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USA - UK Education Glossary

The Basics & FAQ's
Schools in the USA
GCSE Courses
The Examination Boards
Registering for the Examination
Definitions and Glossary
GCSE & Homeschool
GCSE & Traditional Education
News & Updates
Higher Nationals
AICE IGCSE & Cambridge Program
IGCSE Teaching Materials


"A" Level Advanced Level
"AS" Level Advanced Subsidiary Level
Access UK version of GED
Advanced Higher Scottish version of "A" Level

Advanced Level

Upper tier of GCSE/GCE. 2 year course examination taken at 18, roughly equivalent to US 'AP's

Advanced Subsidiary Upper tier of GCSE/GCE. 1 year course similar to Scottish 'Higher' Examinatioin


Associated Examination Board - Subsidiary of AQA


Advanced International Certificate of Education. International version of UK 'A' Level


Assessment and Qualification Alliance (Examination Board)


Trade name  for Higher Nationals from EDEXCEL Board


Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (Examination Board)


Cambridge International Examination Board - International section of UCLES

Cambridge Program US trade  name for IGCSE from Cambridge Examination Board

Comprehensive School

High School

Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment

Northern Ireland Examination Board


Largest examination board in UK - based in London

Examination Board Non- profit making organization licensed to issue UK government accredited qualifications
Examination Center Center where GCSE examinations and assessments take place. Generally a school or college but can be anywhere. British Consulates and Royal Navy Warships have been registered as examination centers.


Further Education


Year Class - starts at First Form age 11

Further Education College

Community College


General Certificate of Education. fore runner to GCSE - Still in use


General Certificate of Secondary Education, modern development of GCE. In 5 subjects at 'C'grade or above equivalent to a US High School Diploma

Grammar School

Selects students on the basis of academic ability at age 11


Upper tier in Scottish Program. Taken at 17 in 5 subjects

Higher National

UK Associate Degree Program

Higher National Certificate

Lower tier of Associate Degree Program

Higher National Diploma

Upper tier of Associate Degree Program

Honours Degree A UK University degree is generally at 'Honours' level, roughly equivalent to a US Masters. If you fail the Honours Examination but have otherwise completed the course you will be awarded an 'Ordinary', or Bachelors Degree. 


Higher National


Higher National Certificate


Higher National Diploma


International General Certificate of Education

International General Certificate of Education GCSE program adapted for international use. Currently operated by two boards UCLES and EDEXCEL. Emphasis on international compatibility may not be suitable to USA (same language) 
Intermediate 1 Scottish Standard Grade examination at below 'C' Grade GCSE
Intermediate 2 Scottish Standard Grade examination at above 'C' Grade GCSE

Independent School

Private School

Key Stage

Assessment point in students progress - test in final year

Key Stage 1

Age 4-6 = USA K1 - K2

Key Stage 2

Age 7-9 = USA  K5 - K6

Key Stage 3

Age 11-13 = USA K8 - K10

Key Stage 4

Age 14-16 = USA K11 - K13


Key Stage

Masters Degree There are two types of Masters in the UK system. A 'taught' Masters course in different subject, but at roughly the same level as an Honours Degree, or a 'research' Masters, which is a higher Degree at a level intermediate to a PhD. 

National Curriculum

UK government outline of what children should know. Fairly loose except on basic skills such as literacy and maths at primary level.

National Qualification

Qualification directly comparable across the UK

National Qualifications Framework

Framework by which all examination board qualifications are equvalent ie UCLES IGCSE = AEB GCSE = Scottish 'Standard Grade'. Some countries, such as Hong Kong and Malaysia submit their qualifications for comparison to NQF


Northern Examination & Assessment Board - Subsidiary of AQA


National Qualification


National Qualifications Framework

"O" Level Ordinary or General Level


Oxford Cambridge & RSA (Examination Board)


Age 5 - 11

Primary School

Age 5 - 11 School

Private Candidate A candidate whole applies to a examination centre to take GCSE examinations but has not studied at the school or college
Public Candidate A candidate who is taking a GCSE examination at the school or college where they have studied

Public School

(Confusingly) Private School


Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

UK government board that inspects and controls examination boards ensuring all qualification meet NQF standards


First year in school, starts at age 5

Royal Society of Arts

Examination Board - now part of OCR


Trade name  for Higher Nationals from SQA Board

Scottish Degree Scottish Universities have a 4 year first degree program starting at 17 the same as the USA. Beware though. A US High School Diploma is NOT equivalent to Scottish Highers. You will need 'AP's as entrance qualifications to a Scottish University.

Secondary School

Age 11 - 18 Schools

Selective School

Selects students on the basis of academic ability

Short Course Accelerated Course

Sixth Form

Post 16 age school education


Scottish Qualification Authority (Examination Board)

Standard Grade Scottish Qualification similar to GCSE - at two levels 'Intermediate 1 (General) and Intermediate 2 (Credit)
Subjects Number and type of subjects studied in GCSE examinations. The minimum of 5 studied. Very able students may study 9. All examinations at one level are exactly equal in credit value.


Scottish Vocational Qualification - now replaced by Vocational GCSE's


University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate - Subsidiary of OCR


Qualifications not aimed at college entrance, generally practical skills


Welsh Joint Education Committee (Examination Board)