From Academic Kids

The Baccalauréat, often known in France familiarily as the Bac, is a diploma which French students sit at the end of the lycée (secondary school). It allows them to go on to tertiary education or to obtain a professional qualification that will enable them to get a job in a particular field upon completion of high school. The word bac is also used to refer to the end-of-year exams that students must pass in order to get their baccalauréat diploma: le bac philo, for example, is the philosophy exam (which all students must take, regardless of their field of study).

There are three main types of Baccalauréat

  • General Baccalauréat
  • Professional Baccalauréat
  • Technological Baccalauréat

Each of these categories encompasses several somewhat specialized curricula. For entrance to regular universities, however, there are no restrictions as to the type of baccalauréat that was achieved. Furthermore, it is also possible to enter a university without the bac by taking a special exam ("diploma for entrance to higher education").

Students who sit for the General Baccalauréat choose one of three streams: Scientifique (S), Economique et Sociale (ES) or Littéraire(L). The first requires a high level of mathematics (which is also very heavily weighed), physics, biology and chemistry. The Bac L. weighs French language, History and Geography and foreign languages heavily. It also includes a literature section. Students must sit for exams in one to three modern languages and also have the option of sitting for Latin, Greek or both. The Baccalauréat permits students to choose to sit for exams in over forty world languages or French minority languages (such as Basque, Breton, Corse, Occitane). The "Bac ES" is balanced between literary and scientific courses of studies, and students must take an economics exam. The overwhelming majority of French students choose to take the "Bac S" as it opens the doors for a greater range of post-graduation opportunities.

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 with a school. Students who did not take the bac upon completion of secondary school and would like to attend university, or feel that the bac would help them accomplish professional aspirations may exercise this option. The exam is no different than the one administered to secondary-school students.

Most examinations are given in essay-form. The student is given a substantial block of time (depending on the exam, from two to four hours) to complete a four to six page, well-argued paper. Math and science exams are problem sets. All foreign language exams include a short translation section as well.

A passing mark is a 10 out of 20. Three levels of honors are also given. A mark of 12 will earn a student a "mention assez-bien", a mark of 14 will earn a "mention bien" and a mark of 16 will earn a mention of "très bien". If a student earns an 8, he or she is permitted to sit for the "épreuve de ratrapage", an oral exam given in two subjects. If the student does well enough in these orals to raise the total grade to a 10, then he or she receives his or her baccalauréat. If the student does badly in the orals or receives below an 8, he or she may choose to sit for the entire examination once again in September. If in September, the student fails, he or she may choose to repeat the final year of lycée. The passing rate for secondary-school students is 77%

In Canada, the term Baccalauréat refers to a Bachelor's degree in French universities.

See also

fr:Baccalauréat pl:Baccalauréat

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