Difference between Middle School and High School
By Theydiffer - October 10, 2016

Education is seen in levels. Everything we learn in school is designed according to the expected level of cognitive development in a child. Surely not all children develop according to the same fixed patterns, and the system may seem a bit forceful in its expectations. However, it would be very difficult to do any other kind of mass education otherwise. Let us see, for example, what is the difference between middle school and high school.


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Middle school, also known as intermediary or junior high school, is the period between primary school and high school. The distribution of grades in this phase of learning can vary from state to state. For some countries, middle school means sixth to eighth grade. For others, it means fourth to eighth grade. We are largely talking about preteens, children aged between 11 and 15.

As far as the curriculum is concerned, this is the learning phase where the basics acquired in primary school are applied in the simplest format. Students enter middle school as children and leave as young adults. Since puberty hits and the cognitive process is affected by the hormonal changes in the body, it was decided that this is a time for applying what was acquired in the learning phase, rather than focusing on acquiring more information. Their perception of adults and authority figures is altered throughout these years. Middle school students still feel the need for adult supervision, although they slowly transition to the desire to be left on their own toward the end of middle school.

In some countries, middle school graduates are required to pass an exam before going to high school. The grade received in these exams might influence their choice of high schools, if there are several different options in a district.

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High school is the level of education corresponding to the teenage to young adulthood period. The information acquired during this time is supposed to be more practical and must help the students prepare for adulthood. Since some students will not go further than high school with their education, these are the classes that are supposed to complete their training for life.

High school students are aged between 14 and 18. The corresponding grades are from 9th to 12th and the students in each year are referred to as freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year students. Their relationship with adults and authority has changed. Also, everybody expects them to act like adults. And this is where high school education is supposed to intervene.

In some places, high school ends in an exam. For most people, this is the most important exam of their lives. These are national assessments intended to help the students find a place in society in accordance to their levels of training.

Middle school vs High School

The difference between middle school and high school lies in the type of curricula. The closer to adulthood the child gets, the more refined the information they receive needs to be. The primary phase of education is one of introduction to all basic concepts (e.g., how to read and write and do math). Middle school represents the phase in which the students are shown how to apply the previously acquired information (grammar and literature, math).

High school is the place where students are invited to think for themselves and apply all that they have learned so far (text interpretation and advanced math). Middle school students can be aged from 11 to 15 and high school students can be aged from 14 to 18. The age difference, matched with the hormonal changes and their view of adults and authority, make for different approaches in education.

Middle school final exams may vary in importance for the future academic career of a student according to the enrollment policies of the state. In some states, middle school final exam results may increase or decrease the chances of students getting admitted to a good high school. High school final exams, on the other hand, are important all over the world, and they are a general assessment of the level of education achieved by a student in their 12 years in school.

Comparison Chart

Middle SchoolHigh School
For students aged between 11 and 15.For students aged between 14 and 18.
Comprises fourth to eighth grade or sixth to eighth grade.Comprises grades 9 (freshman), 10 (sophomore), 11 (junior) and 12 (senior).
Can end in an exam which defines the future of a student’s academic career; this exam helps high schools get an idea of how well prepared a student is, in general and compared to other students.Ends in a very important exam, seen as a national assessment of the whole 12 years of school; this exam will help future employers or universities get an idea of how well prepared a student is, in general, and compared to other students.
A time when the basic information acquired in primary school is applied.A time when students are made to think for themselves and interpret the information.