At the end of primary school, students take the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE) to determine which type of secondary school they will attend; all secondary schools offer an academic program along with prevocational courses. Students who score poorly on the examination continue their education in the secondary department of the primary school, which has a four-year program. Those with higher scores go to a community high school, and top scorers qualify for general secondary school. Both higher schools have a five-year program. Students who continue in secondary departments of primary schools and those who enter community high schools take another proficiency examination at the end of Form 3 (Grade 9). Successful candidates qualify for transfer to a general secondary school; unsuccessful candidates remain in their original placement.
Students in all the secondary schools receive instruction in English language and literature, French, art, Spanish, the sciences, geography, history, nutrition, music, and physical education. In the first three years, they are given prevocational courses as well, such as arts and crafts, agriculture, home economics, and industrial arts. General secondary school gives students a wide choice of educational and professional opportunities while preparing them to take the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examination or London General Certificate of Education (GCE), or both. Students who perform well at these examinations qualify for university admission or may pursue studies for the GCE advanced level examination, needed to qualify for higher education out of the country. A multilateral school program within the general high school emphasizes preparation for the CXC examination. It takes an average student five years to prepare for the CXC and an additional two years to prepare for the GCE advanced level examination.