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Assessment in general upper secondary education


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

6.3Assessment in general upper secondary education

Last update: 31 May 2023

Pupil/student assessment

According to the General Upper Secondary Schools Decree, the students and their parents or other guardians are to be provided with information concerning the individual students’ schoolwork and progress of studies at sufficiently frequent intervals. This provision of information is determined in more detailed in the national core curriculum ( Lukion opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2019 ). Assessment is based on the objectives defined in the national core curriculum. Each course is assessed once it has been completed. The purpose of assessment is to give students feedback on how they have met the objectives of the course and on their progress in that subject.

The grade for the overall subject syllabus is basically determined as the mathematical average of the grade of the individual courses. A student who wants to raise a grade has to be given an opportunity to take a separate examination to raise the grade.

According to the General Upper Secondary Schools Decree, students’ knowledge and skills in each subject or subject group are assessed by the students’ teacher or, should there be several teachers, jointly by the teachers concerned. The final assessment is carried out by the principal together with these teachers.

The scale of grades used in numerical assessment is 4–10. Grades indicate following knowledge and skills

  • 5 adequate
  • 6 moderate
  • 7 satisfactory
  • 8 good
  • 9 very good
  • 10 excellent 

Grade 4 is reserved for a failed performance. Some courses are assessed with passed/failed. In some cases, numerical grades can be complemented and specified by written verbal assessment or oral feedback given in an assessment discussion.

In Finnish: General Upper Secondary Schools Decree (810/1998)

Matriculation examination

At the end of general upper secondary education, students take the matriculation examination. The examination consists of at least four tests; one of them, the test in the candidate’s mother tongue, is compulsory for all candidates. The candidate then chooses three other compulsory tests from among the following four tests: the test in the second national language, a foreign language test, the mathematics test, and one test in the general studies selection of tests, ie. sciences and humanities. 

The candidate may include, in addition, as part of his or her examination, one or more optional tests. The objective for the matriculation examination is to better measure whether students have acquired the knowledge and skills of the upper secondary curriculum and achieved sufficient maturity and eligibility for further studies in accordance with the objectives.

The examination languages are Finnish and Swedish.

The Matriculation Examination is held biannually, in spring and in autumn. Candidates must complete the examination during not more than three consecutive examination periods. The examination may also be completed in one examination period.

After passing the examination, candidates can later supplement their examination with additional tests or retake a test once. There is no time limit for supplementing the examination or retaking a test once passed.

There is a separate assessment system for the matriculation examination. The tests are initially checked and assessed by each general upper secondary school’s teacher of the subject in question and finally by the The Matriculation Examination Board.

The Latin grades and the corresponding points given for the tests are: 

  • laudatur (Latin for "praised", 7),
  • eximia cum laude approbatur ("passed with exceptional praise", 6),
  • magna cum laude approbatur ("passed with much praise", 5),
  • cum laude approbatur ("passed with praise", 4),
  • lubenter approbatur ("satisfactorily passed", 3),
  • approbatur ("passed", 2), and
  • improbatur ("failed", 0).

Acts in Finnish:

Act on admissions register and matriculation examination register (1058/1998)Act on the provision of matriculation examination (672/2005)General Upper Secondary Schools Act (629/1998)

Progression of pupils/students

The general upper secondary school syllabus consists of a minimum of 75 courses. The order of completion of the courses will be detailed within the national upper secondary school's core curriculum ( Lukion opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2019). The Upper Secondary Schools Decree prescribes that for each subject or subject group, the curriculum shall determine the courses which students are required to pass in order to progress in the subject or subject group concerned. A student who has not completed the aforementioned studies to an acceptable standard shall be given an opportunity to demonstrate that he or she has achieved sufficient knowledge and skills in order to progress in studies.

Since instruction in general upper secondary schools is not tied to year classes students do not need to repeat a year class in case of a failed course. Teachers and principals decide upon students' grades. As regards the correction of the assessment, students have the right to know the assessment criteria applied. A student not satisfied with the assessment may request correction from the principal of the institution, from a teacher, or from a person who has committed the evaluation.  A student has to make a request for a reassessment within 14 days of having the results.

The syllabus of a subject comprises compulsory and specialisation courses which a student has to study according to his or her individual study plan, and from applied courses that are closely related to them. Different students may have different syllabi in the same subject. The student’s study plan will become more focused during the studies. Formulating and following a study plan guides students towards goal-oriented course selections.

Studies completed at another educational institution may be accredited in the upper secondary school syllabus, provided that their objectives and core contents are equivalent to those set out in the upper secondary school curriculum.

There are no regulations regarding the number of attempts the student can make to redo a failed course.


A student who has completed the entire general upper secondary school syllabus shall be awarded a leaving certificate. A student who leaves school without completing the general upper secondary school syllabus shall receive a certificate of resignation containing marks for the studies completed. A student who has completed one or more subject syllabi shall receive a certificate on completion of a syllabus.

The following certificates are used at upper secondary school,

  • The general upper secondary school leaving certificate is awarded to a student who has completed the entire general upper secondary school syllabus.
  • The certificate for completion of a syllabus is given to a person who has completed the syllabus of one or more upper secondary school subjects.
  • The certificate for resignation from upper secondary school (certificate of resignation) is given to a student who leaves school before completing the entire general upper secondary school syllabus.

The general upper secondary school certificates must contain the following sections:

  • title of the certificate
  • name of the education provider
  • name of the educational institution
  • name and social security number of the student
  • completed studies
  • date of award of the certificate and the principal’s signature
  • information about the educational institution’s licence to award certificates
  • grading scale
  • specification of the language syllabi

The general upper secondary school leaving certificate and the certificate for completion of a syllabus will indicate the subjects studied, the number of courses completed within these subjects and the grade for each subject in words and numbers (such as: very good…9) or a mark for acceptable completion of the subject (passed).

The leaving certificate and the certificate for completion of a syllabus also include a section entitled "Further information". This section will be used to mark certification of additional proof of learning appended to and complementing the leaving certificate, such as

  • the completed general upper secondary school diplomas
  • the completed oral language proficiency tests
  • a specification of the studies completed at other educational institutions as part of the general upper secondary school syllabus, which are not included under subject syllabi.

If a student has completed more than half the courses in a subject syllabus in a language other than the school’s actual language of instruction, this must also be indicated on the certificate in the "Further information’ section.

The certificate for resignation from upper secondary school will indicate the subjects and number of courses completed, together with a grade or a pass/fail mark for each subject. No overall grade will be awarded for completion of the entire general upper secondary school syllabus, either as an average of subject grades or in any other way.

Each general upper secondary education provider will decide on the layout of the certificates that it awards.

The certificate of matriculation is awarded to a student who has acceptably passed the compulsory tests of the matriculation examination and who is awarded the upper secondary school certificate.

In Finnish: General Upper Secondary Schools Act (629/1998)