff University in Politics will have a decent knowledge of the same international systems and different governments. Students are expected to take roughly 6 classes per semester; these classes usually continue through both semesters, so when you are done with fall, you continue the classes in Spring.

Classes consist of one or, at most, two lectures per week; these are huge classes where very little student-teacher interaction takes place. Then, a student will sign up for "seminars," which are basically small discussion groups where you meet other students and your professors. These usually happen fortnightly or, at most, once a week, although for languages you have 4 seminars and no lecture. Reading outside the class is as much as you want to do; for the most part, there are usually one or two required texts, and after that, learning is based on personal initiative. A student can expect to do one or two papers per class per semester. The main part of the grade comes from a huge test at the end of the semester or year where the accumulated knowledge is tested. These are apparently quite scary, as you are basically tested on a year of learning, and there is very little chance to redeem yourself after it is over.

Students usually take 4 classes per year in their major; outside that, you can take a couple of classes to fill in the open spots. Usually, it takes 3 years to complete a Bachelors.