Before moving into the college years, students sit SATs, which measure literacy, numeracy and writing skills. These tests are multiple-choice questions and not subject specific, which makes them very straightforward to grade and the results can be published quickly.
When it comes to those all-important university qualifications, high school students earn credits by passing a series of courses taught over a period of four years; this means that all four years’ work counts towards their overall result (Grade Point Average) on their US High School Diploma. For students who find exam situations too stressful or challenging, the US approach has huge benefits.
To assess the academic achievement of any US school, look for its SAT and AP scores, which are often reported alongside the US averages.
The all-important question, though, is does the US curriculum offer students an equal chance of securing a place at universities in the UK and Europe – or is it only the best choice for those heading to the US?
American international schools are designed to provide a core curriculum that prepares students to enter schools, colleges, and universities in the US – and graduates in Hong Kong go on to attend leading universities including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Pennsylvania State University.
ASHK is part of the Dubai-based Esol group, which has a portfolio of nine international American schools and has a strong track record of graduates attending universities including Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and the London School of Economics. While the school’s first IB cohort is yet to graduate, it looks encouraging for those students looking for a US university place.
In another example, prospects for studying at a university in the US are high for students at Concordia. The school has partnerships with Concordia Universities in the US, which means that qualifying graduates have a guaranteed acceptance to these universities and are eligible for financial scholarship.
Having a high school diploma is essential for US university, but in some ways is also irrelevant. Getting into a US university is not based on a final grade at high school. Rather US universities take a distinctly less academic view, looking at your profile as a whole: The number of courses you have taken (how academically interested are you), how you're expected to do in those courses (US universities will offer you a place before you sit your final exams), and your extra-curricular activities (what are you going to contribute to college life, not just your course).
By comparison, universities in the UK, Europe and Asia look at subject-specific grades and scores in Advanced Placement and SAT exams.
As Kathy Abel at AIS explains, students can (and do) graduate to universities worldwide from an American school.
"A good proportion of our students matriculate to the US, but we also have many students who go to university in the UK, Europe and Australia, and Hong Kong. We help them apply in the way that they need to, to make the best presentation to the university of their choice.
"We use AP predicted scores for students who are applying to the UK or Hong Kong, and we let them understand the comparison with IB and A Level scores. The US is even less reliant on those scores than Hong Kong for example, as there is a realisation that there are other important things alongside scores and grades."