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Comparison of UK and US Education Systems

Logo for UK and USA School Grade Comparisons

School grades in America compared to English (UK) years and Key Stages have similarities but distinct differences too. Our table (below) provides a quick and simple guide to American school years compared to English (UK) stages and throws some light on that big question often asked here in England after watching an American school-based TV show ….¬†“What is a Sophomore?”. (Turns out a Sophomore is equivalent to a Year 11 pupil in England).

As it can be confusing for UK and American parents or teachers when a website says “Suitable for Key Stage 3” or “Suitable for 8th Graders” the table below should help match grades to years and make a comparison between American school grades and English years or Key Stages.

IMPORTANT PAGE CORRECTION: We have been advised that each part of the UK has a different school structure (e.g. Scotland does not use ‘Key Stages’) so when using this page¬†please read “UK” as “England only”. We will leave UK in some of the text for now because we know that many visitors use this as one of their search criteria.

ROUGH GUIDE to US School Grades Compared to English (UK) School Years:

AgeUK Year
(England Only)
Key Stage
(England Only)
U.S. Level
3 to 4 years n/a Early Years Pre-Kindergarten
 4 to 5 years Reception Early Years Pre-Kindergarten
 5 to 6 years Year 1 – Infants School
 (aka Primary School)
 Key Stage 1 Kindergarten
 (Elementary School)
 6 to 7 years Year 2 Key Stage 1 1st Grade
 (Elementary School)
 7 to 8 years Year 3 – Junior School
 (aka Primary School)
 Key Stage 2 2nd Grade
 8 to 9 years Year 4 Key Stage 2 3rd Grade
 9 to 10 years Year 5 Key Stage 2 4th Grade
 10 to 11 years Year 6 Key Stage 2 5th Grade
 11 to 12 years Year 7 – Secondary School Key Stage 3 6th Grade – Middle School
 12 to 13 years Year 8 Key Stage 3 7th Grade
 13 to 14 years Year 9 KS3 (or KS4 for
3 year GCSE programmes)
 8th Grade
 14 to 15 years Year 10 Key Stage 4 9th Grade (Freshman)
 – High School
 15 to 16 years Year 11 Key Stage 4 10th Grade (Sophomore)
 16 to 17 years Year 12 (6th Form) sometimes reffered to
as ‘lower 6th’
Key Stage 5 11th Grade
(Junior Year)
 17 to 18 years Year 13 (6th Form) often used as a route to University, sometimes referred to as
‘Upper 6th’
Key Stage 5 12th Grade
(Senior Year)

In England – from September 2013 – the education leaving age increased to 17 years and then from 2015 it increased once again to 18 years. This does NOT mean that young people have to stay in school until they are 17 or 18 but it does mean that they must stay in ‘education or training’ which could also include an apprenticeship, part-time education or training, home education, or even some types of volunteer work.

One of our most popular searches is What is 11th Grade in the UK? The English equivalent of the American 11th Grade is ‘Year 12’ which in academic terms is the beginning of Key Stage 5. In England the end of Year 11 provides the first (legal!) opportunity to leave school and find employment so a pupil who stays on at school for Year 12 is often doing so because they want to achieve AS Level qualifications (and subsequently A Level qualifications in Year 13) to move on to further education in a college or university.

Our ‘grades to years’ table above is for guidance only and shows USA school Grades compared to years and Key Stages in England. Please DOUBLE CHECK the above data on an official education website before you rely upon it for any purpose. It may be inaccurate or may have been superseded since we last checked it. (We have been emailed by a visitor to this page and advised that Wales has an identical Key Stage system to England but have found conflicting information on the internet. Can anybody point us towards a definitive guide to the Key Stage structure in Wales?).

For further information and facts on grades in America and the US education system, visit the most excellent and knowledgeable Wikipedia for a detailed description of the United States’ Education System.

For further details of English National Curriculum Key Stages take a look on

IMPORTANT WARNING & DISCLAIMER: this site is many many MANY YEARS OUT OF DATE and is no longer being updated or maintained. It is provided free as an ARCHIVE ONLY.
IMPORTANT WARNING & DISCLAIMER: this site is many many MANY YEARS OUT OF DATE and is no longer being updated or maintained. It is provided free as an ARCHIVE ONLY.
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