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What are the entry requirements for International Schools?

Often times, there is impression that getting enrolling your child into an international school mostly hinges on being able to afford the fees. International schools are known for being the more expensive option for schooling in many parts of the world. However, they do not simply accept a child based on being the ability to afford fees. 

The best international schools will have earned a reputation based on the calibre of students they attract, educate and guide until graduation. This makes it vital for them to ensure the students they admit can demonstrate strong potential to becoming influential members of society. 

This is also part of the reason parents or guardians seek out specific schools. They want to enrol their children where they know they will get a quality education and will nurture them into well-rounded and desirable pupils for universities and employers. So, what kind of entry requirements do prospective students need to fulfil to improve their chances of being selected by top international schools?


Most international schools will have a student body with a significant percentage of foreign students. While students can be of any nationality, including local citizenship, they can only be eligible for enrolment if they hold a valid visa. Tourist or visitor visas are not typically permitted. Foreign students will normally have a dependant visa based on their parents’ employment visa. If the child is over 11 years of age, they should also have acquired a Hong Kong identity card. 

Prior Learning

Some international schools will offer schooling from as early as kindergarten. At this level, admission is typically based on the availability of places. If your child has already been schooling in kindergarten and playgroup, chances are they will be allowed to proceed into primary school at the same international school without issue. The earlier you seek to enrol your child in an international school, the better. This is because at this level there are often more available places for admission. Your child’s date of birth should also adhere to the school’s age guidelines for which year group they should be applying for. 

Note that waiting until the upper year groups to seek admission can may also be more difficult. For instance, if the school you are considering teaches the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum, they are not likely to admit new students from Year 10 onwards. Some schools that offer International Baccalaureate diplomas do not admit new students from Year 12. This can vary from school to school so you will need to confirm with each school’s admission department ahead of the deadline to know more about the cut off. 

Academic Aptitude

If your child has been enrolled in a school that follows a different system, the school you are applying to may request transcripts of their most recent semester or their last exam to help determine academic ability. Some international schools will have an entrance exam for prospective students looking to enrol, especially at secondary level. This testing is typically done for major subjects like Maths, English, and the Sciences. 

Students’ earlier academic records at their previous school and their performance during the entrance exams will help determine which subjects they may take up later. You can talk to the school’s admission department to find out if they have a minimum passing grade to establish your child’s chances of being admitted. 

Language Proficiency

Most international schools utilise English as the language of instruction. This requires students to prove their language aptitude to ensure they will understand teachers, classmates, and the curriculum. This aptitude can be determined by their earlier schooling system and the language of instruction used there. The student may also have taken language classes but may be required to pass language tests like English as a Second Language. Many schools will have English testing as part of the entry exam to ensure language proficiency. Some schools may offer a bridging programme that if taken for some time will allow the student to transition to mainstream classes later on. 

Oral Interview

Many schools will also conduct an oral interview with the child. The interview is not intimidating and is usually handled by a single senior staff member. The purpose of the interview can vary from ascertaining academic aptitude, to gauging what kind of values are important to the applicant. The school will want to ensure the child is a good addition to their community. The impression the student makes on the interviewer will contribute towards the final decision. 

Aside from the above, certain documents will need to accompany the application form. Some of the basic documents you can expect to be requested include:

  • Passport photos of the child
  • Copy of child’s birth certificate
  • Copy of parents’ passports and visa
  • Copy of parents’ work permit
  • Learning needs evaluation (if applicable)

Once the required documentation is submitted, the application fee is paid, testing and interviews completed, and the child is offered a place, there may be additional requirements such as a physical exam report from the family doctor and immunisation records for the child. Vaccination requirements may vary from school to school. 

There are many benefits associated with enrolling your child in an international school. They can enjoy greater attention from teachers due to the smaller class sizes, will also be exposed to more co-curricular activities, a lighter academic workload and multicultural school environment. While the requirements can be tougher the higher the level they seek admission into, there is still a chance they can get in. 

Simply make an enquiry to the entry requirements and admission process of the school you are considering and give yourself ample time to prepare in advance. For instance, if your child has primarily been learning in Cantonese, they may need to enrol in language classes or a prep centre to increase their English proficiency. Knowing what they will be tested on can help to ensure they are better prepared not just to pass the entry requirements, but also eventually adapt to this new learning environment if accepted. 

If your child is rejected, do not be discouraged. You can get in touch with the admissions team to find out why your application fell through and figure out how to better your child’s chances the next time around. Also, try not to be fixated on just a single school. Apply to as many good schools as you can to better your child’s chances of gaining admission.