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Assessment in general upper secondary education


6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary Education

6.3 Assessment in general upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Student Assessment

According to the national curriculum, assessment forms an integral part of teaching and learning.

Schools apply both formative and summative assessment of knowledge and skills. The notion of formative assessment means assessment taking place during studies, in the course of which the student’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and behaviour are analysed, and feedback is provided on the student’s previous results and shortcomings. The student is encouraged and guided in further studies and the future objectives and routes of studying are planned.

Students are assessed on a five-point scale. According to the assessment regulation, a school may also use a different assessment system but when a student is graduating from upper secondary school or changing schools the grades have to be converted into the five-point system. The majority of upper secondary schools using a different system have adopted assessment practices that are similar to the ones used in higher education institutions. A 100-point system is used for marking state examination papers. Course grades and study stage grades are given at the upper secondary school level.

Graduating from upper secondary school

In order to graduate from upper secondary school, students have to pass state examinations in mother tongue or – in cases specified in the national curriculum for upper secondary schools – in Estonian as a second language, mathematics, foreign language, school examination and student study or practical work. Students may choose to perform the foreign language examination in Russian, English, German or French. State examinations are held only in English. In Russian, German and French they are replaced by international proficiency examinations. A student is not required to take a foreign language examination if the he or she submits to the school valid examination papers or a certification attesting to the achievement of level B1 or higher in an internationally recognised examination, e.g., First Certificate in English (FCE), DALF C1 level, Goethe-Zertifikat C1 level, etc.

Upper secondary school examination results are taken into consideration for admission purposes at institutions of higher education. 

In general, state examinations are written examinations. The state examinations are prepared by working groups of specialists in relevant subjects and the students' state examination papers are evaluated by state commissions. The procedures for carrying out state examinations are established by the Ministry of Education and Research. The evaluation commissions for state examinations grade the coded state examination papers on a 100-point scale. A result for a state examination of at least one point of 100 indicates a pass.

Progression of Students

The standard period of study in upper secondary school is three years; the period of study may be prolonged or shortened on the basis of an individual curriculum.

The conditions of and procedures for assignment of supplementary study to a student are set out in the school's curriculum. A student acquiring upper secondary education is expelled from school in case he or she receives, in any of the academic years, “poor” or “weak” as a course grade in more than half of the courses in three or more subjects. The school rules may establish additional bases for exclusion from upper secondary school.


Students or external students who have fulfilled the conditions for graduation from upper secondary school are issued an Upper Secondary School Leaving Certificate. The results of state examinations and electronic certificates are made available electronically to people having passed the examinations. The data of State Examination Certificates and Upper Secondary School Leaving Certificates are entered in the Estonian Education Information System (EHIS) into the sub-registry of educational certificates.

The Education and Youth Authority issues the State Examination Certificate. The school where a student studied issues the School Leaving Certificate. A State Examination Certificate is valid only together with an Upper Secondary School Leaving Certificate. A school leaving certificate is valid as an independent educational certificate also without the school report or a state examination certificate.

From the academic year 2013/14 onwards, the Upper Secondary School Leaving Certificate is issued by the school on the basis of a decision of the teachers’ council to:

  • students whose study stage grades are at least satisfactory or, in case of elective subjects, satisfied or passed;
  • students who have passed school examination of upper secondary school with at least satisfactory result;
  • students who have completed a research paper or practical work during the upper secondary school period with at least satisfactory result, unless they graduate as external students;
  • students who have passed final examinations in mother tongue or Estonian as a second language, mathematics and foreign language (English, French, Russian or German) to the extent required for these subjects with at least one percent of the maximum score. Students have been given the opportunity to take an internationally recognised language test in English, German, French or Russian. According to the laws of the Republic of Estonia, internationally recognised language exam is equated to a foreign language state exam. Students can take either the national English B1/B2 examination or the Cambridge English C1 Advanced examination delivered by the Education and Youth Authority.

Students with special educational needs whose school curriculum or individual curriculum recommended by the counselling committee has reduced or replaced the learning outcomes provided for in the national curriculum for upper secondary schools will graduate on the basis of the learning outcomes determined by the school curriculum or by an individual curriculum.

A school leaving certificate is issued after the state examination certificate has been issued.