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Sunday, November 14, 2010

The French Education System - Lycée

Dear Readers,

I recently noticed I have done a post on the Collège system (click here) but never did one on the Lycée system, which is a bit daft of me looking at the title of this blog!

The French education system, like in every other country, has it’s own names for different school years and exams. In this article, I will explain to you, in the easiest way I can, the different years and I will tell you a bit about the subjects and exams to expect as you work your way through Lycée.


/liˈseɪ/ [lee-sey]
–noun, plural - cées
-ˈseɪz [-seyz];  Fr. -ˈseɪ/ [-sey]
a secondary school, esp. in France, maintained by the government.
1860–65;  < Fr. < Latin lycēum lyceum
Lycée is split into Lycée Général and Lycée Professionnel. Lycée Général is a continuation of Collège. If you’re finding Collège too hard in 3ème, you might want to consider a Lycée Professionnel course which leads to a BAC Pro, CAP or BEP (more information coming soon). In this article, I will only be covering Lycée Général.

Let’s start off with the basics. There are three years in Lycée Général 2nde, 1ère and Terminale (sometimes abbreviated T or Term).

  • 2nde is the first year of Lycée. It is the year after your brevet des collèges (GCSE’s – UK, Junior Cert – IRL).
  • In this year in French, you will learn how to write “Commentaires”, “Dissertations” and you might go over the “Ecriture d’invention” in more detail. This is to prepare you for the BAC. In the BAC, you will have to answer a question (4 points) and then choose one of these exercises (16 points).
    • Commentaires: You are given (usually) one text or poem to do this exercise. You must analyse the text and the grammar, the verbs, the methods the author used when writing (metaphores…). Some people find this the easiest of the three but that depends on the text.
    • Dissertations: You are not supposed to quote from the text(s) given. This is an exercise where you talk about the subject while replying to the question posed. The typical breakdown of a paragraph is, Idea, Argument and Example to back up the argument.
    • Ecriture d’invention: Creative Writing on a given subject.
  • This year is the year leading up to the first year of the BAC (spread over two years, 1ère and Terminale).
  • I would specify which BAC’s are going to be in 1ère but it depends on what you will choose for 1ère (L, ES, S…) and this will be changing next year (2011-2012) with La Réforme du Lycée (click here) so I will do a post about that next week (Update: Now available - Click here).
  • In 1ère, you pass the BAC de Français or French BAC. The BAC is the equivalent of the A-levels (UK) or the Leaving  Cert (IRL). You will have two or three BAC Blancs in French in 1ère. These are mock exams.
  • Other exams at the end of this year vary depending on what you have chosen (L, ES, S…). Anyhow this is for sure, if you have chosen S your maths will be noticeably more difficult, if you have chosen L your language subjects will be more detailed and complex and in ES there’s a balance of the two and emphasis on French.
  • In 1ère, you do a TPE (Travaux Personnels Encadrés) over six months. This is basically a project that you do for your BAC, based around your choice of theme. Themes vary depending on the year and “filière”. The TPE is noted and not to be neglected! These points count towards your BAC and they’re easy to obtain!
  • You may notice a rise in the amount of homework you’re getting, compared to 2nde. This is normal, you’re preparing for your BAC.
  • This choice in “filière” (L, S, ES, STG…) becomes more significant by the time you get to Terminale because each “filière” breaks down into different subjects. For example, in L, French basically breaks down to give Philosophy and Literature. For more information on this for every “filière”, go to
  • All exams you didn’t have in 1ère are in Terminale, such as English and Spanish (in some filières).
  • You will prepare letters to send to universities you wish to go to after Lycée. This year goes into lots of detail for choosing what job you would like to do after Lycée.
For every year in Lycée…
  • Teachers fill out your carnet de scolarité. This book is a collection of all of your marks and comments given by teachers in your school reports. This gets put in your CV and some employers don’t necessarily look for good marks as a number one priority when perusing your CV, but for good feedback from teachers and good behaviour in class. You get this when you have finished Lycée.
  • You will be working towards your BAC.
I hope this has helped. If you have any questions, go to or send an email to The Lycée Times. You can do this easily by going to the contact page and putting your question in the form.

Article by The Editor

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