Human capital development, including the expansion and improvement of schooling, has played a crucial role in Vietnam’s strong and relatively inclusive economic growth in recent years. Universal access to primary and lower secondary education have been achieved, but progression to upper secondary remains, for the most part, rationed by entrance examinations and the payment of fees. Both supply and access have improved strongly at upper secondary level since the 1990s, in line with rising demand for higher skilled school-leavers. However, it is less clear whether access to upper secondary schooling, and its wider social and economic benefits, is provided equitably. In this paper we employ a unique longitudinal dataset to examine the patterns of both access and attainment in upper secondary education in Vietnam. We consider their implications for equitable educational progression and the extent to which, in light of these patterns, the system can be described as meritocratic.