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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: 28 February 2024

Student assessment

According to the General Upper Secondary Education Decree (Valtioneuvoston asetus lukiokoulutuksesta 810/2018), 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.

Based on the Act on General Upper Secondary Education 714/2018, 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. (General Upper Secondary Education Decree, Valtioneuvoston asetus lukiokoulutuksesta 810/2018)

Matriculation examination

At the end of general upper secondary education, students take the matriculation examination. This exam has two main purposes: it acts as a final certificate to show that students have met the curriculum's requirements and are mature enough according to the goals set. It also allows them to apply to higher education institutions, as these institutions use the exam results for student admissions.

Based on the Act on the provision of matriculation examination (Laki ylioppilastutkinnon järjestämisestä 672/2005), in the matriculation examination, all candidates are required to take at least 5 tests, among which the mother tongue and literature test is mandatory for everyone. The candidate then chooses at least 4 other tests from at least 3 of the following subject groups: 

  • a mathematics test,
  • a test in the second national language,
  • a foreign language test,
  • a test in either humanities or science.

In their examination, candidates can choose to take 1 or more additional tests, which are of equal value as the 5 compulsory tests. 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 3 consecutive examination periods. The examination may also be completed in 1 examination period.

After passing the examination, candidates have the option to enhance their exam results by taking additional tests or repeating any test as often as they wish. There are no time restrictions for adding to the examination or retaking a test after passing.

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).

According to the Act on the Matriculation Examination 502/2019, certificate of matriculation is awarded to a student who has acceptably passed the compulsory tests of the matriculation examination and who is been awarded one of following:

  • the general upper secondary school certificate or equivalent foreign education
  • an initial vocational qualification referred to in the Vocational Education and Training Act (531/2017) or a corresponding prior qualification
  • a vocational qualification of a minimum scope of two years or equivalent studies based on a basic education syllabus other than that referred to in paragraph 2 or corresponding earlier studies, as well as additional studies prescribed by the Matriculation Examination Board. 

Progression of students

The curriculum for general upper secondary schools mandates a minimum of 150 credits for completion. This curriculum is structured in accordance with the guidelines specified in the National Core Curriculum for General Upper Secondary Schools 2019 (Lukion opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2019). According to the General Upper Secondary Education Decree (Valtioneuvoston asetus lukiokoulutuksesta 810/2018), the curriculum specifies certain study units for each subject or group of subjects. Students must pass these units to move forward in their studies. If a student does not meet the required standards, they are given a chance to show they have the necessary knowledge and skills to continue their education.

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 study unit. 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 must make a request for a reassessment within 14 days of having the results.

According to the Act on General Upper Secondary Education 714/2018 every student pursuing upper secondary education must create a personal study plan, which includes plans for their studies, matriculation examination, and future studies or career after graduation. Different students may have different syllabi in the same subject. The study plan is developed with the support of the institution's teaching and guidance staff at the beginning of the studies and is updated regularly. Formulating and following a study plan guides students towards goal-oriented study unit 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.


According to the National Core Curriculum (Lukion opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2019) 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 general 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. Additionally, a separate certificate for the completion of the matriculation diploma and the oral language proficiency test is provided as an annex to the final diploma.
  • The certificate for completion of a syllabus is given to a person who has completed the syllabus of one or more general upper secondary school subjects.
  • The certificate for resignation from general 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:

  • the title of the certificate
  • the name of the education provider
  • the date of the authorization granted by the Ministry of Education and Culture for organizing general upper secondary education
  • the name of the educational institution
  • the student’s name and personal identity number
  • the studies completed
  • the location, the date of issuance of the certificate, and the principal's signature
  • the grading scale
  • a 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 credits 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 school-leaving certificate and the certificate for completion of a syllabus also include a section titled "Additional Information". This section notes certificates that are provided as an annex to and complement the final certificate, detailing demonstrations related to general upper secondary education studies. This includes completed general upper secondary school diplomas, oral language proficiency tests, as well as a breakdown of thematic studies and other studies included in the general upper secondary education curriculum that are not part of the subject curricula.

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 "Additional Information” section.

The certificate for resignation from general upper secondary education will indicate the subjects and number of credits completed, together with a grade for each subject either in numbers or a pass/fail mark. 

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

Criteria for certification for matriculation is explained in this chapter, under the headline “Matriculation examination”.