I have been studying here for 8 months now and I think that I am able to tell you the differences between studying in France and studying in the US.
Grades in France are different than here: you are graded on 20. Between 0 and 7 it is absolutely bad, between 7 and 10 it is not good but you almost get it. You need 10 to pass and it is not really easy to get 10 sometimes. The point is that you could not expect having more than 15 at an exam (except finance or accounting, of course). Grades are really hard. I would say that 15 is A -. If your average is under 10, you don’t pass and you have to do the same year again. (and also the same classes)
First of all, when you get admitted at a business school, you follow a program already well defined. You don’t choose your classes. The first year is general: you study finance, accounting, strategy, marketing, information technology systems… Then, for your second year, your have to choose your major. For instance, if I choose marketing I will have “consumer behavior”, “advertising” and “international marketing." You cannot change them. You actually choose an entire program. That is why you have to do your year again if you fail.
Then, exams are really different. In France, exam last 2, 3 or 4 hours. In addition to that, you have most of the time to write many pages. Forget QCM or short questions. We are used to write between 5 and 8 pages per exam. It depends on the exam, for instance, in Finance, you have to solve practical problems. Actually, I love writing. So, here, it is sometimes hard for me to summarize my ideas… 3 pages? Too short!
In France, don’t expect that your professor grade your exams quickly. I see a lot of American students who are looking forward to hearing back from their professor about exams. After one week, they are so impatient! In France, you have to wait at least one month to get your results. One month is generally the shortest time. During my first year at the French university, I waited more than two months to get my exams back. Believe me, you are never used to it!
Then, professors change exams each year. There is no risk you can cheat or copy your exam. Indeed, it is completely useless for you and your friends. I think, personally, that it is a good idea to do that in order to avoid cheating.
The main difference is about the price of the university. In France, universities are almost free for everybody (almost 300 euros for one year and you also have your health insurance provided). On the other hand, buildings are not modern at all and it is really hard to find a print for instance! You don’t have the best conditions to study but you can study anyway! I have to tell you one more thing: business schools are private in France so they are not related to universities. Business schools cost between 5000 and 15000 euros per year. Consequently, it is most of the time better to study there because you get better conditions to study and you get the network!
Last but not least, companies don’t care about your grades while they are recruiting. But they look at your education background carefully. Your school and its ranking are very important. Then they look at your experiences and skills. Of course, it depends on the company’s culture and size. It is also not as common as here to have a part-time job while studying. They would rather to be involved in student clubs. Consequently companies judge candidates on their past internships and skills they have developed. You can guess that French students can get very good internships even though they had bad grades at school.
I hope I could provide you information about the French system. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions!