How end-of-school exams compare across Europe

How end-of-school exams compare across Europe
By Euronews
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However much revising for end-of-school exams can be solitary slog, students can take comfort in the knowledge they are not alone.

Teenagers across Europe and beyond are busy preparing or taking the exams they’ve spent years studying for.

As students in France sit down to take the baccalauréat, we’ve done some homework on how end-of-school exams differ across the continent.


The baccalauréat, generally taken at the age of 18, is the gateway to more study or the world of work.

It is the climax of secondary education and comes in three main forms: the general, professional or technological baccalauréat.

Within the general baccalauréat, students can choose to specialise in sciences; economics and social sciences; or literature.

The professional baccalauréat, created in 1985, prepares the student, first and foremost, for the world of work, while the technological one is more geared to moving the pupil towards further technical studies.

Last year, 88.5 percent of students passed the exam.

The general baccalauréat scored the highest pass rate, at 91.4 percent, against the professional alternative, with 82.2 percent.

This year, 719,000 are set to sit one of the baccalauréat exams.

The baccalauréat was introduced in 1808 by Napoleon I and then focussed on Greek and Latin authors, history, geography and philosophy.

In its first year of operation, 1809, there were just 31 bachelors, compared with 632,700 last year.


Italians take an exam at the end of second school, usually aged 19.

It’s called esame di maturità or maturity exam and around 75 percent of the marks involve written or oral tests.

A baccalauréat – European or International version – is only generally needed if the student wants to study medicine.

United Kingdom

Students in the UK take GCSEs aged 16 and while some will leave school afterwards, most go on to do A-levels.

They generally do this at the same secondary school they did their GCSEs, but sometimes it will be a specialist sixth-form college or higher education institution.

Most students, over the two years from 16 to 18, will study three or four A-levels simultaneously, before taking an exam at the end.


Students that get A* to C grades have passed, anything else is a fail.

The pass rate in 2016 was 98.1 percent and there is a debate each year over whether the exams are too difficult.


Pupils at Gymnasium schools, which are equivalent to the UK’s grammar system, take the Abitur exam aged 18 or 19.

The test, which is also used in Lithuania, Finland and Estonia, is designed to prepare the student for university.


In Spain, 17-18 year olds take what is unofficially called the Selectividad, formally the EBAU Bachillerato.


Like in France, the pass rate is high. But with more passing, this means the bar is raised for getting into university.

As in other parts of Europe, it is, of course, a big coming-of-age moment. Everyone is very scared and afterwards there is a lot of partying.

Students get to choose the broad orientation of their Bachillerato but there are mandatory subjects like Spanish, Spanish history, literature and a foreign language.


The baccalauréat-equivalent in Hungary is érettségi, which is the Hungarian translation of the latin world matura, which means youngsters being mature enough to finish school.

Traditionally, érettségi starts every year on the first Monday of May and lasts until the end of June.


To graduate you have to pass at least five exams: four of them are obligatory for everyone, one of them is optional.

The mandatory subjects are Hungarian grammar and literature, maths, history and a foreign or minority language.


In Russia students must take the Unified State Exam (USE) to graduate from school to university or other higher education establishment.

Students can take a USE in a range of subjects but Russian language and mathematics are obligatory.

The USE is marking its 10th anniversary in 2017.



There are two waves of exams, the first with basic subjects such as maths, economics and history, and a second of specialty subjects such as foreign languages, architecture and music.

Greek students are generally required to have results of what would be 50 out of 100 to be admitted to university.

While it’s not hard to get into university in Greece, it is more difficult to enter the university of their choice.

Good schools and popular masters that are in high demand fill their spots quickly leaving behind a lot of average students to fight for a seat in a college they don’t even want to go to.

Some with scores as low as 19 out of 100 have been allowed to attend technical schools or those such as teaching them to be ferry boat captains.


The results of the exams are posted on boards at the student’s schools, usually by the end of July, and are an annual scene of frenzy and worry as they gather around looking to see what score is next to their name.

The highest-scoring students get first crack at the most desired masters, such as law and medicine, and those seeking to be, for example, teachers, have to see how they fared compared to competitors and how many slots are open for that subject, making the head-to-head rivalry even more worrying.

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