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Assessment in vocational upper secondary education


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

6.6Assessment in vocational upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Student Assessment

A threshold-based assessment system is applied in vocational education. The distinguishing assessment scale has three positive (“3”, “4” and “5”) and one negative (“2”) mark. With non-distinguishing assessment, an effort demonstrating a result that is above the threshold is considered “pass” and the one below the learning outcomes threshold level “fail”. Non-distinguishing assessment is mainly used for the studies of practical nature and work practice.  

Completion of vocational training studies

Vocational training studies are deemed to be completed after the achievement of the learning outcomes corresponding to the qualification or partial profession described in the curriculum and issue of a leaving certificate to the graduate.

A student is considered a graduate from a vocational school if he or she has covered the full curriculum. For the completion of studies, a student shall pass a vocational examination or professional examination. Achievement of learning outcomes is assessed with a professional examination that may also be taken in parts. Where taking a vocational examination in a specific vocation or profession is not possible, studies shall be completed by passing a professional examination. In case a vocational examination is not passed, the student has the right to take a professional examination to complete the studies. Where a student has special educational needs, the achievement of learning outcomes is assessed with a professional examination that may be replaced by a vocational examination.

Students graduating from schools or study groups after acquiring vocational secondary education in a language other than Estonian must pass a national examination in Estonian as a second language or, alternatively, a professional qualification examination or a final examination in Estonian. 

At the point of graduation from vocational secondary education, passing state (general education) examinations is voluntary and they are held according to the same principles as those used for students graduating from upper secondary schools. Passing these examinations may become necessary if a student wishes to continue his or her studies in a university or a professional higher education institution where holding a state examination certificate is generally a precondition for entry. Year by year, the number of curricula in higher education institutions that do not require state examinations for admittance is increasing.

Progression of Students

Students have the right to continue studies commenced at one school at another school on the basis of the same vocational or professional curriculum in case vacant places exist.

Students studying in a vocational educational institution according to EQF level 4 curricula (both those acquiring vocational secondary education (ISCED 354) and those pursuing a vocation (ISCED 351)) have the right, provided that vacancies exist, to continue their studies in a general upper secondary school for acquiring general upper secondary education. If the student wishes to go to an upper secondary school grade 11 or 12 and to transfer the results of completed subjects, he or she has to present the school a report to prove the results and volumes of completed subjects. The decision on admitting the student to a study year is made by the teachers' council on the basis of the presented documents.

A student, who is not able to pass general studies in a vocational secondary education curriculum (ISCED 354), but who has passed profession or vocation related modules of the curriculum, has the right to be transferred to EQF level 4 curriculum (ISCED 351), in case such is provided by the school in the relevant subject, which allows the student to complete his or her studies without achieving the learning outcomes of the general study modules. In such a case the student does not acquire secondary education and his or her level of education will be basic education.

Students of vocational educational institutions have the right to receive academic leave related to health problems, raising a child or compulsory military service. In case of academic leave, the study period is prolonged. By agreement with the school, a student has an opportunity to complete a curriculum within a period longer than the standard period of study.   


A vocational educational institution marks the school leaving certificate issued with the type of vocational training passed and the details of the curriculum. A distinction is made between school leaving certificates certifying the acquisition of vocational secondary education, certificates of vocational training (EQF levels 2, 3 and 4) and certificates of specialised vocational training (EQF level 5). Leaving certificates are issued on forms of different colours and marked with a serial identification specific to the relevant type of training. 

Certificate of vocational secondary education certifies that a person has completed the curriculum of vocational secondary education to the full and achieved the learning outcomes prescribed in the curriculum and his or her level of education is secondary education (educational qualification corresponds to that of secondary education level). A person who has acquired vocational secondary education has the right to continue his or her studies on the first level of higher education. A certificate of vocational secondary education with honours may be issued to the student whose weighted average grade is 4.6or higher and who has passed a professional examination with a grade of “5” or who has passed a vocational examination.

Certificate of vocational training and certificate of vocational specialised training certify the achievement of the learning outcomes corresponding to the qualification or partial profession described in the curriculum.  

The school report is an annex to the certificate. As a document certifying acquisition of vocational secondary education or undergoing vocational training, the certificate is also valid without the school report. However, the school report is not valid without a certificate.

A profession is deemed to be awarded to a person upon registration in the register of professions and by a notation made on the academic report or results report issued to the person upon the completion of studies by an educational institution with the right to award professions, and by a notation made on the leaving certificate upon the completion of vocational training and issue of a professional certificate to the person having received the profession, at his or her request. A vocational educational institution may also apply for right of an awarder of profession. Normally, taking a professional examination is for a fee. If a vocational educational institution or an institution of professional higher education does not have the right of an awarder of profession elected without a competition in the relevant curriculum, the expenses of professional examination of students who studied in student training places of formal vocational education formed on the account of activity support shall be covered once if they have participated in the professional examination during the period of study or within a year after graduation. The expenses of professional examination shall be reimbursed to the awarder of profession having conducted the professional examination.