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Access to universities in Spain

abril 1, 2021
tareas de una asistente ejecutiva Access to universities in Spain

In order to study a career in Spain you must know the steps to take in the admission process of any university in the country.

There is only one word that you must remember if what you want is to enter one of the universities in Spain: selectivity. You may have already heard of it throughout your school career. Perhaps as soon as you stepped foot in high school, everyone around you started thinking about this and somehow the shock wave got to you, growing your fear about it.

You should not fear, selectivity is a test that all students who wish to access higher education in Spain take, but that is not a reason to panic, since this is one more instance within the admission process of any house of Higher Education studies. A stage that you must overcome successfully, but that you can face as many times as you need.

Admission to the universities of Spain

As we said before, the selectivity is an unavoidable exam in Spain for anyone seeking admission to a higher-level institution. Of course, there are many details to know about it, information that will help you clear up your main doubts and allow you to face the test with greater confidence.

The selectivity, however, is not the only test you will have to take, because depending on the institution you want to enter, you may have to face another kind of exam. Private centers, for example, have their own admission test, in addition to requiring selectivity.

And then you can find different access methods depending on the situation of each future student.

How is access to universities in Spain?

There are specific entry modalities for those who have technical qualifications, that is, those who have completed Higher Level Vocational Training or have studied in Institutions of Higher Grade Special Regime Teachings. There are also different conditions of access to the upper level, for those adults over 25 and 40 years old.


The selectivity test is one of the most characteristic features of the Spanish Higher Education system. Actually the correct name of this exam is University Access Test (PAU) and the admission of young people who finished high school to a university depends on its overcoming.

The PAU is divided into two parts: General Phase and Specific Phase. The General Phase is compulsory and consists of 4 exercises focused on the areas of Spanish Language and Literature, Foreign Language (English, Italian, German, French and Portuguese), History of Spain or History of Philosophy (at the student’s choice) and subject second year of Baccalaureate modality (at the student’s choice)

A fifth exercise will be carried out in the Autonomous Communities that have another co-official language (Basque, Galician, Catalan).

These exercises will last an hour and a half and there will be a 45-minute break between exam and exam.

Refering to Specific PhaseThis is optional, the student decides to do it or not depending on their study objectives. Specifically, the Specific Phase is based on modality matters that are not included in the General Phase. These subjects must be related to the study program that the student intends to study at the university.

The students will be able to appear to the selectivity as many times as they wish. Many repeat the exam in order to obtain a better grade, since in some careers it is necessary to achieve a certain grade to be able to access the studies, taking into account that the number of places offered is less than the number of students who wish to access they. It is in these cases that a court note is required. This grade varies according to the academic institution and the degree and changes every year.

Although in some races it is important to achieve a high score, in many others the grade obtained in the PAU is not so restrictive. In those cases, the percentages of admitted is higher.

There are two calls for the completion of the selectivity test, one is given in June and is known as the ordinary call, the second is the extraordinary call for those who have not been able to pass the first test or wish to raise their grade.

The place where this exam is carried out will depend on the study center in which the student has completed the secondary studies, because the test is carried out at the university to which the secondary school is attached.

Admission tests to private universities

The vast majority of private universities take the selectivity as part of the requirements demanded within their admission process, but in addition to this, they also carry out their own entrance tests.

The admission tests of each private institution of the higher level will be specific to each institution, that is, there is no general criterion in this regard. In any case, these tests usually measure knowledge, skills, language level and the psychotechnical aspect of the entrant.

The personal interview is part of the entrance exams that this class of study centers carry out.

These admission tests are usually carried out throughout the year on the days and times that each institution has set for this purpose.

Access for those with technical qualifications

Graduates of Professional training of a superior level, of Institutions of Higher Grade Special Regime Teachings or from Teaching Institutions higher grade sports have a different access to the university system.

This class of professionals does not have to take the University Access Test on a compulsory basis, because the technical qualification obtained allows them to access university education without selectivity.

In the event that there is a greater demand than available places in the career that these future students would like to do, they should attend the Specific Phase of the PAU to improve their admission grade.

Access for adults over 25 years

Adults over 25 years of age will be able to access an alternative entry method to the selectivity test, although we must say that the process is quite similar.

As a main requirement, the future student must have reached their 25th birthday before October 1 of the year in which they take the test.

The test is divided into two phases: one general and one specific. The first consists of three exercises. The first exercise will be based on the elaboration of a text on a current topic. The second exercise will focus on the Spanish Language and the third, on a foreign language (English, Italian, German, French or Portuguese). There will be a fourth exercise in those Autonomous Communities with another co-official language.

In the specific phase, 5 branches of knowledge will be addressed: Arts and Humanities, Sciences, Health Sciences, Social and Legal Sciences and Engineering and Architecture. The applicant will have to carry out two exercises in the areas of knowledge related to the chosen career.

The call for this test is carried out once a year by each institution that uses this admission method.

Access for adults over 40 years old

Adults over 40 years of age who do not have a higher level qualification and wish to access a university degree may do so without taking the PAU.

These, unlike what happens with adults over 25 years of age, will not have to perform any exam. They should only go through a personal interview, upon request to the rector of the house of studies to which they wish to enter.

General entry requirements to the Spanish Higher Education level

There are two general requirements for access to Higher Education in Spain: having the Bachelor’s degree and do the selectivity.

In the first case, the completion of secondary studies is a mandatory requirement and is part of the admission process of any type of higher-level institution. On the other hand, it is the complement of the selectivity test to obtain the necessary score in order to access a university.

The PAU It is mandatory since this test is required in all university institutions in the country.

Documentation to present to enroll in a university in Spain

Documentation is an elementary step that you must complete perfectly to avoid unforeseen events when enrolling in a university.

What you have to take into account to enter the Spanish university system is the following:

  • Identification document.
  • High school grades certificate.
  • PAU card.
  • Complete pre-registration.