Berufliche Gymnasien in some cases offer pupils the opportunity to obtain more than one qualification at the same time (double qualification courses of education), viz. a combination of Hochschulreife or Fachhochschulreife (higher education entrance qualifications) and a vocational qualification in accordance with Land law (e.g. for assistant occupations). A vocational education of this kind may also be obtained at institutions combining the Gymnasium and vocational schools (e.g. Oberstufenzentren) or at a particular type of school such as, for example, the Berufskolleg in Nordrhein-Westfalen. These double qualification courses of education at upper secondary level take three to four years to complete.
Under the Duales System (dual system) trainees take an intermediate examination according to the standards laid down in the Ausbildungsordnungen (training regulations) and Rahmenlehrpläne (framework curricula) around halfway through their training. These intermediate examinations are administered by the competent bodies (usually chambers of handicrafts or industry etc.). They may consist of practical, written and oral components. The intermediate examination usually covers the knowledge, skills and competences listed in the training regulations for the first three half-year terms of training, as well as the material taught at the Berufsschule according to the framework curriculum, to the extent it is of material importance for the vocational training. After taking an intermediate examination, the trainee receives a certificate showing his/her current level of training.
Instead of an intermediate examination and a final examination, some training regulations have provided for a so-called gestreckteAbschlussprüfung (extended final examination). This does away with the previously standard intermediate examination, which was not relevant to achieving a pass grade. In the extended final examinations, part of the professional competence is tested after around two-thirds of the training period in part one of a final examination. The second part of the final examination takes place at the end of vocational education and training. Qualifications which were covered in the first part of the final examination will be included in the second part only to the extent required for the assessment of professional proficiency. The result of the extended final examinations is made up of the two partial results.
Progression of Pupils/Students
As far as full-time Berufsschulen are concerned, the comments on promotion on the lower secondary level generally apply. Pupils do not repeat grades in vocational schools – if necessary, the training period may be extended.
Double qualification courses of education at Berufliche Gymnasien which lead up to the Allgemeine Hochschulreife (a general entrance qualification for higher education) or to the Fachhochschulreife (higher education entrance qualification for the Fachhochschule) and a vocational qualification (according to Land regulations) or partial vocational qualification take three to four years and conclude with two separate examinations (academic examination and vocational examination). In addition, there are vocational training courses in which it is possible to obtain a vocational qualification, as well as the Fachhochschulreife. The acquisition of the Fachhochschulreife in vocational training courses requires the Mittlerer Schulabschluss and, according to the version valid at any one time of an agreement of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) made in 1998, is based on standards for contents and examinations.
The programme at Berufsfachschulen (full-time vocational schools) normally concludes with a final examination. In the Berufsfachschulen, different qualifications can be obtained, depending on admission requirements; these qualifications are either of a vocational or a general education nature. At Berufsfachschulen offering basic vocational training, young people can obtain the Erster Schulabschluss (First School Leaving Certificate) or the Mittlerer Schulabschluss (Intermediate School Leaving Certificate) in courses lasting one or two years. In contrast, the two-year full-time Berufsfachschule, for which a Mittlerer Schulabschluss is required, in its various branches of study leads to a professional qualification as a state-certified technical assistant in, for example, biochemistry, garment making, information technology or mechanical engineering or as a state-certified business assistant specialising in business administration, clerical operations, foreign languages or data processing. At Berufsfachschulen, under certain conditions the Fachhochschulreife can be obtained as well as the vocational leaving certificate.
The programme at the Fachoberschule concludes with a final examination after grade 12. This exam covers three general subjects (German, mathematics, foreign language) and one individual specialised subject (e.g. in engineering, business, administration or design). On passing the exam, pupils receive the certificate of Fachhochschulreife, a higher education entrance qualification qualifying them to go on to Fachhochschulen. The Länder may also establish a grade 13 leading to the Fachgebundene Hochschulreife or, if proficiency in a second foreign language is demonstrated, the Allgemeine Hochschulreife.
The course of study in the Berufsoberschule ends with a final examination and leads to the Fachgebundene Hochschulreife and, with a second foreign language, to the Allgemeine Hochschulreife. There is a written final examination in German, a compulsory foreign language, mathematics and a specific subject relevant to the chosen specialisation. Oral examinations can be held in all subjects. The achievements in the final examination count for at least one-third of the total marks obtained for the individual subjects in the final certificate.
In the Duales System of vocational training (dual system), trainees take a final examination or a Gesellenprüfung (final examination which, if successfully passed, leads to the award of a certificate showing proficiency as journeyman) administered by the authorities responsible for vocational training. The responsible authorities include regional and sectoral organisations from the various branches of industry and commerce, e.g. chambers of industry and commerce, of handicrafts, of liberal professions and of agriculture that perform governmental functions in the domain of vocational training. The responsible authorities can also be public service institutions. The competent body shall appoint examination boards which must be composed of at least three examiners, one representative of the employers, the employees and one teacher from a vocational school.
The final examination or Gesellenprüfung consists of several examination areas, which are assessed in practical, written and/or oral tests. This determines whether the trainees have acquired the professional ability to act necessary to practice a skilled occupation within the meaning of the Vocational Training Act (Art. 1, Section 3 of the Berufsbildungsgesetz – BBiG). This includes the ability to plan and perform work processes independently and to inspect and to judge the work result. For the purposes of assessment of performances in individual areas, the board of examiners may solicit expert opinions from third parties, in particular from vocational schools (Art. 39, Section 2 of the Vocational Training Act). Since the amendment of the Vocational Training Act in 2020, it has also been possible to appoint so-called examiner delegations to take and assess examinations. Successful candidates are awarded an examination certificate. Concomitantly, the Berufsschule issues a leaving certificate if the trainee has achieved at least adequate performances in all subjects. The Länder can offer the option to compensate an inadequate performance. This certificate incorporates a Hauptschulabschluss (first general education leaving certificate) and may include a Mittlerer Schulabschluss, depending on the candidate's achievements. Through additional lessons and an additional examination, the Fachhochschulreife (higher education entrance qualification for the Fachhochschule) can be awarded in vocational courses of education accompanying the training. The leaving certificate of the vocational school shows the classification of the final examination and/or the vocational qualification within the German Qualification Framework (Deutscher Qualifikationsrahmen – DQR) and the European Qualification Framework (EQF).
Under the Vocational Training Act (Art. 43 Section 2), anyone who has been trained in a vocational school or other vocational education and training establishment may also be admitted to a final examination carried out by the authority responsible for the vocational education and training, provided this course of education alone corresponds to vocational education and training in a recognised training profession; for this purpose the course of education must be comparable to the relevant training regulations in terms of content, requirements and duration, it must be implemented systematically and must guarantee a suitable proportion of practical specialist training.