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Assessment in single-structure education


5.Single-structure primary and lower secondary education

5.3Assessment in single-structure education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Assessment in Single Structure Education

Pupils' Assessment

According to the Compulsory School Act, assessment of pupils’ results and progress is a regular part of school activities. The purpose is to monitor whether pupils fulfil the objectives laid down in the National Curriculum Guide and whether they attain the study objectives, to encourage them to make progress and determine which of them may need special support. Further provisions on study assessment is laid down in the National Curriculum Guide for compulsory schools. 

The objectives of school activities are varied and there are various means to obtain them and therefore assessment methods must be varied. It must be appropriate for the competence criteria, mirror issues emphasised in teaching and take the pupils’ needs into account. Study assessment is to be reliable, impartial, honest and fair for pupils. All aspects of education are to be evaluated: knowledge, skills, competence with reference to the criteria of the National Curriculum Guide.

Examinations and other forms of assessment, usually written, are carried out by individual teachers and schools. Assessment is therefore not standardised between different schools and teachers. Reports are given at regular intervals throughout the school year and at the end of each year. The purpose of assessment by the school and the teacher is above all to help improve learning and teaching and to provide both the parents and the children with information on how their studies are progressing.  Between years 2016 and 2021, fully electronical nationally coordinated examinations organised by The Directorate of Education were carried out in 4th ,7th and 9th grade. As of June 2022, the examinations have been put on hold due to an extensive revision and evaluation phase. 

According to the Compulsory School Act municipalities shall ensure that specialist services are provided in compulsory schools, determine the organisation of such services and conduce towards providing the services within the compulsory school itself. Specialist services include support for pupils and their families as well as support for compulsory school activities and its personnel. 

A regulation no. 585/2010 for pupils with special needs in compulsory education stipulates that all students are entitled to education and support programmes in accordance with their assessed needs in inclusive educational settings. Students with special needs identified to have difficulty learning because of specific learning disabilities, emotional or social difficulties and/or disabilities according to the act no. 59/1992 on the Affairs of People with Disabilities, pupils with dyslexia, pupils suffering from long term illnesses and pupils with health-related special needs, have the right to special study support, according to evaluation of their special needs. In the above regulation it is stated that schools should make a reception program for students with special needs. Also, schools should, in cooperation with parents, work on an individual transition plan for pupils with the most severe special needs within compulsory or special schools to make the transfer to the next school level more coherent and smooth. 

When children start compulsory school at the age of six, the emphasis is on diagnosing their standing. They are for example offered a test for dyslexia, so it will be possible to support those who need it from the beginning of their school attendance. The pupils with special educational needs are provided with special teaching, i.e. remedial teaching provided by an extra teacher in mathematics and Icelandic. Around 25% of compulsory school pupils receive some form of extra support for a short or long time.

The municipalities’ specialist services for compulsory schools aim at furthering compulsory schools as professional institutions which can solve most problems that occur in school activities and to give school personnel appropriate guidance and assistance in their work. On the one hand, specialist services involve support for school operations and school personnel with the pupils’ interest in mind, and on the other hand, to support compulsory school pupils and their parents. The objective of the specialist services is to provide pedagogical, psychological, developmental and sociological knowledge to the advantage of the schools. In implementing specialist services, municipalities should emphasise preventive measures to systematically enhance the general welfare of the pupils and avert difficulties. Early evaluation of the pupil’s status followed by counselling is an important response to educational, social or psychological difficulties so that subsequently it is possible to organise education and assistance in a manner appropriate for each pupil and in cooperation with the personnel of the inclusive school. Specialist services are to be based on a comprehensive overview of the circumstances and interest of the pupils, irrespective of the profession of the specialist or who provides the services. Thus, the decisive factor should always be the pupil’s welfare.

Progression of pupils

Pupils at the compulsory level are automatically moved up from one grade to the next at the end of each year. Academically gifted pupils are, however, allowed to omit a grade following an assessment and decision of the educational specialists and the head-teacher. They can begin their schooling at the age of five or finish compulsory schooling in a shorter time than others. Very few pupils, however, choose to accelerate (0.4%) or lengthen (0.4%) their studies at this level. Grade retention is not practiced but pupils or guardians can request repetition due to special circumstances i.e. long-term illness. The main rule is that pupils are put into a class according to age and pupils with special educational needs are provided with additional support according to their individual needs. Pupils with immigrant background are also provided for in mainstreams schools, but some schools have developed reception provision of immigrant pupils and specialised training of teachers.


Upon completion of compulsory school education, pupils receive a certificate attesting to the completion of compulsory education and recording their final-year study assessment report based on school grades. 

Head teachers determine whether pupils have completed their compulsory school education and are responsible for the pupil’s release from compulsory school. Pupils may leave compulsory school before completing the compulsory 10-year course, if they fulfil the requirements set forth in the description of learning outcomes in the National Curriculum Guide.

The Upper Secondary School Act stipulates that anyone who has completed compulsory education, has had equivalent basic education or has reached the age of 16 is entitled to enrol into upper secondary school. Those that have the right to enrol in upper secondary school, also have the right to study until the age of 18.