What Is the Baccalauréat or “Bac” in France?


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What Is the Baccalauréat or “Bac” in France?

The Baccalauréat, typically referred to as the ‘bac’, is the accreditation awarded after two years’ of study at a Lycee – the French equivalent to high school Junior/Senior year in the US or sixth-form college (Year 11/12) in the UK. It’s roughly equivalent to A levels in the UK or a high-school diploma in France, and is essential for those looking to continue into higher education or University in France.

Students typically study for the Bac over two years, between the ages of 16 and 18, and there are different options available depending on their preferences and desires for high education and/or career paths.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why take the Bac?

For those wanting to go on to Higher education, it is the ideal preparation and it also allows for specialisation of study according to aptitude and interest. Vocational studies are catered for too in a vocational route called the Bac Pro.

The video below (in English) from the French Government explains the recent reforms to the Bac exams in 2021 .

How are the marks calculated?

60% of the marks are based on the results of a final exam. 40% is coursework based.

It is worth noting that there is also a final oral examination which lasts 20 minutes and consists of a presentation and a question and answer session with a panel. The topic is based on a project of the pupil’s choice and the process is geared to prepare students for presentations in the world of work in order to present, argue and defend an idea.

What subjects are covered by the French Bac?

At first, each student is assessed in French and Maths to ascertain levels of skill and competence.  Everyone studies common core elements across the two years of the course in French, History, Geography, citizenship, two modern languages, philosophy and sport.

Each student then chooses their own options in addition to the core elements of study – three in the first year and two in the second year of study. Those that wish to, may choose an additional optional subject of study and these options often depend on the speciality offered by each Lycee.

For those taking technological studies, three options can be taken in the first year, followed by two in the second year and these are usually linked to a student’s personal training project.

From the point of receiving the second school feedback report, parents and pupils can make the choice between a general bac and a technological bac.

For more information, see here.

How to choose your Lycee

Not all Lycees offer the same subjects and some have specific areas of expertise. Students may be able to board too. It is an important choice and worth researching your options – this website is a good place to start and also has an online chat facility.

It’s also a good idea to use your local knowledge and contacts to ask for information, help and recommendations.

Almost 98% of students passed the bac in 2020 and it is widely accepted as a passport to further University studies. Bon courage!

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.

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