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Assessment in general upper secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.6Assessment in general upper secondary education

Last update: 27 March 2024

Pupils/Students Assessment

In the qualification phase of the gymnasiale Oberstufe (upper level of the Gymnasium), performance is assessed on a scale of 15 to 0, which correlates with the usual scale of 1 to 6 as follows:

  • Mark 1 is equivalent to  15/14/13 points depending on the trend of marks.
  • Mark 2 is equivalent to  12/11/10 points depending on the trend of marks.
  • Mark 3 is equivalent to        9/8/7 points depending on the trend of marks.
  • Mark 4 is equivalent to        6/5/4 points depending on the trend of marks.
  • Mark 5 is equivalent to        3/2/1 points depending on the trend of marks.
  • Mark 6 is equivalent to              0 points.

Progression of Pupils/Students

In the gymnasiale Oberstufe the last two grades are known as the qualification phase. Marks obtained in this phase are used to calculate a pupil's total marks, composed of marks received in courses taken in these two years and the marks achieved in the Abitur examination. There is no procedure for promotion during the qualification phase, however, it is possible to repeat a year if the marks required for entrance to the Abitur examination have not been attained. In the school year 2022/2023, 2.1 per cent of pupils at the nine-year Gymnasium and 2.0 per cent of pupils at the eight-year Gymnasium repeated a grade.

Abitur examination and certification

School-leaving certificates may be acquired at the end of upper secondary level courses of education subject to the same basic conditions as described for lower secondary level.

The gymnasiale Oberstufe concludes with the Abitur examination. The tasks are set state-wide in almost all Länder by the ministry of education and cultural affairs, whereby teachers or the candidates or both in some cases can make a choice. In almost all Länder, the questions are either set on a uniform basis by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of a Land. In order to be admitted to the examination, certain requirements have to be met in the qualification phase. The Abitur examination covers four or five examination subjects, which must include at least two subjects at a level of increased academic standards and two of the following three subjects: German, foreign language and mathematics. Additionally, all three subject areas (languages, literature and the arts; social sciences; mathematics, natural sciences and technology) must be included in the examination. The required minimum three written examinations must cover at least two subjects at an increased level of academic standards, which must include at least one of the following subjects: German, foreign language, mathematics or a natural science. The oral Abitur examination is taken in a subject which has not been examined in written form. As a rule, written and possibly oral examinations are taken in three subjects, whilst in the fourth subject, only an oral examination is taken. Depending on the legislation of a Land, a fifth subject can be examined in either oral or written form, or a particular achievement (besondere Lernleistung) which has been performed over at least two half-year terms (e.g. a year paper, the results of a multi-disciplinary project or the performance in a recognised competition) may be incorporated in the Abitur examination. The particular achievement is to be documented in written form, and is complemented by a colloquium. Upon passing the Abitur examination, a Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife (general higher education entrance qualification) is acquired, which also includes two thirds of the academic performance in the qualification phase. The Allgemeine Hochschulreife is awarded if the total marks attained are at least adequate (average mark 4 or a minimum of 300 of 900 possible  points).

The comparability of the examination procedures and examination requirements is guaranteed for all Länder by the Uniform Examination Standards in the Abitur Examination (Einheitliche Prüfungsanforderungen in der Abiturprüfung – EPA) or the educational standards for the Allgemeine Hochschulreife. General criteria are available for the design, correction and assessment of standard-based Abitur examination tasks and suitable written Abitur examination tasks including the necessary evaluation sheets are provided in a pool of Abitur examination tasks. Abitur task pools have been available to the Länder for the subjects German, English, French and mathematics since the 2017 examination year. From the 2025 examination year, common pools will also be provided for the science subjects biology, chemistry and physics. The task pools were developed jointly by the Länder; the development was coordinated by the Institute for Quality Development in Education (Institut für Qualitätsentwicklung im Bildungswesen – IQB). 

The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife is issued in the Länder between mid-June and mid-July. An exception is Rheinland-Pfalz where the general higher education entrance qualification at the nine-year Gymnasium is issued before March 31.

Upon transition to vocational education and training and to higher education study, to document foreign language competences on the leaving certificate the level descriptions of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) are documented alongside the grades. A Europe-wide coordinated documentation of foreign language, bilingual and intercultural competencies is offered, for example, by the Europass and, in the case of mastery of two foreign languages at least at level B2 of the CEFR, by the CertiLingua label of excellence.