Course of Study

Marlborough is divided into two divisions, the Middle School (Grades 7, 8, and 9) and the Upper School (Grades 10, 11, and 12). The curriculum is centered on a required core of studies, believed to be fundamental for all students, and elective courses, designed to fit the interests of individual students. Classroom groups are small enough to permit individual attention, and students have the opportunity to take regular, honors, or Advanced Placement level courses.

In the Middle School, students are required to take a minimum of six courses each semester. In the Upper School, students are required to take a minimum of four academic courses each semester. Special Studies courses are taken in addition to the four required courses. Most Upper School students take five academic courses and elect other non-academic courses to complete their course plans.

Academic Requirements

In the Middle School, Grades 7-9, full-year requirements are as follows:

  • English
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • World Languages

In the Middle School, Fine Arts requirements are as follows:

  • Grade 7 and 8: five quarters of Fine Arts, includes one required Performing Arts course, and one quarter of Visual Art.
  • Grade 9: one year of Visual or Performing Arts. Semester courses must be taken in the same area, must be sequential classes, and cannot be taken in lieu of Physical Education.

In the Middle School, Physical Education requirements are as follows:

  • Grade 7 and 8: six quarters total of Active Electives
    • Grade 7: required one quarter class of Health 7 and Swimming
    • Grade 8: required one quarter class of Health 8 and Fitness
  • Grade 9: Health

In Grade 7 one quarter of Digital Presence for Social Impact is required.

Graduation Requirements

The following are graduation requirements to be completed in Grades 9-12:

  • English: each semester (American Studies may be substituted for English II).
  • Mathematics: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II; three years of mathematics.
  • History and Social Sciences: United States History (AP United States History or American Studies) and Modern History (Modern World History, Modern World Honors, or AP World History).
  • Science: three year-long science courses (9th Grade Biology or 9th Grade Biology Honors required).
  • World Languages: through level III of a language (at least two years).
  • Physical Education: four semesters, including Health, and Emergency Preparedness and Water Safety. Dance may be taken to fulfill P.E. requirements.
  • Fine Arts: one full year in Grade 9, and two additional semesters in Grades 10-12. Semester courses in Dance can be taken to fulfill either a Fine Arts or P.E. requirement. Art History or AP Art History fulfill only one semester of the requirement.

These are minimum requirements and many colleges to which Marlborough sends its graduates strongly recommend one year of mathematics beyond Algebra II (especially in the senior year); four or five years of one foreign language, or any combination of two years of one and three of another foreign language; two additional semesters of History and Social Sciences; two semesters in the Fine Arts; and electives in the Sciences. Choices depend on the student’s interests, on the kind of record she wishes to present to the colleges, and on the breadth she desires in her education. All departments offer courses beyond the level of preparation for college.

Advanced Placement Courses

Many Marlborough students take College Board Advanced Placement tests in May. Students who score a 3, 4, or 5 on the Advanced Placement examinations may receive college credit or advanced placement at the college level. Advanced Placement examinations are offered in Art History, Studio Art (4), Biology, Calculus (AB and BC), Chemistry, English Literature, Environmental Science, French Language, Latin Vergil, Physics (C), Spanish Language, Statistics, United States History, and World History.

Beyond AP Courses

Students wishing to challenge themselves beyond the Advanced  Placement level may choose to take the following courses: Honors Computer Science Projects, Honors English Seminar, Honors French Literature and Cinema, Honors Hispanic Literature and Film, Honors History Seminar, Honors Humanities Seminar, Honors Mathematics Seminar, Honors Multivariable Calculus and Differential Equations, Honors Research in the Humanities, Honors Research in the Social Sciences, Honors Research in Science. 

Special Studies

An option available in all departments, Special Studies gives students an opportunity to study topics not in the standard curriculum. It is designed for students who have challenged themselves in all aspects of a department’s course offerings and would like to continue their study within the department.

2019 - 2020 Courses

7/8 Grade Electives

Active Electives

In 7th and 8th grades students participate in a variety of activities organized into quarter electives. Emphasis is placed on the development of effective motor skills, physical fitness, positive self-image, good sportsmanship, and interest in physical activities and sport. Each year, students in grades 7 and 8 are required to take three active electives.

Fine Arts Electives

The Performing and Visual Arts Departments at Marlborough believe that there is an interrelationship and interdependence among all disciplines in the arts. The programs are designed to enable students to form an appreciation for the creative process, develop the personal commitment needed to complete a piece of work, establish an appropriate level of technique and skill in their chosen disciplines, and to recognize artistic quality. Each year, students in grades 7 and 8 are required to take three fine arts electives. NOTE: Students who participate in the Fall Performance or Middle School Play are required to take two fine arts electives.

Communication, Design and Technology Electives

To better prepare students for future endeavors, we strongly encourage participation in courses that foster creativity, curiosity, and problem solving. Students in grades 7 and 8 have the opportunity to select from a number of different electives to apply and integrate their knowledge. Each year, students in grades 7 and 8 are required to select two communication, design, and technology electives.

Extension Electives

Each year, the elective program in grades 7 and 8 will offer the opportunity to substitute one of the Communication, Design, and Technology elective requirements with one extension class. Extension classes offer an opportunity for students to explore a unique subject or build a specific skill that is not offered under our regular program. Classes in this category will vary year-to-year based on interest and instructor availability.


Whether in reading, writing, or speaking, the ability to use language artfully and interpret it critically enhances our understanding of self, others, and the world in which we live. The English Department’s goal is to develop these skills through the study of literature. Many different teaching styles are employed, but every English class seeks high levels of participation in student-centered discussions. We challenge students as writers by asking them to work with a variety of genres and styles, giving special emphasis—particularly in the upper grade levels—to the formal academic essay. We also believe that students’ critical skills are best developed through challenging encounters with a variety of genres, styles, historical periods and cultures. In the midst of this diversity, our larger focus of instruction is consistent at every grade level—to strengthen the skills with which our students express themselves and to enhance their ability to analyze the world around them.

English IV Honors: Semester Electives

Senior year affords students the opportunity to take two English electives, one per semester. These electives represent a wide range of literary study to appeal to students’ various interests.


Yearbook, UltraViolet, and Other Publications See CEI/Media Electives

Fine Arts: Performing and Visual Arts

The Performing and Visual Arts Departments at Marlborough believe that there is an interrelationship and interdependence among all disciplines in the arts. The programs are designed to enable students to form an appreciation for the creative process, develop the personal commitment needed to complete a piece of work, establish an appropriate level of technique and skill in their chosen disciplines, and to recognize artistic quality. Students are expected to communicate effectively in both verbal and written form about the art genre in which they are participating, develop confidence in their accomplishments, value cooperative interaction, and to cultivate a personal approach evolving from the aesthetics of a broad range of artistic styles and disciplines. The Performing Arts Department offers a full range of courses in dance, theater, and music. Dance Dimensions, Marlborough Chamber Choir, Marlborough Ensemble Theatre and Instrumental Ensemble are performing groups open only by audition. The Visual Arts Department offers a full range of courses in drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, metals, filmmaking, and digital arts.

For Other Media-Related Courses See CEI Electives.


To be eligible for admission to the University of California, students must take one year-long course in visual or performing arts. The following Marlborough courses fulfill the UC Fine Arts requirement:

* Indicates that the courses must be taken in the fall/spring of the same school year

*Beginning/Intermediate Ceramics
*Beginning/Intermediate Sculpture
*Beginning/Intermediate Photography
Digital Storytelling
Foundations in Drawing and Painting
Art History
AP Art History (see History and Social Sciences section for course description)
AP Studio Art—Drawing
AP Studio Art 2D Design
AP Studio Art 3D Design
*Dance I/II
*Dance III/IV
Dance Dimensions
Drama I/II
Marlborough Ensemble Theater
Concert Choir
Marlborough Chamber Choir

History and Social Sciences

The study of history and human societies is intrinsically fascinating and our classes capture that excitement. The Department’s courses foster rigorous thought about continuity and change over time and interactions among societies. They also teach students to think about history by analyzing geography, politics, economics, demography, social and cultural systems, as well as arts and ideas.

Our Middle School courses introduce ancient societies and modern world cultures in ways that breathe life into both old and recent history for students. Students begin honing their skills as readers, writers, and analysts, and build a base for more advanced Upper School study of both American and World history. In addition, the Department offers courses in non-historical social sciences, especially in our elective offerings.

Understanding the present and grappling with the future demands a comprehension of the past. History’s tales of human aspirations, strivings, accomplishments, and failings help our students become knowledgeable, engaged, effective citizens of their country and of the increasingly global society in which they live.

United States History Requirement:

Students must satisfy the United States History requirement in Grade 10 by taking one of the three following year-long survey courses or by enrolling in the interdepartmental American Studies program:

Modern World History Requirement:

Students may satisfy the Modern History requirement in Grade 11 or 12 by taking one of the three following year-long survey courses:

Upper School Semester Electives

The Department’s offering of electives aims to provide opportunities to pursue further study in history and social sciences. Electives offered in past years have included: Twentieth Century American Popular Culture, Politics, Globalization and International Economic Development, Economics, The Modern Middle East and South Asia, American Political Thought, The Sixties, History of Imperialism, Africa and the Atlantic World, Globalization in Latin America, The Supernatural in Latin American Culture and America in the Cold War.

Mathematics and Computer Science

The curriculum for the Mathematics and Computer Science Department stresses the development of problem-solving techniques, logical reasoning, and data analysis.

The Mathematics Department prepares students for college-level mathematics, teaches students to become independent problem solvers, and strives to motivate students to appreciate the elegance and wonder of mathematics. The Department is aware of developmental issues unique to young women in math; to that end, our courses can be viewed as an ongoing open dialogue among teacher and students. The Department emphasizes the integration of technology in its courses. Calculators and computer software help the students apply what they learn to real world applications and also to visualize more challenging mathematical concepts. The Department uses many teaching strategies including lecture, partner work, collaborative groups, and projects in the pursuit of its goal of providing young women with the best possible mathematics education.

The Department requires the use of a TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator in all courses beginning with Geometry or Geometry Honors. In order to develop students’ number sense, no calculators are used in Pre-Algebra and Algebra I.

Computer Science Curriculum

The field of Computer Science encompasses a broad range of skills that will be essential to the next generation of leaders: problem solving and computational thinking, translating ideas into code, design and engineering, and combining technical ability with creativity. The core ideas of computer science can be applied to many different areas: business, security, entertainment, art, engineering, and science.

The Computer Science curriculum has been designed with two general goals in mind: 1) to give students a first introduction to creating with code, and 2) to provide a solid foundation for students who would like to continue to study computer science in college and beyond. The curriculum emphasizes fundamental ideas in computer science theory, and also gives a broad view of the varied applications of computer science. In our classes we rely on open technologies, avoiding dependence on specific vendors or software ecosystems. However, we also encourage students to embrace new technology and to explore the creative potential of cutting-edge hardware and software.

Physical Education

Promoting the physical well-being of the members of the Marlborough School community is part of the mission of the School. The Physical Education Department serves as the leader and main constituent in attaining this goal. The Department recognizes the individual needs of the students and strives to help each student develop her personal capabilities to her fullest potential. Through participation in a variety of physical activities the Department helps students develop an appreciation for the importance of regular exercise and behavior patterns that will lead to a healthy lifestyle, reduced stress, illness prevention, proper nutrition, and overall fitness. In addition to teaching the particular skills and strategies for specific sports, the Department helps students develop socialization and leadership skills through activities that foster cooperation, team building, and sportsmanship. Various modes of technology are utilized to enhance the students’ understanding of fitness and the sports included in our curriculum. Each student is nurtured to develop a positive self-image as a “physically-educated” individual, able to implement the knowledge and skills she learns in class into her life. This goal is explicitly expressed in our Department philosophy of “Fit for Life.”

In Grades 7-8 students are exposed to a variety of activities to expand their experiences and develop into well-rounded young women. By exploring new activities in the various units, some students may choose to pursue their interests in a more competitive direction by joining an athletic team.

In Grades 9-12 students enroll in four semester electives. The focus in Grades 9-12 is on life-long skills, personal fitness, stress management, and more in-depth instruction in activities of special interest to the students. Dance electives can fulfill the Physical Education requirement.

9th - 12th Grade Electives

The requirement for grades 9 - 12 will be 4 semester credits which may be fulfilled in the follow ways:

  1. Health in 9th grade
  2. Emergency Preparedness/Water Safety in grades 9th - 12th
  3. Completion of Athletes’ Conditioning and the appropriate season of that sport
  4. Semester electives


The goals of the Science Department at Marlborough School are as follows: to help students develop an understanding of science concepts and skills that enable them to develop a love of science and an appreciation for the role of science and technology in everyday life; to provide students with the fullest possible preparation for success in college science programs; to nurture self-confidence and a sense of worth in young women, intellectually, emotionally, and socially at all levels of scientific endeavor; to promote the concept of working in cooperative groups; and to demonstrate the interrelatedness of scientific disciplines through the use of innovative curricula and a variety of teaching methods.

The curriculum is structured so that students have an opportunity to discover, explore, manipulate, contemplate, and experience real science. Laboratory and classroom experiences foster critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that enable students to take charge of their life-long learning process. The laboratory, in particular, is a place for students to test their ability to think critically and creatively while working cooperatively with their peers. Students are also provided with opportunities to develop their skills in using computers for data collection and analysis in the laboratory, and to research and study via the Internet.


Electives in Science may be offered yearly, rotate from year to year, or may not be offered in subsequent school years. When possible, this is noted in the course description.

Honors Research in Science
See Courses Offered Through The CEI for course description.

World Languages

In the modern languages, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish, the sequence of courses develops the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and includes appropriate cultural, historical, and literary materials at all levels. The goal of the Department is to enable students to attain increasingly higher levels of proficiency as measured by the national standards set forth by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The Department uses the AAPPL (ACTFL Assessment of Progress Toward Proficiency in Languages) assessment in the spring to determine whether a student has attained the proficiency necessary to advance to the next level. In addition, the Department seeks to instill an appreciation of Chinese, Francophone, and Hispanic cultures. To better facilitate these goals, students should expect to use little or no English in class. In the Latin courses, speaking and listening are less emphasized, and special attention is given to the structure of the language, as well as cultural, historical, and literary aspects of Latin, and its profound influence on the English language. Students are encouraged to go beyond Level III in World Languages either by taking more advanced courses in their current language, or by starting another language.

Courses and Programs Offered Through The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI)

For students wishing to extend their learning experience beyond Marlborough’s traditional curriculum, the CEI offers a range of courses and programs focused in five interdisciplinary areas: Entrepreneurship, Media, Robotics, Research, and Computer Science.

Honors Capstone Program

Capstone Projects allow highly-motivated seniors to pursue a passion outside of the School's core curriculum. In these year-long projects, typically taken in lieu of a fifth academic course, students choose a field of interest largely unrelated to their scholastic work, deepen their knowledge of that field through a combination of research and hands-on experience, identify a specific problem or question within the field, propose a solution, and attempt to implement that solution in the form of a project or practicum. Students are encouraged to drop one core academic class in the Senior year to accommodate the considerable time commitment. Students may pursue a Capstone Project or Honors Research, but not both. Students seeking further information should contact the Dean of Studies.

Honors Research Program

Research advances human knowledge and deepens understanding. Asking a question and creating a hypothesis are essential to any research project in any discipline. Research also entails designing methods and models to evaluate the validity of the researcher's hypothesis, as well as conducting searches and reviews of the scholarly literature to situate the researcher's ideas within the broader body of existing knowledge. There are two types of academic research. Pure or basic research aims to increase knowledge without an intentional application, while applied research extends knowledge for specific practical purposes. The following classes are offered for students interested in learning more about the research process and pursuing an independent research project:

Media Studies

Student Publications offer a variety of training in real-world, hands-on media skills in several disciplines. Students interested in journalism and producing a print publication should take Newspaper Production 1, 2 or Yearbook production. Students interested in more visual aspects of media should take VTV for video and podcast production or Special Studies in Visual Media for photography and graphic creation. Students interested in exploring possibilities are encouraged to take Newspaper Production 1 which provides a variety of training in all areas of journalism - print, online, and broadcast.


Entrepreneurship is more than the act of creating a business--it’s about transforming the world by solving big problems, like initiating social change, building a life-changing service, or creating a new product. While entrepreneurs are different in many ways, they also share certain traits: they embrace new thinking and are open to new ideas. They’re drawn to opportunity. They want to help people and make the world better. Anyone can be an entrepreneur, and our Entrepreneurship Program helps students turn their ideas into successful products and services that have real impact. Empowering students to define their future and maximize their impact, Marlborough’s entrepreneurship courses provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills, networking and partnership opportunities, and coaching and mentoring to help them launch their products and services to their target markets. Middle School students can take the Middle School Entrepreneurship elective, and Upper School students can choose from a variety of course offerings. Those who want to pursue the Honors Capstone can apply to participate in the Marlborough  Xcelerator during the spring of their Junior Year (see more information in the Capstones section).

Honors Capstone Program in Entrepreneurship
See Honors Capstone Program.

Cross-Referenced Electives

Computer Science See Mathematics and Computer Science

Engineering Design & Analysis See Science electives

Robotics See Science electives

Additional Resources