- FAQ Long-track
- FAQ Short-track
- FAQ BMS
FAQ Long-term High School
I would really like my child to complete the secondary level II 6-year track because this is the only track the Swiss education system appears to reward with success. Do you agree?
To answer this question, we have created a special info page about the chances of success for the secondary level II 6-year track.
Can I (re)take the entrance exam after the 1st year of the intermediary upper-level even if that means I will be held back a year?
No, since the revision of the regulations by the State Council in May 2008 this is no longer possible. Students
can either take the entrance exam after the 6th grade of primary school or decide on the secondary level II 4-year
track after the 2nd year of the intermediary upper-level. Taking the exam after the 1st year of the intermediary
upper-level is not possible.
My child has passed the entrance exam, which I am very relieved about. But now we’re faced with the next challenge – Latin. Can my child attend one of your courses in this subject before the school year officially begins?
No – we generally do not offer courses in which material is taught before it was taught in school. We want the students to refresh and solidify their knowledge with us, but the courses are not meant to serve as a substitute for school.
However, we are aware that students are confronted with an extensive amount of new material during their probationary period. To learn all this new information under the pressure of the probationary period is not always easy. That’s why we offer French (Envol 5+6), Latin and math courses during the autumn holidays to support students during their probationary period.
I have registered for a particular secondary level II school but am taking the entrance exam at another school. Does this mean that I have been reassigned to the other school?
Yes, normally this means you have been reassigned. However, this is in no way related to academic performance, preliminary grades or similar factors and is simply attributable to chance. If a school receives too many applications, students will be reallocated to other schools with open spaces in order to best manage class sizes, existing facilities and available teachers.
I am looking for practice exercises for the secondary level II exam so that we can help our child prepare. I see that I can download old exams here, but I am looking for a file with prep exercises. Where can I buy something like that?
Such a file with preparation exercises is not for sale anywhere. Each private learning institute puts together the exercises on its own. Learn-Forum has employees that exclusively prepare exercise materials, which we then print. Teachers do not spend any of their valuable time in front of the copier.
Every learning institute has different course materials.
Is a private secondary level II or boarding school a worthwhile alternative to public school?
We believe that public secondary level II schools offer an excellent education opportunity and accompany students into their future in a way that is competent and committed. The state spends a considerable amount of tax dollars for this purpose. A private school can only offer a comparable level of quality if it charges very high tuition fees.
If your child isn’t able to make it to the public secondary level II, a good vocational school degree in combination with a future-oriented apprenticeship is definitely an option worth considering.
If you would like to learn more about vocational school (BMS), you can find more details here.
I sometimes have the impression that teachers grade unfairly. It seems as if other parents complain and are often able to obtain a better grade this way.
It’s true that there is usually some room to negotiate when it comes to grades. This is unavoidable. Generally, teachers are generous and round up rather than down. They don’t want to decrease their students’ chances of success. Exactly this is criticized by the Examination Committee.
The secondary level II exam serves to test students as objectively as possible. Every child receives the same exam questions, and the exam is graded by two examiners. A winning appearance does not count for anything.
I am sick and the exam is tomorrow. Should I take it anyway?
The general rule is: If you are physically able to make it to the exam room, take the exam. However, if you fail the exam, claiming “but I was sick” won’t change anything. Therefore, in case of serious illness, it’s best to call the front office of the school in question, provide them with a physician’s note and take the exam on a different date.
How many points do I need to pass the exam?
If a student earns 70% of the total possible points, he or she has passed the exam (even with moderate preliminary grades!). In case of 60% and good preliminary grades, students used to have to take an oral examination, but this is no longer required for primary students as of 2013.
With 50% of the points, a student has little chance of passing the exam, even with very good preliminary grades. But exceptions prove the rule!
People always make such a fuss about this all-important exam. My child attends a prep course every week and even solves exam practice questions at school. All this effort for a four-hour exam – is it really worth it?
The effort is definitely worth it and will pay off later.
Prep courses help students learn basic skills that are more important than ever. They learn spelling, grammar, vocabulary, French as well as mathematical understanding.
This effort will show itself at the next school level – be it at the upper-level or at an apprenticeship. Larger companies now often require future employees to complete a test (math, essay, reading comprehension), for which prep courses will come in handy.
Many primary students who failed the exam the first time go on to be good intermediary upper-level students and pass the
exam after the 2nd year of the intermediary upper-level without difficulty.
There’s no reason to despair!
I keep hearing that children are no longer able to pass the secondary level II entrance exam without prep courses because the material on the exam is not covered at school.
The secondary level II 6-year track is designed to meet the needs of the most intelligent students. This means that only
the best students in the class (1 - 2 students) will pass the exam without taking a course. These students have a GPA
between 5.5 and 6.
The real question is why a good student with a GPA of 5 should miss out on moving on to the secondary level II.
These children are often only able to pass the exam with the help of a prep course.
The exam only covers material that students have been familiarized with in school. However, it is possible that the
exam questions are phrased in a way that is more complex and requires several steps to solve. This often isn’t taught at
What is the deadline to register my child for the 2020 entrance examinations and when does the exam take place?
FAQ Short-term High School
Can I bring a dictionary or something similar for the essay or the German grammar portion of the exam?
Yes and no – students may not bring any kind of aid for the German grammar portion of the exam. However, you can bring the dictionary you used at the upper-level for the "composing a text" part, which is the essay.
I was given a graphing calculator by my brother and would like to use it on the entrance exam. Is this permitted?
No, this kind of calculator is not permitted. Generally, the following rule applies according to page 11 of the guidelines offered by the Examination Committee:
Calculators that are able to store text, functions and equations, are able to transform or solve equations, are programmable or can represent functions graphically are not permitted.
It’s best to simply use the calculator you were required to use at the upper-level – these are always permitted.
Can I use my mobile phone to tell the time during the entrance exam?
While you can take your mobile phone with you, you must give it to a teacher prior to the exam and will therefore not be able to use it to tell the time. It’s best to bring a watch and leave your mobile at home altogether.
How big is the proportion of geometry problems on the mathematics exam? I heard from a classmate that there are a lot of these problems and that they are very difficult!
The geometry portion of the mathematics exam for the secondary level II 4-year track makes up between 1/3 and 1/2 of all problems – so quite a lot. It’s very important to bring geometry supplies (compass, scale, triangular ruler, pencil, eraser, etc.) to the exam!
The degree of difficulty depends on the grade level (2./3. year upper-level) and the curriculum. While no unknown topics should be on the exam, more complex problems than in school are to be expected.
I’m in my third year at the upper-level and did not take "Geometry" as an elective. Can I still take the entrance exam? And how are pre-grades weighted in this?
Generally, "Geometry" is recommended as an elective for all students interested in the secondary level II. This allows students to collect pre-grades and get a handle on the material. However, not taking this elective isn’t a problem – students just won’t have a pre-grade for geometry and will have to achieve a higher result on the exam.
I heard that it is possible to complete a so-called double registration – i.e. a registration for business, specialized or IT school + secondary level II. How does this work?
At first, double registration may seem a bit confusing, but it is actually quite simple.
If you are interested in business school (HMS) as well as the secondary level II, you can specify this when registering for the secondary level II exam. You still take the regular secondary level II exam, but if you receive an exam result of 4.12 (for students from public schools with preliminary grades) or 3.87 (without preliminary grades), you are automatically accepted to business school. However, this only works for the secondary level II schools Enge, Hottingen and Büelrain since these schools also have business programs.
Those interested in specialized school (FMS) as well as the secondary level II can also indicate this when registering. Those who receive at least a 3.75 (for students from public schools) or a 3.25 (for students from private schools) on the exam are admitted to specialized school for review. This is possible at the secondary level II schools Zurich North and Rychenberg.
Those who have passed the IT school (IMS) exam may also register for the secondary level II 4-year track as long as they do not exceed the age limit. However, acceptance to IT school has no effect on the application to a secondary level II school.
Double registration for IT school – business school, business school – specialized school or specialized school – IT school is not possible.
I looked through my old math exams and honestly had no idea how to solve many of the problems. Does the entrance exam include material not covered in school?
No, this is not the case – in principle, only material that is included in the official school curriculum is tested on the exam. However, many questions are asked in a way that is more complex than at school. The exam is designed to test students’ ability to connect and apply knowledge and skills they have already learned.
For this reason, a comprehensive review of all the covered material is very helpful.
What is the deadline to register for the 2017 entrance examinations and when does the exam take place?
The registration deadline for the secondary level II 4-year track in the Canton of Zurich is February 10, 2017, and the exam is held at the respective school at 8:15 AM on Monday and Tuesday, March 13 and 14.
I heard that preliminary grades no longer count towards the exam – is that true?
Preliminary grades used to be an integral part of the decision on whether a student could master the transition successfully. This will still be the case for the entrance exams in March 2013 and 2014. However, the Department of Education plans to change the admission requirements for the exam in March 2015, and in addition to changes to the way individual subjects are weighted, pre-grades will be eliminated for the secondary level II 4-year track. Starting in 2015, preliminary grades (transcript grades) will no longer count.
My friend visits the same school as me but has a different French teacher. She gets good grades because the teacher primarily makes students take vocabulary tests. Our teacher requires full sentences and grammar use.
Your schoolmate is at a disadvantage because she will have to fill her knowledge gaps herself. On the entrance exam, everyone has to solve the same problems. This also allows the Canton to compare the quality of different schools.
In our courses, students review the entire grammar according to Envol for each required lesson. Some topics are addressed (passé composé - imparfait) but not discussed in depth since they are not required for the exam.
However, it is still important that students are familiar with all grammar topics contained in the textbook. Our folders contain many exercises for topics covered on the exam (conjugation, article partitif, adjectif, compréhensions, etc.) and less for topics not covered on the exam. This also helps with a successful probationary period.
FAQ Vocational school
I have to take an exam for vocational school while my friend who didn’t pass the probationary period for the secondary level II 4-year track does not have to take an exam? Why is that?
Students who successfully pass the secondary level II 4-year track exam either the year they apply to vocational school (BMS) or the year before do not have to take an exam. In addition, being accepted to specialized school (FMS) also allows for an exam-free transfer to vocational school.
This is because vocational schools view the secondary level II exam as more comprehensive and challenging and therefore allow students who have successfully passed the exam to attend vocational school without taking an additional exam.
Which disciplines does vocational school (BMS) offer and how do they differ?
There is a corresponding vocational school discipline for nearly every apprenticeship – weather it be in the technical, design, business or social field. The selected discipline depends on the desired career course. Those seeking jobs in the computer science sector usually select the technical discipline within vocational school, but those who are entering into a computer science apprenticeship at a bank would select the business discipline. The choice of profession determines the
discipline. A business discipline is less likely to lead to a career in the scientific field (engineering, medicine, physics), but rather to language, psychology and management occupations.
One of the most important differences besides the different disciplines is the way the grades from various disciplines are weighted.
How long does vocational school (BMS) take? Will it require me to decrease my workload?
The length of vocational school depends entirely on the apprentice, the teaching and the chosen discipline. A technical vocational school degree, for example, can be completed within three years by attending school once a week, while health and social disciplines take up one and a half days a week.
In which canton do I take my exam if, for example, I live in the Canton of Aargau but will be completing my apprenticeship in the Canton of Zurich (or vice versa?)
Vocational school is regulated federally, so a passed exam is valid in any canton. This means that you can take the exam in Zurich (March 13) as well as in Aargau (June 21). If you pass one of the two exams, you can attend vocational school in any canton.
Do my overall grades from the intermediary upper-level count towards the vocational school exam?
No, preliminary grades are not relevant for the exam.
What is the deadline to register for the 2014 vocational school exam and where will it take place?
In the Canton of Zurich, the registration deadline is March 1, 2014, and the exam will take place on Wednesday, March 13, 2014.
In the Canton of Aargau, the exam will take place on June 21, 2014, and the registration deadline depends on the respective school.
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