In France, the Concours Général is the most prestigious academic competition held every year between students of Première (11th grade) and Terminale (12th and final grade) in almost all subjects taught in both general, technological and professional high schools. Exams usually take place in March, and their results are known in June or July. Students who show great ability in one field are selected to participate by their teachers and their school principal. Most of the time, no more than one student per high school is allowed to participate in the competition, which requires strong knowledge of college level topics. In the humanities and social sciences, the exams involve one or more essays and last 5 hours. In the sciences, the exams last almost as long and are problem-based.
In a given subject, up to 18 awards can be given:
- up to 3 Prizes. A student winning a prize takes part in a ceremony held in the main amphitheatre of the Sorbonne University, where he or she is given the diploma and congratulated by the Minister of Education and members of the government.
- up to 5 Accessits
- up to 10 Regional awards
A student who wins any of the above is called a "lauréat du Concours Général". In Mathematics, the "Lauréat" is invited to a series of conferences at the Institute Poincaré and is usually selected to attend the Clay Institute summer school of science.
Current list of subjects
Students of 11th grade only (all series):
- Latin-French translation (version latine)
- French-Latin translation (thème latin)
- Greek-French translation (version grecque)
Students of both 11th and 12th grades:
Students of 12th grade (General High Schools):
- Philosophy (Two separate exams for Scientific/Economy and Humanities students)
- Mathematics (Scientific section only)
- Physics and Chemistry (Scientific section only)
- Biology and Geology (Scientific section only)
- Engineering (Scientific section only)
- Economics (Economics section only)
Students of technological and professional high schools usually attempt their main subject.
The Concours Général was created in 1744, so being a lauréat of the Concours général is a very prestigious award for any high school student. Many well-known French scientists, artists and literary figures have won the Concours Général in one or even several subjects. Such names include: Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune, Antoine Lavoisier, Camille Desmoulins, Augustin Louis Cauchy, Émile Littré, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Alfred de Musset, Urbain Le Verrier, Charles Baudelaire, Edmond de Goncourt, Marcelin Berthelot, Hippolyte Taine, Fustel de Coulanges, Émile Boutroux, Paul Bourget, Henri Poincaré, Jean Jaurès, Paul Painlevé, André Suarès, Léon Blum, Fernand Gregh, Charles Péguy, Jérome Carcopino, André Maurois, Maurice Couve de Murville, Edgar Faure, Maurice Schumann, Roger Nimier, Laurent Schwartz, Charles Alexandre de Calonne, Maximilien de Robespierre, André Chénier, Jules Michelet, Victor Hugo, Auguste Blanqui, Charles Forbes René de Montalembert, Évariste Galois, Henri d'Orléans, duc d'Aumale, Louis Pasteur, Edmond About, Lucien-Anatole Prévost-Paradol, Sadi Carnot, Émile Faguet, Jules Lemaitre, Henri Bergson, Alexandre Millerand, Émile Chartier (Alain), Maurice Denis, Édouard Herriot, Alfred Jarry, André Tardieu, Jean Giraudoux, Jules Romains, René Huyghe, Georges Pompidou, Antoine Blondin, Louis Néel, Valérie Mangin