Does America Have GCSEs?

In GCSE, General by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Often, students wonder how applicable their GCSEs are to the outside world. Some students may be considering searching for work abroad, or even to pursue further education overseas. Maybe students are moving abroad anyway. A common question is if other countries also have GCSEs, or what the equivalent of GCSEs would be, and, if America has GCSEs.

To put it briefly, America does not in fact have GCSEs. However, America does have measures of education very similar to GCSEs, such as SATs and high school diplomas. GCSEs are in fact applicable in America and are a valid qualification in most areas for determining education levels.

While this may have given you a brief answer as to if America has GCSEs, please read on to find out more about the equivalents.

What is the American equivalent to GCSEs?

The closest thing that would be considered an American equivalent to GCSEs is thought to be the high school diploma (although that isn’t the exact equal).

In short, a high school diploma (also known as a high school degree) is a North American school-leaving qualification that is given to students when they have completed high school. The high school diploma is typically received after an academic course of study lasting four years (from grade 9 to grade 12).

A high school diploma should generally display the pupil’s acceptable pass grades earned after they have sat a state examination and a completion of a combination of coursework meeting the correct criteria for a particular course of study.

Students may also be curious about if they could achieve a high school diploma. A high school diploma is roughly equivalent to 5 GCSEs above a C or 7 (without Honors or ‘Advanced Placement’ (AP) classes).

For more information on what exactly a diploma is and its equivalents, visit this article about diplomas from Think Student.

What is the American equivalent to A-Levels?

Completing A-Levels can be considered the equal of completing 11th and 12th grade in the US.

According to the British Council, A-Levels are considered to be quite similar to the American Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and to the AP examinations. These AP courses are themselves the equivalent of first year courses of America’s four year Bachelor’s degrees. However, AP courses often only have one exam for each subject, and no coursework either, therefore A-Levels are considered more rigorous.

A fairly similar test to the A-Levels in America are the SATs, however, they are two different things in their own right. SATs are examinations (based roughly on simple maths, grammar, reading comprehension and writing skills) taken to get into college (university in the UK), quite similar to the UK.

However, SATs can be taken from sophomore year (15-16 years of age), and can be taken up to 4 times a year. The SAT is also a lot more predictable than A-Levels, and the content is a lot more general. SATs are also multiple choice, whereas (unfortunately), A-Levels are not. Also, more time is spent practising for the SAT rather than acquiring knowledge, whereas A-Levels are filled to the brim with coursework and knowledge.

Below is a grid of A-Level grade requirements for undergraduate levels and their SAT equivalents:

UK grade requirement SAT equivalent
ABB 1290 in SAT Reasoning (combined) and 650 in three SAT Subject Tests (each)
BBB 1290 in the SAT Evidence-based Reading and Writing, and Mathematics Tests (combined) and 650 in three SAT Subject Tests (each)

To find out more about A-Level equivalents in the USA, check out this article from

Can you move to America with GCSEs?

Yes, if the student is looking for colleges to study at in America, over 850 universities in the USA allow and accept Cambridge International AS and A-Levels, including Ivy League schools. These include the colleges of Brown, MIT, Harvard, Yale and Stanford.

The entry requirements for more prestigious colleges is post-16 education and qualifications (so A-Levels), however, it is possible to get into a community college for less. More competitive universities require at least 3 A-Levels or their equivalent. However, US college acceptance is not conditional on A-Level results (US letters of acceptance go out before most A-Level exams anyway).

5 GCSE passes at grade C or higher are considered the rough equivalent of a US High School Diploma (without Honors or ‘Advanced Placement’ (AP) classes). This suffices to get into less selective colleges.

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