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The main differences between the US and UK education systems

The first places in the ranking of the most prestigious universities in the world are occupied by educational institutions of the United States and Great Britain, however, along with the choice of a place of study, one must take into account the difference in the education system of these countries. Let’s consider the main differences on several points.

While we have not delved into the comparison of education systems in the UK and the USA, we want to remind you that you can also study in English in Australia. This is a great option for those who like a warmer climate.


To enter a higher educational institution, the British go through several stages of education.

The first stage is preschool and primary schooling from about 4 to 13 years of age. Free public schools are available for local children, foreign ones are accepted only in private ones.

Comparison: US vs UK Universities – UniGlobal Education Malaysia

By the way, sending your child to a private school is the dream of any parent in England, because when entering Oxford or Cambridge, the largest percentage of students enrolled is just graduates of private schools.

In the US, unlike in the UK, there is no single school education system. The programs are different, much depends on the specific educational institution or state, therefore, school graduates often have different levels of training.

Private schools are also popular in the USA, since the level of training in them is much higher, as is the percentage of graduates to higher educational institutions.


Education in schools in the United States lasts 12 classes. After graduation, graduates can enter the university for a four-year undergraduate program.

Then 2 – 2.5 years of study to get a Master’s degree and another couple of years for a Doctor’s degree … By the way, in recent years, one-year intensive master’s programs have appeared and are gaining popularity in the States. At EF we try to work with these schools in the first place, as they save international students money and time.

Those who are not interested in a master’s degree, but do not agree to be content with four years of study, can receive a Postgraduate Certificate (or Diploma). It’s like our specialists who study at the university for five years.

In the UK, they graduate from school after grades 10-11 and cannot immediately enter universities without a pre-university training.

There are several programs to choose from: University Foundation year (1 year), A-Level (2 years) and IB Diploma (2 years). The idea as a whole is excellent, that is, before aimlessly, as is often the case with us, to enter the first specialty they like, English schoolchildren study for a year or two in the subjects of interest (optional), and then it becomes easier to understand what you want from life.

It is already possible to enter the university either in the specialty that you took in the pre-university program, or, realizing that it was not yours at all, for another specialty. But the main thing is that it is imperative to complete this program, this is a kind of diploma, without which they are not accepted at universities.

It turns out that 13 classes need to be studied before the university and only 11 of them are free (if the school is public) … They study for a bachelor’s degree in the UK for three years, except for Scotland – there are four. Master’s degree most often lasts one year.


When applying to foreign universities, you will definitely be asked for an international IELTS or TOEFL certificate.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System is a British exam, and TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language – its American counterpart, but both certificates are accepted around the world.

True, if you decided to enter a British university, why would you need to take a test in American English, because languages ​​are still different.


The academic year in American universities begins in August and is divided into two semesters, almost like ours, autumn and spring. It ends in May-June, plus there is a week of holidays in the spring. In winter – exams and holidays, starting with the Christmas holidays. You can study in summer, as there is also a third semester – summer, but it is not mandatory.

In England, the academic year is divided into terms. The winter trimester starts in September and ends in December, before Christmas. Spring – from January to March. And summer from mid-April to mid-July.


If you choose secondary education or bachelor’s degree for yourself or your child, then you need to proceed of the goals.

If the future student has decided on the area of ​​knowledge that he would like to study in detail, then it is better to choose England. And if a student is interested in different disciplines, and he cannot stop at one – the United States.

Remember that in order to enter a university in the UK, you will definitely need an annual University Foundation program. It is not compulsory in the USA, but it is still much better to pass it in order to enter a good university.

With a master’s degree, the situation is similar: in the UK it is most often highly specialized and academic, and in the USA it is practical and general … The duration also differs: Master’s programs in Britain require one year of study, while studying in America is most often two years with breaks, during which you can almost always do a summer internship in your specialty.

Your opportunities to work are not limited to this: all graduates of undergraduate and graduate programs in the United States receive the so-called OPT (optional practical training) – permission to work in America for up to one to three years, depending on the specialty. Thus, if you are interested in academic knowledge and research during your master’s degree, choose the British education system, and go to the United States for practical experience of international work.


Whichever country whatever you choose, education should be seen as an investment. Admission to good universities is usually difficult. The pre-university training programs (University Foundation or Pre-Master’s / Pre-MBA) help to solve this problem, during which students study specialized subjects, undergo active language training and work with tutors for admission.

As a result of this work , students of pre-university programs are guaranteed successful admission to the university, and these are not empty promises – the statistics of admission to foreign universities are very good.

When investing money and time in education in the USA or Great Britain, the main thing is to determine the goals and objectives and carefully prepare. Then your dream of a real student life “like in a movie” and the subsequent dizzying international career in a short time will begin to become a reality.