The Danish Gymnasium offers a 3-year general academically-oriented upper secondary programme which builds on the 9th-10th form of the Folkeskole and leads to the upper secondary school exit examination (the studentereksamen). This qualifies a student for admission to higher education, subject to the special entrance regulations applying to the individual higher education programmes. Colloquially gymnasium refers to what is formally called STX.
Apart from the common gymnasium, there are other types of academically-oriented upper secondary education in Denmark, the main ones being højere handelseksamen ("Higher Commercial Examination Programme"), højere teknisk eksamen ("Higher Technical Examination Programme") and højere forberedelseseksamen ("Higher Preparatory Examination Programme").
The upper secondary school leaving examination can also be taken within special 2-year courses for adult students.
All pupils that have received the relevant education and passed the prescribed examinations can continue to an upper secondary programme of more or less their own choosing.
Access, however, is not always automatically granted to general upper secondary programmes. If a school finds that the pupil and their parents are not taking the education and guidance provided seriously, and/or that there is a risk that the pupil will not be able to meet the requirements of the general upper secondary programmes, the pupil may be recommended to sit for an admission test to one of the general upper secondary programmes.
At the beginning of the course, the students are divided into classes, usually based on their choice of line, and each student takes all his obligatory subjects together with his class, but with a different teacher for each subject.
The course of instruction lasts three years and comprises obligatory subjects common to all students, subjects that are part of the student's line of study, and optional subjects. Many subjects can be studied at different levels, called A, B and C; A is the highest level which usually means the student has to study this subject for all three years of the Gymnasium course.
The obligatory subjects for all students are: classical studies (oldtidskundskab) (level C), religious studies (C), Danish (A), English (B), history (A), mathematics (C), physics (C), physical education (C), and social studies (C). In addition, while English is compulsory for all, each student also has to study another modern foreign language at either A or B level depending on whether it is taken continued or as beginner (the most common are German, French, Spanish and Italian). Continued language courses on B level are only available for German and French. The student is also required to study an artistic subject (e.g. music or visual arts) at level C, and two of the subjects biology (C), chemistry (C) and physical geography (C). Most of the obligatory subjects can be studied at a higher level if the student elects to do so.
The optional subjects are: astronomy, biology, business economics, chemistry, computer science, design, drama, Greek, media-subject, Latin, music, physical geography, philosophy, psychology, rhetorics, study of technology, visual arts, and others. It is also possible to study a third and even a fourth foreign language.
There are certain requirements as to how many subjects each student has to take and at how high levels. For instance, all students have to take at least four subjects at level A (there are two compulsory subjects at this the highest level: Danish and History), and all students have to take a natural science subject at level B.
In addition to the regular subjects there are also a couple of special subjects. The first one is called almen sprogforståelse which teaches the student general linguistics and gives the student the ability to analyze sentences. In addition to the general part of that subject there is also a Latin part which aims to give the student a very basic understanding of the Latin language. It is usually taught by multiple teachers. The idea of the subject is to basis for language related subject throughout the gymnasium. This subject spans over the first half of the first year and ends with a test in both the general and Latin part. Two grades are given where the general part accounts for 2/3 of the grade and the Latin for the remainder. Another subject is almen studieforberedelse. The purpose of that subject is to introduce the student to the three main areas of study the gymnasium deals with: the humanities, social science and natural science. Furthermore does it aim to give the student knowledge about different methodology used by different faculties. Lessons in that subject combination of two or more of the student's other subjects (e.g. Danish, history and physics). The student will learn to use the methodology theory it has learned to work with and solve complex problems.
Because of the scarcity of gymnasiums offering the Classical Line (only 14 in Denmark, see below) and of students choosing the line (mostly between 8 and 12 per year), Classics (klassikere), as the students are often referred to, have gained some kind of special status. Because of the general view of the subjects as dull and boring, Classics are often viewed by others as a little weird or as geeks or nerds. The Classics, on the other hand, indeed having some of the characteristics of a geek, often take pride in being geeks (as many geeks do) and enjoy the subjects.
In keeping with the uniqueness of the Classical Line, instead of the traditional white cap that gymnasium graduates receive, graduates of the Classical Line receive an otherwise identical black cap.
Some examinations are obligatory for all students (e.g. written Danish). Examinations in other subjects are chosen each year by the Ministry of Education for the individual student.
The students performance is marked according to syv-trins-skalaen (the seven-step-scale) and the student must receive at least 02 for the test to be considered passed.
The title of the examination taken at the end of the Gymnasium is the "Studentereksamen". Students, who have passed the "studentereksamen", are presented with a certificate, which contains the following information:
The certificate is signed by the headmaster of the Gymnasium where the examination has been taken. Certificates are drawn up by the Ministry of Education. Only one original certificate may be issued. A copy, including a translated certificate (the certificate is translated into English, German and French) must be designated 'copy'.
Ministerial regulations (concerning the award of credits in connection with teaching and examinations) are issued to students who have followed the instruction and taken examinations from other programmes at upper secondary level.
In 1903, the lines of study were changed to mathematical-scientific, modern-lingual, and classical-lingual, and the name of the schools was officially changed to gymnasium. From 1958 there were two lines of study, mathematical-scientific and lingual, and after first year, the students had to choose between different branches (e.g. modern languages or classical languages). This system was however changed in 1988, where the students in their second year were able to choose more freely between a variety of subjects (a student could for instance have both a language and a scientific subject at the highest level, even if he had originally chosen the mathematical line of study).
The two line system was abolished in 2005 and the gymnasium was completely re-formed. More lines of study, decided by each gymnasium itself, were offered, and it was generally perceived to give a greater amount of customisability to the students. Instead of choosing a line of study when enrolling, the students now only let the school know what line they intend to choose, and the final decision is made after half a year of introduction to the different faculties (primarily the arts, languages and natural science). Furthermore, a wide range of general subjects, like for instance social studies, were made mandatory.