Switzerland: Gymnasialer Maturitätsausweis, certificat de maturité gymnasiale, attestato di maturità liceale (Baccalaureate)

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  • Switzerland
Education context

The Swiss education system is characterised by federalism, and organised in a decentralised manner. The responsibility of the education in Switzerland is divided between the Confederation and the federal states (cantons).

There is a broad uniformity in the educational systems of the 26 cantons, although nomenclature and periods of study may vary.

Primary and lower secondary education usually covers nine years (six years primary school and three years lower secondary school; not counting two additional years of compulsory kindergarten).

On upper secondary level students have the choice between two pathways of general education (baccalaureate schools or upper secondary specialised schools) and vocational education and training (VET).

Education from primary level to the successful completion of a Gymnasialer Maturitätsausweis and certificat de maturité gymnasiale and attestato di maturità liceale lasts a total of at least 12 school years. At least the final four years of this period are to be structured in a programme specifically designed as preparation for the Gymnasialer Maturitätsausweis, certificat de maturité gymnasiale and attestato di maturità liceale.

In most cantons students enrol in a four-year baccalaureate programme from grade 9 onwards for four years.

The Gymnasialer Maturitätsausweis, certificat de maturité gymnasiale and attestato di maturità liceale is awarded by the canton and recognised nationwide by the Confederation.

A Gymnasialer Maturitätsausweis, certificat de maturité gymnasiale and attestato di maturità liceale can also be obtained in baccalaureate schools for adults or by taking the central Swiss baccalaureate examinations (with previous autodidactic studies or attendance of a private baccalaureate preparatory school).


The ordinance on the recognition of baccalaureates and the identical regulation of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK/CDIP/CDPE) define the structure, subjects and assessment.

The cantonal baccalaureate schools teach on the basis of curricula, which have been adopted or approved by the canton, and are based on the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education framework curricula which apply nationwide.

The programme includes basic subjects, which all students have to complete, and an elective section consisting of a specialised subject and a complementary subject, and the baccalaureate essay.

Subject areas

There are ten basic subjects:

  • First language
  • A second national language
  • A third language (a third national language, English, or Latin and Greek)
  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • History
  • Geography
  • Artistic design and/or music

The specialised subject is selected from eight subjects or group of subjects:

  • Ancient languages (Latin and/or Greek)
  • A modern language (a third national language, English, Spanish or Russian)
  • Physics and applied mathematics
  • Biology and chemistry
  • Economy and law
  • Philosophy, pedagogy and psychology
  • Artistic design
  • Music

The complementary subject is selected from fourteen subjects. Not all subjects are offered at all schools.

The proportions of time allocated to the subjects are:

  • Languages: 30% to 40%,
  • Mathematics and natural sciences: 25% to 35%,
  • Humanities and social science: 10% to 20%,
  • Artistic design and/or music: 5% to 10%,
  • 15% to 20% must be allocated to the elective section (specialised subject, complementary subject and baccalaureate essay).

The cantons fix the weekly teaching periods in line with these specifications.


Level 3 – acceptable as a group qualification satisfying general HE entrance requirements.

For further information on the qualification level you may wish to refer to UK NARIC, which is the UK body responsible for providing comparability of overseas qualifications.


Switzerland uses a six-point grading scale:

  • 6: Excellent
  • 5.5: Very good
  • 5: Good
  • 4.5: Satisfactory
  • 4: Pass
  • 3.5 to 1: Fail

During the programme all basic subjects, the specialised subject and the complementary subject are assessed by written and oral examinations. At the end of the baccalaureate programme, students sit a written baccalaureate examination in at least five baccalaureate subjects; this may be supplemented by an oral examination. The baccalaureate examination subjects are the first language, a second national language, mathematics, the specialised subject and one more subject (according to cantonal regulation).

Also part of the final baccalaureate examination is the baccalaureate essay, a comprehensive, independently prepared paper, which students write and present. It is usually prepared in the second-last or last year of the baccalaureate programme.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

The final grades for each of the assessed subjects are composed of the grade given in the school report of the last year (sometimes also the second last year) in which the subject was taught and – in the subjects of the baccalaureate examination – additionally of the grade awarded in the examination (arithmetic mean, rounded to the nearest full or half grade). The baccalaureate essay also contributes to the overall grade.

The Gymnasialer Maturitätsausweis, certificat de maturité gymnasiale and attestato di maturità liceale is awarded if twice the sum of the deviation of all grades (usually for 12 subjects and the baccalaureate essay) lower than 4 is not higher than the sum of the deviations higher than 4; and not more than four grades are lower than 4.

Guided/notional learning hours notes

The cantons are free to fix the number of guided learning hours. On average students are given about 34 lessons a week (= 970 learning hours a year).

Key issues for UK HE admissions

HEPs may wish to consider setting subject requirements in addition to the overall result.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

The cantons (partially even the schools) are free to organise the dates of examination and publication of results. Most final examinations take place in June.

Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current.

Progression information/access to HE within home country

The Gymnasialer Maturitätsausweis / certificat de maturité gymnasiale / attestato di maturità liceale entitles holders to enter cantonal universities or federal institutes of technology (ETH/EPFL) and universities of teacher education. Except for the disciplines medicine and sports no additional examinations or tests are to be taken. With additional requirements fulfilled (practical training), the baccalaureate also gives access to universities of applied sciences.