Secondary Academic Schools

The purpose of a secondary academic school [allgemeinbildende höhere Schule] is to impart broad and extended general education, thereby providing pupils with standard entry qualifications for university and a solid basis for more specialized education or training – in post-secondary courses, at post-secondary colleges, "Fachhochschul"-courses or on the job.

But although the secondary academic school considers it one of its foremost tasks to impart knowledge, it also aims at providing students with numerous other qualifications and skills (e.g. working methods, the ability to co-operate, independence and responsibility).

Structure and Organization

Education at a secondary academic school lasts for an overall period of eight years and is divided into a lower (years 5 to 8) and an upper (years 9 to 12) level. The upper-secondary academic school [Oberstufenrealgymnasium] only comprises years 9 to 12 and may be attended after successful completion of the fourth year of a secondary school.

Specific Profiles

The various forms and special types of secondary academic schools constitute a range of options among which students may choose. Within the framework of school autonomy (see above) and pilot projects, the individual schools may modify their curricula and develop their own specific profiles.

In addition to that, upper level-students are given the opportunity to set their own priorities with an eye to their future career by choosing compulsory electives.

In order to provide for a broad and extended general education, there is a core curriculum which is taught in all school types up to the "Reifeprüfung"-Exam. In addition to these compulsory subjects, the individual school types provide for further specialization in certain subject areas depending on their special focus.

The Various Types of Secondary Academic Schools

  • Core subjects
    German, two foreign languages, history and social studies, geography and economics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and ecology, psychology and philosophy, musical education, art classes, handicrafts (lower level), computer science (grade 9)
  • Classical secondary academic school [Gymnasium]
    languages: Latin from grade 7 onwards, a second foreign language from grade 9 onwards; many pilot schools, however, opt for a reverse order
  • Secondary academic school emphasizing mathematics and science [Realgymnasium]
    the focus is on mathematics and science, descriptive geometry (lower level), geometrical drawing (lower level, elective), pilot projects emphasizing practice-oriented education (labs, computer science)
  • Secondary academic school emphasizing economics [wirtschaftskundliches Realgymnasium]
    more chemistry classes (lower level), economics, psychology and pedagogics, home economics and nutrition
  • Upper-secondary academic school (for science) [naturwissenschaftliches Oberstufenrealgymnasium]
    upper-secondary academic school including geometrical drawing or additional biology, ecology, physics and chemistry classes – see secondary academic school emphasizing mathematics and science
  • Upper-secondary academic school specializing in instrumental music [Oberstufenrealgymnasium mit Instrumentalunterricht]
    focus on music (musical education, instrumental music classes)
  • Upper-secondary academic school specializing in fine arts [Oberstufenrealgymnasium mit bildnerischem Schwerpunkt]
    upper-secondary academic school emphasizing art and handicraft classes

Special Types

Just as conventional secondary academic schools, the special types also emphasize general education. These special types comprise schools for students gifted in music, arts and sports as well as schools for cadre athletes and the school for the ballet students of the Vienna State Opera.

Some examples:

  • Secondary academic schools emphasizing mathematics and science and upper-level secondary schools with a special focus on sports: aptitude test. These school types emphasize sports and physical education without aiming at taking pupils to top performances in the individual kinds of sport.
  • Upper-secondary academic schools for students of music: from the 9th year onwards, lasting for 5 years, applicants either have to be students of the conservatory or another music college (instrumental music) or do an aptitude test (background in instrumental music).
  • Secondary academic schools for people under employment which last for nine semesters. Evening classes, correspondence courses possible in some cases (pilot project). Admission requirements: successful completion of grade 8 of compulsory schooling, completion of the 17th year of life in the calendar year of admission; entry into the world of work or completed vocational training; temporary unemployment does not, however, provide an obstacle to admission; upon proof of the relevant knowledge students may ask to be put into a higher semester or to be allowed to skip a semester.
  • Federal upper-level boarding schools are full-time secondary academic schools which also provide for student residences.

Admission, Transfer

Admission to the first year of a secondary academic school is conditional upon successful completion of the fourth year of primary school and the pupil's performance in the subjects German and mathematics, which needs to have been assessed as "excellent" or "good", or upon recommendation by the teaching staff of the primary school.

If a pupil fails to meet these requirements, he or she has to take an entrance exam.

As far as admission to secondary academic schools is concerned, division into school districts is of no relevance, but if there are too many applicants for one school, the order of admission follows certain criteria such as the performance of the student, the length of the school way and the number of the student's brothers and sisters already attending the respective school.

Transfer to another secondary academic school is possible, transfer to another school type, however, is conditional upon an entrance exam which covers the areas not included in the entrance exam of the previous school.

Transfer from a lower secondary school to a secondary academic school without having to do an entrance exam is possible if the student has either attended set I in the subjects German, mathematics and foreign language and has, moreover, obtained the mark "satisfactory" or a better one in all the other subjects or if he/she has completed the respective lower secondary school year with distinction.

Upon completion of the fourth year of a lower secondary school students may transfer to an upper-secondary academic school without having to do an entrance exam upon the condition that they have either successfully completed set I in the subjects German, mathematics and foreign language or that they have obtained the mark "good" or a better one in these subjects and "satisfactory" or a better one in all the other compulsory subjects or that they have completed the respective year with distinction in set II.

Compulsory Electives

From the sixth year onwards students may set their own priorities by choosing compulsory electives which meet their individual interests and skills. Depending on the chosen school type students have to choose a certain number of compulsory electives (8 to 12 hours).

Compulsory electives are either offered in the form of additional subjects (e.g. a further foreign language or computer science) or are designed to deepen and broaden knowledge and skills already acquired in compulsory subjects. Compulsory electives are assessed on the same basis as compulsory subjects.


The "Reifeprüfung"-Certificate is a school-leaving certificate which provides access to studies at institutes of higher education.

The "Reifeprüfung"-Exam puts emphasis on reality-oriented studying, independent working, interdisciplinarity and on foreign languages.

The subjects in which the students have to sit an exam differ according to the school type. Each student, however, has to do a written exam in the core subjects of German, mathematics and foreign language. Students who opt for a fourth written exam only have to do three oral exams, all others have to do four.

In addition to that, special attention is being paid to the students' individual interests providing them with the opportunity to choose among various types of written and oral exams. Instead of doing a fourth written exam students may also choose to do a written project in the first semester of the eighth year. This written project will be discussed in the course of the oral "Reifeprüfung"-Exam and is supposed to prepare students for university-like working methods.

The oral exam specializing in a particular subject area either comprises the combination of a compulsory subject with a deepening compulsory elective or the combination of two related compulsory subjects.

The student is free to choose the subject area. In accordance with his teacher he may also decide on the field of the specialized question asked in each oral exam; as for the core question the focus, however, remains on the student's sound knowledge in the respective subject.

Geändert am: 06.04.2018

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