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The US Education System

Pre-University Studies

American students are awarded a High School Diploma on successful completion of Twelfth Grade (i.e. Year 12). In addition to a High School Diploma, most US universities require good SAT/ACT1 scores for entry to a bachelor's degree. Under the Advanced Placement (AP) program, students can choose to study college level courses while at high school, which may count as credits towards a degree later.

University Studies

There are more than 3,000 universities and colleges with degree awarding powers in the USA. Some of these are run by state governments, but the majority are private. In addition, there are over 1,000 community colleges offering 2 year associate's degrees.

Undergraduate Degrees

Standard undergraduate degrees take 4 years. Students can enter a university directly from high school, or study a 2 year associate's degree at a community college before transferring to a university to complete their studies. US universities operate a credit system, which makes it easy to transfer between institutions. Students study a broad range of subjects in the first and second year and only have to declare a major (and optionally a minor) at the start of year three.

Postgraduate Degrees

Master's degrees typically take 2 years and often include a substantial research project. In addition to a bachelor's degree, most universities require satisfactory GRE/GMAT1 test scores for direct entry to a master's degree.

International Pathways

Undergraduate Pathways

For direct entry to a US university, you will need a high school qualification from your own country, plus a good SAT/ACT score. Overseas students who have not taken a SAT/ACT test, or who need to improve their English first, can study a International Year One instead. These are equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree. On successful completion, credits are transferred directly to the second year of a bachelor's degree.

Postgraduate Pathways

Students who do not meet the English requirements for direct entry to a master's degree can study a Pre-Master's Course first. Many of these courses provide guaranteed entry to a master's degree without the need for a GMAT/GRE test.

Also In This Section

1 SAT/ACT and GRE/GMAT are standardised tests required for entry to undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses respectively. They all test skills that are considered essential for success in US degree programmes, such as literacy, numeracy and analytical skills. The GMAT is specific to business and management programmes.

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