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French education system: prep schools, CPGEs

By Jean
Reading Time: 3 minutes
prep schools in france

Exploring the landscape of French higher education reveals the unique and prestigious realm of “Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles” (CPGEs), more commonly referred to as prep schools in France.

This guide is designed to illuminate the path for international students as they navigate through the intricacies of prep schools in France, covering aspects like admissions, degree programs, and the LMD framework.

Understanding Prep Schools in France

Prep schools in France are distinct academic entities, typically housed within high schools, and are dedicated to preparing students over a 2-year period for entrance exams to the esteemed “Grandes Écoles.” These Grandes Écoles specialize in various professional fields such as engineering, business, or public administration, and are akin to the Ivy League institutions in terms of reputation and academic rigor.

Read more about Grandes Écoles here:

Admission Modalities

Admission to these CPGEs is competitive, relying heavily on a student’s academic achievements in high school. International applicants must demonstrate excellent academic records, proficiency in French (as instruction is predominantly in French), and adaptability to the French educational ethos, which may include different grading systems and pedagogical approaches.

Degrees and ECTS

While CPGEs themselves do not award degrees or ECTS credits, they are a crucial stepping stone to gaining admission into Grandes Écoles, where students can earn recognized degrees and ECTS credits. Some prep schools in France have partnerships with universities and Grandes Écoles that allow students to earn ECTS credits during their prep years.

Read more about the ECTS framework here:

Program Types in Prep Schools

Rather than focusing on specific schools, it’s important to understand the types of programs offered within these prep schools:

  1. Hypokhâgne and Khâgne: These programs are for students leaning towards humanities and social sciences. Hypokhâgne is the first year, focusing on a broad range of subjects including literature, philosophy, history, and languages. Khâgne, the second year, dives deeper with more specialization.
  2. MPSI/MP (Mathématiques, Physique et Sciences de l’Ingénieur/Mathématiques et Physique): These are for students interested in mathematics, physics, and engineering sciences. MPSI is the initial year, and MP is the more advanced second year.
  3. BCPST (Biologie, Chimie, Physique et Sciences de la Terre): This stream is for students fascinated by biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences, offering a comprehensive curriculum in these areas.
  4. Economic and Commercial Streams: These include programs like ECS (Economic and Commercial Scientific) and ECE (Economic and Commercial Option Economic), focusing on economics, mathematics, and business studies.

Each program is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of their chosen field, preparing them for the stringent entrance exams of the Grandes Écoles.

prep schools in france

Grading System

  1. Scale: Grades in CPGEs are typically on a scale of 0 to 20, similar to the rest of the French educational system. However, the context in which these grades are given is much more demanding. A score of 10 is usually considered average, and achieving a score above 15 is often seen as exceptional due to the challenging nature of the courses.
  2. Strictness: The grading can be very strict. This is intended to prepare students for the competitive exams (concours) for Grandes Écoles, where only the top-performing students are selected.

Evaluation Methods

  1. Written Exams: These are a common form of evaluation in CPGEs. Exams often require not just rote memorization but a deep understanding of concepts, analytical thinking, and the ability to apply knowledge to solve complex problems.
  2. Oral Exams: In addition to written tests, students may also be evaluated through oral exams, especially in subjects like languages, literature, and philosophy. These exams test students’ ability to articulate their thoughts clearly and confidently.
  3. Continuous Assessment: Students’ performance is continuously monitored through regular tests, assignments, and class participation. This continuous assessment ensures that students are consistently engaged and also helps them gauge their understanding of the course material.
  4. ‘Colles’ or Oral Interrogations: A unique aspect of CPGEs is the ‘colle’, an oral test where a student is questioned on a topic with little prior preparation. This method tests students’ quick thinking, depth of knowledge, and ability to articulate under pressure.
  5. Ranking System: Students are often ranked in their class based on their performance. This ranking system adds a competitive edge to the learning environment, as many Grandes Écoles select students based on their rank in these preparatory classes.

Plan Your Study in France

With their focus on academic excellence and professional preparation, CPGEs stand as a unique and esteemed component of the French education system, offering a transformative experience for those who dare to take on the challenge.

At Go! Go! France, we’re dedicated to making your dream of studying in France a reality. Through our tailored services, comprehensive support, and student-first approach, we simplify the visa application process and pave the way for your educational adventure in France. 

When you feel ready to start, contact Go! Go! France team here to get your life and study in France journey started.

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