The ''baccalauréat'' (), often known in France
colloquially as the ''bac'', is a French national academic qualification that students can obtain at the completion of their secondary education
(at the end of the ''lycée'') by meeting certain requirements. It has existed since the middle ages.
Similar academic qualification exist elsewhere in Europe, variously known as ''Abitur
'' in Germany
, ''maturità'' in Italy
, ''selectividad'' in Spain
(also in Mexico
and South America
) . There is also the European Baccalaureate
, which students take at the end of the European School
In France, there are three main types of ''baccalauréat'' obtained in different places, and which are completely different: the ''baccalauréat général'' (general baccalaureate), the ''baccalauréat technologique'' (technological baccalaureate), and the ''baccalauréat professionnel'' (professional baccalaureate).
Much like the European ''Matura
'' or English A levels
, the ''baccalauréat'' allows French and international students to obtain a standardised qualification, typically at the age of 18 (end of the ''lycée''). It qualifies holders to work in certain areas, go on to tertiary education
(''universités''), or acquire some other professional qualification or training. Even though it is not legally required, the vast majority of students in their final year of secondary school take a final exam.
The word ''bac'' is also used to refer to one of the end-of-year exams that students must pass to get their ''baccalauréat'' diploma: the ''bac de philo'', for example, is the philosophy exam, which all students must take, regardless of their field of study.
Within France, there are three main types of ''baccalauréat'' obtained in different places, and which are completely different:
*the ''baccalauréat général'' (general baccalaureate), specially made to enter university and continue studies;
*the ''baccalauréat technologique'' (technological baccalaureate), specially made to work or continue short technical studies;
*the ''baccalauréat professionnel'' (professional baccalaureate), specially made to enter professional life.
For entrance to regular universities within France, however, there are some restrictions as to the type of ''baccalauréat'' that can be presented. In some cases, it may be possible to enter a French university without the ''bac'' by taking a special exam, the "diploma for entrance to higher education".
Though most students take the ''bac'' at the end of secondary school, it is also possible to enter as a ''candidat libre'' (literally, "free candidate") without affiliation to a school. Students who did not take the ''bac'' upon completion of secondary school
(or did not manage to pass it) and would like to attend university, or feel that the ''bac'' would help them accomplish professional aspirations, may exercise that option.
The main purpose of the general baccalaureate is to allow access to universities
and grandes écoles
to pursue studies. It attests to an advanced level in general skills. It is obtained in a ''Lycée général''.
Before 2021, the students who sat for the ''baccalauréat général'' chose one of three streams (termed ''séries'') in the penultimate ''lycée
'' year (S for Sciences; ES for Economics and Social sciences; and L for Literature). Each stream results in a specialization and carries different weights (''coefficients'') associated with each subject.
From 2021, the S, ES and L streams of the general baccalaureate have been replaced by three specialty courses, taken during the penultimate year (Première), only two of which are kept in the final year (Terminale). There are 12 specialties : arts
, computer science
and social science
s, engineering sciences
. These specialties are added to a part common to all : French
. A large part of the tests is now in continuous control but the students also have a final oral
The streams of the ''Baccalauréat général'' before 2021 were as follows:
Another terminology is sometimes used, which existed before 1994 and further divided the different ''séries''. Until then, it was possible to sit for a ''bac C'' or ''D'' (which is now S), ''B'' (now ES), or ''A1, A2, A3'' (now L). People who passed the ''baccalauréat'' before the reform still use that terminology in referring their diploma.
The ''baccalauréat'' permits students to sit exams in over forty languages, including French regional languages such as Alsatian
''Baccalauréat général : série'' ''Scientifique'' (S)
The S stream prepares students for work in scientific fields such as medicine
and the natural sciences
. Science students must specialise in either Mathematics
, Computer science
& Life Sciences
. Students in this stream must have a good result in Physics
& Life Sciences
and, if available, Engineering sciences
and Computer science
''Baccalauréat général : série'' ''Économique et'' ''Sociale'' (ES)
Students of the ES stream prepare for careers in the Political Science
, Business administration
. The main and important subjects of this stream are Economics
& Social Sciences
''Baccalauréat général : série'' ''Littéraire'' (L)
Students in the L stream prepare for careers in education
and public service
. They also have interests in the arts
. The most important subjects in the literary stream are Philosophy
, French language
and other Language
s, usually English, German and Spanish.
The technological baccalaureate is one of the three tracks of the French baccalaureate. It is obtained in a ''Lycée technologique''. The teaching of the lessons is based on inductive reasoning and experimentation. It allows you to work or to pursue short and technical studies (laboratory, design and applied arts, hotel and restaurant, management etc.).
It currently has eight sections : STMG (Sciences and Technologies of Management), ST2S (Sciences and Technologies of Healthcare), STI2D (Sciences and Technologies of Industry and Sustainable Development), STD2A (Sciences and Technologies of Design and Applied Art), STHR (Hospitality Industry and Business), STL (Science and Technologies of Laboratory), STAV (Science and Technologies of Agronomy and Living Organisms), S2TMD (Science and Technologies of Theater, Music and Dance).
The professional baccalaureate allows rapid integration into working life. It is obtained in a ''Lycée professionnel''.
The professional baccalaureate includes nearly 100 specialties like : Leather crafts; Building technician; Maintenance of industrial equipment; Cook; Road freight transport driver; Butcher etc.
The ''baccalauréat général'' examination takes place in the two last years of the ''lycée'' : ''première'' and ''terminale''. From 2021 a large part of the tests is now in continuous control.
Most examinations are given in essay
-form. The student is given a substantial block of time (depending on the exam, that is from two to five hours) to complete a multiple-page, well-argued paper. The number of pages varies from exam to exam but is usually substantial considering all answers have to be written down, explained and justified. Mathematics
exams are problem sets but some science questions also require an essay-type answer. Foreign-language exams often have a short translation
section, as well. Mathematics and the Earth & Life Sciences examinations may occasionally contain some multiple-choice questions
(''choix multiples''), but this is rare and when it occurs, it does not constitute the majority of the exam.
Students of the ''baccalauréat général'' also have to work on an oral research
project (final oral test, ''travaux personnels encadrés'', or TPE). It focusses on their specialties, under the supervision of a faculty member. The oral examination takes place in front of a jury of teachers. There are also several oral exams in languages; practical work in science or arts; or physical evaluation in sport.
When taken in mainland France, the ''baccalauréat'' material is the same for all students in a given stream. The secrecy surrounding the material is very tight, and the envelopes containing the exams are unsealed by a high-ranking school officer (usually a principal or vice-principal) in front of the examinees only a few minutes prior to the start of the examination. The procedure is the same for each subject, in each stream. Students usually have an identification number and an assigned seat. The number is written on all exam material and the name is hidden by folding and sealing the upper right-hand corner of the examination sheet(s). That way, anonymity is respected. The correcting staff is usually a member of the teaching staff in the same district or, at a larger scale, in the same ''académie''. To avoid conflicts of interests, a teacher who has lectured to a student or group of students cannot grade that exam. Also, to ensure greater objectivity on the part of the examiners, the test is anonymous. The grader sees only an exam paper with a serial number, with all personally identifying material stripped away and forbidden from appearing, thus curbing any favoritism based upon sex, religion, national origin, or ethnicity.
Unlike the English GCSE
s, Scottish Standard Grade
s or the American SAT
, the French ''baccalauréat'' is not a completely-standardised test. Since most answers, even for biology questions, are given in essay form, the grades may vary from grader to grader, especially in subjects like philosophy
and French literature
Students generally take the French language
and literature exam at the end of ''première'' since that subject is not taught in ''terminale'', where it is replaced with a philosophy course. It also has an oral examination component, along with the written part. The oral exam covers works studied throughout ''première''. However, in L, students do have a literature exam in terminale.
Each ''baccalauréat'' stream has its own set of subjects that each carry a different weighting (''coefficient''). That allows some subjects to be more important than others. For example, in the ES stream, Economics
& Social Science
carry more weight than the Natural Sciences
and so the former is more important than the latter. Students usually study more for exams that carry heavier weightings since the grades that they obtain in these exams have a bigger impact on their overall grade. Whether or not one passes the ''bac'' and/or receives eventual honours is determined by the calculation of that overall grade.
Option Internationale du Baccalauréat
The general baccalauréat offers several additional variants. The best-known subset is the "option internationale du baccalauréat" (OIB). Sometimes confusingly translated as the "French international baccalaureat", it is, however, unrelated to the International Baccalaureate
The OIB adds further subjects to the French national exam. Students choose one of the L, ES or S streams. It differs, as students take a two-year syllabus in literature, history, and geography in a foreign language. That syllabus and the way that it is examined is modelled on the national exam of the target nation. For instance, the British Section (administered by the University of Cambridge
) models the programmes on A-levels in English, History, and Geography. It is therefore necessary to be fully bilingual to complete this qualification. To date there are 15 different sections supporting 14 different languages, thus: American, Arabic, British, (mainland) Chinese, Danish, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.
At the end of ''terminale'', OIB students have extra exams in Literature and History/Geography. These exams have a high weighting in the final mark of the baccalaureate and do not give extra points to OIB students. Overall, these students work much more (up to an additional 10 hours per week of classes, with a significant amount of required reading and homework attached as well) than the other general baccalauréat students, and many of them tend to go to foreign universities. University admissions tutors often consider reducing the entrance requirements for students taking the OIB compared with those taking the standard French baccalaureate to reflect the additional demands of the OIB.
Since the students that attend these schools make up a fairly small demographic, they tend to be spread over a far larger area than would traditionally be expected of a normal lycée or secondary school. As a consequence, many of these students must commute long distances, with one-hour trips each way being fairly common. The long commutes, the longer days, and the increased workload that come with the OIB mean that it places great demands on the students, and many students cannot handle the workload and so transfer to schools teaching the standard French baccalaureate. Thus, many consider the OIB qualification to be highly challenging and a sign, not only of academic prowess, but also of tenacity and hard work.
To test their foreign or regional language students can choose among these different languages (not at all schools): English
, Modern Greek
; regional languages: Basque
, regional languages of Alsace
regional languages of Moselle
, Melanesian languages
Passing and honours
The pass mark is 10 out of 20. The 2014 success rate for the ''baccalauréat'' in mainland France was 87.9%.
For the ''baccalauréat'', four levels of honours are given:
*A mark between 12 and 13.99 will earn a ''mention assez bien'' (honours, lit. “fairly good”);
*A mark between 14 and 15.99 will earn a ''mention bien'' (high honours, lit. “good”);
*A mark between 16 and 17.99 will earn a ''mention très bien'' (very high honours, lit. “very good”);
*A mark of 18 and above will earn the ''félicitations du jury'' (highest honors, lit. “congratulations from the xamination
Honours are prestigious but not crucial, as admissions to the ''classes préparatoires'' (preparatory classes), which prepare students for the grande école
examinations, are decided months before the examination.
French educators seldom use the entire grading scale. The same applies when marking the ''baccalauréat''. Therefore, students are very unlikely to get a 20 out of 20 or more (it is actually possible to get more than 20 because of options like Arts, Music, Latin etc.). It is also very rare to see scores lower than 5.
has become a concern. Between 2005 and 2016, the proportion of students who received an honour in the general baccalaureate doubled.
A European section is an option in French high school
s to teach a subject through a European language
other than French. It also gives pupils the opportunity of having more hours in the language studied. It is also an opportunity to learn more about the culture of the country of which the language is being spoken. For example, learning History in Spanish the history of Spain and that of Central and South America would be emphasized. Teachers present their lessons in English
At the end, students can receive a "European section" mention on their baccalaureat
. To have that mention, they need to get at least 12/20 on their language examination and at least 10/20 at an additional oral examination on the subject in the language.
For example, those who choose History in Spanish as an additional subject would take their Spanish examination like the rest of their classmates, who do not have History in Spanish, and get at least 12/20. They then have to pass an oral examination on history in Spanish and get at least 10/20.
A student who averages between 8 and 10 is permitted to sit for the ''épreuve de rattrapage'' (also called the ''second groupe''), a supplemental oral examination is given in two subjects of the student's choice. A student who does well enough in those examinations to raise the overall weighted grade to a 10 gets the ''baccalauréat''. A student who does poorly in the orals and receives below a 10 may choose to repeat the final year of lycée (''terminale'').
Students may not redo the entire examination in September; the September examinations may be taken only by those who have not been able to take the June examinations for serious reasons (such as illness).
* Academic grading in France
* Education in France
* Baccalauréat technologique
* International Baccalaureate
* European Baccalaureate
# The formula was taken from thLycée Claudel website
a French lycée in Ottawa, Canada and might only be accurate for Canadian—and even Ontarian—percentage grades. In Ontario, an 80% grade is an "A" on the American Scale and the student is awarded an Ontario Scholar Diploma. A 90% grade is an A+ on the American Scale is considered a grade with honours and automatically qualifies the student for government-funded scholarships and bursaries. The formula should be used for comparison only.
French Ministry of Education website
* Sayare, Scott.
" (Print title: "A Rite of Passage for French Students Receives a Poor Grade") ''The New York Times
''. Published online on June 27, 2013. Published in print on June 28, 2013, p. A11, New York edition.
Grade Equivalency ChartOIB Revision Site
Category:Secondary school qualifications
Category:Education in France