US Curriculum and Assessments

In the United States, the state and local governments are responsible for education. While there are different laws and initiatives, children in schools in the US generally follow the US curriculum. This is a curriculum based on American Common Core State Standards for English Language, Arts, Math, History, Geography and Next Generation Science.

School in the US helps prepare students for college and work, covering a range of subjects and assessments through different stages of learning. In this article, we will cover the US curriculum in more detail, looking at grades, standards and testing and any other useful information for parents considering a US education for their child. 

The K-12 System

The K-12 system refers to kindergarten to 12th grade and covers the different stages of learning children move through when studying the US Curriculum. The system itself is broken down into three stages: elementary school, middle school and high school. Below are all the different grades in the US and their equivalent in England. 

Grade in the US



Stage of Learning

Year in England



Elementary School




Elementary School




Elementary School

Year 1

Grade 1


Elementary School

Year 2

Grade 2


Elementary School

Year 3

Grade 3


Elementary School

Year 4

Grade 4


Elementary School

Year 5

Grade 5


Elementary School

Year 6

Grade 6


Middle School

Year 7


Grade 7


Middle School

Year 8


Grade 8


Middle School

Year 9


Grade 9


High School

Year 10


Grade 10


High School

Year 11


Grade 11


High School

Year 12


Grade 12


High School

Year 13

Unlike some other countries’ end-of-school examination systems, such as A-Levels in the UK, students in the US are tested continuously throughout school and leave with a collection of assessments to prove their preparedness for college or employment. 

US Curriculum Standards and Testing

The US Curriculum sets standardised testing throughout the year to ensure each student is on track. Students are marked on every essay, exam and course they take in each subject throughout their education and this is used to calculate a Grade Point Average (GPA) in high school.

Marks given depend on a range of criteria, including a student’s performance in assessments, participation in class discussion and completion of homework assignments. Students studying the US curriculum are also given report cards twice a year, which shows their updated grades in each of their subjects. 

High schools keep a transcript for each student which summarises the courses they studied, grades attained and other data relevant to their education. If a student wants to go to college, a copy of their transcript is sent to the college of their choice. Acceptance into college is influenced by the data on the transcript, along with personal recommendations, achievements outside of school and, in many cases, college aptitude tests. College aptitude tests are set by various independent institutions and are taken in the final two years of high school.

There are a number of other tests included in the US curriculum that students can sit during their time at school to improve their chances of securing a place at college:

Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) – Students may sit this test in their junior year to increase their chances of acceptance by the college of their choice. This is a multiple choice test that measures verbal and mathematical reasoning. 

National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) – This is used to screen the top academic students in the nation for scholarship consideration. It is taken by students in 10th and 11th grade to measure their readiness for college, access to scholarships and as practice for the SAT.

ACT – Originally an abbreviation of American College Testing, the ACT is an achievement test that covers English, Mathematics, Reasoning and Scientific Reasoning. It also includes an optional writing test. This test is also accepted by many universities outside of the US.

SAT – Originally an abbreviation of Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT is a standardised test used for admissions into college. Students are scored from 400 to 1600, combining the results of two tests on Mathematics, Critical Reading and Writing.

Nord Anglia Education students are engaged, compassionate, global thinkers who bring a love of learning to everything they do. Our focus on values as well as grades nurtures students that are sought after by top colleges in the United States and beyond. Many of our graduates go on to Ivy League schools or leading institutions elsewhere in the world.

Our innovative, broad curricula are designed with individual students in mind, and delivered by committed, inspiring teachers. This robust approach to learning is supported by state-of-the-art facilities, and exceptional experiences outside the classroom.

Quote: Our family would like to express deep gratitude for the terrific environment of learning and community. The curriculum and faculty are the best in the world. The dynamic range of learning at such an early age is driving curiosity and growth in our children we'd never envisioned.

Keith P., parent at the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park

International Baccalaureate

Our schools in the US also offer the rigorous and widely respected International Baccalaureate, which challenges students to demonstrate independent thought and a more global mindset. Students develop the values and confidence that will help them succeed anywhere. Our personalised approach will help them pursue their own interests and overcome challenges.
Our practical, international approach encourages your child to collaborate, think more deeply and hone their leadership skills, so they can be confident anywhere that opportunity takes them. Graduating students who have completed the US curriculum and obtained the International Baccalaureate Diploma will be leading prospects for the country’s best colleges and universities. 

Innovative Learning

Our teachers give students a strong grounding in core subjects while helping them excel socially, physically and emotionally. On top of the US curriculum, our schools also offer innovative learning programmes, such as the chance to explore STEAM subjects hands-on through our collaboration with MIT, as well as access to world-class performing arts tutors from Juilliard.

Nord Anglia Education’s innovative, broad US curricula are designed with individual students in mind and delivered by committed, inspiring teachers. This robust approach to learning is supported by state-of-the-art facilities and exceptional experiences outside the classroom.