There are several types of upper-secondary education schools in Bulgaria: upper-secondary schools (gimnazia), general secondary schools(sredno obshtoobrazovatelno uchilishte), upper schools of specialized studies (profilirana gimnazia), vocational schools (profesionalni uchilishta).
Enrollment at vocational secondary schools, upper schools of specialized studies and classes of specialized studies of some general secondary schools after the seventh grade takes place according to the students' results at external national exams and their preferences for schools. The eighth grade admission to those schools is based on the student’s successful performance during the course of their prior studies. However, some vocational schools enroll students depending on the decision by the school principal and the pedagogical council of the school.
Аs of 2012, Bulgarian language and literature, and math exams are mandatory for all students in the seventh grade. Even children who wouldn’t change school/class should take these exams. For some schools, additional examination can be required.
If the student enrolls after the seventh grade, the duration of secondary education is five years and students receive a primary education diploma at the end of the ninth grade. Students who start their high-school education after the eighth grade, get their primary school diploma at the end of their first year and the period of education is four years.
The Ministry of Education is planning changes in legislation as of 2012/2013, following which pupils will complete their basic education after seventh grade.The high school stage will be divided into two levels: mandatory for all students from the eighth to the 10th grade included, and optional 11th and 12th grade for students willing to complete their secondary education. At the end of each stage students will receive certificates entitling them to continue their education at higher education institutions.
Students who go to upper schools of specialized studies obtain skills and knowledge in specified areas. The most common specialist studies in such schools are a foreign language and history; a foreign language and economic studies, or a foreign language and biology. In many cases, after graduating from high school, students from these schools choose to continue their education in the same area and apply for corresponding university majors.
Students who graduate from vocational secondary schools get a certificate of qualification, since their last year mostly consists of practice hours, sometimes in related industries. This certificate can count as experience and it might help if a student wants to start a relevant job immediately after high school graduation.
All students should pass a state school-leaving examination (Matura-matriculation examinations) in order to get an upper secondary school diploma. This examination is in Bulgarian language and literature and one subject of the student’s choice. They are entitled to sit for another matriculation exam of their choice in one other subject. The results of these exams can rank students in some higher schools if the higher institution allows this option.