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Assessment in general lower secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.3Assessment in general lower secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Pupil/student assessment

In secondary schools, class- and school-based assessment, both formative and summative in nature, forms an integral part of assessment practice. At the class level assessment for learning provides on-going feedback about both the learners’ progress and the teaching process.

As from school year 2018/2019, the formal continuous assessment of students throughout the school year is being given added importance since now it is being taken into account when assigning students the final mark at the end of the year. A mark for continuous assessment is entered by the teacher twice a year, once in the second term and another time at the end of the school year. The weighting assigned to continuous assessment varies from 30% to 50% for different subjects.

Teachers also provide feedback to students regarding the learning outcomes being covered in class. Periodically through the year, teachers use an online software package to indicate whether students have mastered a learning outcome, or if this is being mastered or if students are still in the initial stages in its mastery.

Coursework is a type of assessment used in a range of subjects, including vocational subjects. Very often coursework is carried out under the teacher’s guidance, such that teachers provide students the necessary support, analysis and resources if necessary. Some coursework is carried out outside the classroom so that students have ample time and opportunity to research. In school years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, this coursework is not being completed by students because of social distancing measures to mitigate against the spread of the coronavirus.

In subjects such as Art, Fashion & Textile Studies and Home Economics coursework includes the compilation of portfolios. Such portfolios include a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s effort, progress and achievement in one or more areas of the curriculum and so can be used in the assessment of coursework and / or project work.

At the end of each school year students sit for annual examinations in all but a few subjects learnt at school. Subjects that are not examined include PE, Design & Technology, Home Economics and Personal, Social & Career Development (PSCD). The annual examinations are set by the education officers (EOs) and/or heads of department (HoDs) in the respective subject, in collaboration with the Educational Assessment Unit (EAU) within the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes (DLAP).

Detailed marking schemes are provided to teachers to enhance the reliability of the scoring process. Furthermore, moderation of samples of exam scripts is carried out by EOs and/or HoDs. Examinations are marked on a 100-point scale.

Parents/guardians have access to the online marks which teachers assign to their children and to view the progress made by their children towards achieving the learning outcomes. Parents/guardians also have the opportunity to discuss with teachers their children’s performance in school during twice-yearly Parents’ Days held each school year.

At the end of compulsory secondary education students can opt to sit for Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examinations set by the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) Examinations Board within the University of Malta. Some SEC exams, like languages and music, have an oral and/or aural component while other subjects include a coursework/school-based component. The proportion of marks allocated for coursework varies between 15% and 60%. Yet These marks have a significant effect on the grades awarded to candidates. The school-based component in each of these subjects is moderated by MATSEC examiners. The model of moderation employed is an external/inspectorial one. Through moderation, the MATSEC Board checks that the objectives of coursework are being achieved. SEC written exams comprise two papers: a core paper (Paper I) taken by all students and a second paper: Paper II. The second paper is offered at two levels: Paper IIA and Paper IIB. Paper IIA is considered as more demanding than Paper IIB. The two-tiered option aims to extend access to different attainment levels to students at different competency levels. Students who achieve a pass mark in SEC examinations attain a certificate that is accredited at Level 2 or 3 (depending on the grades achieved) of the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF). 

Progression of pupils/students

During the secondary cycle students are promoted from one year to another on a minimum performance in the assessment of the subjects learnt. Students who fail to make the grade may be asked to repeat the year if it is considered to be in their best interest. However, this is resorted to only in rare cases and after consultation with the students’ parents/guardians.


Upon completion of the five-year secondary education cycle students are awarded the Secondary School Certificate and Profile (SSC&P), a certificate that includes a record of all formal, non-formal and informal activities that illustrates what a student knows and can do at the end of secondary education. Thus, this certificate gives credit not only to students’ academic performance and general conduct during the school years, but also to non-formal and/or informal learning and personal development that takes place during their spare time both at school and outside school hours.

Furthermore, the SSC&P also recognizes each student’s personal qualities and provides evidence of attendance during the five-year secondary cycle. In this way the certificate validates and documents all learning to provide a holistic picture of each individual student. It is a cumulative record showing the student’s development over the secondary school years. The certificate carries the endorsement of the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) and is pegged at Levels 1, Level 2 or Level 3 of the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF).

Furthermore, secondary school students who attain Grades 6 or 7 in the SEC examinations are awarded a certificate pegged at Level 2 on the MQF while students achieving Grades 1 to 5 in SEC examinations are awarded an MQF Level 3 certificate. The table below provides a description of the proficiency levels equivalent to the grades achieved:

The Level 2 or 3 qualifications attained upon completion of secondary schooling are the qualifications requested for entry into post-secondary general and vocational institutions.





Grade 1

Indicates an overall excellent grasp of the subject. The level of attainment is that expected of the ablest candidates.

Paper 2 A

Grade 2

Indicates a very high level of achievement overall.

Paper 2 A

Grade 3

Indicates a high level of achievement but falls below this level in certain sections of the examination.

Paper 2 A

Grade 4

Indicates a good overall level.

Paper 2 A

Paper 2 B

Grade 5

Indicates a good level, but not overall, and is the minimum level acceptable for further studies in the subject.

Paper 2 A

Paper 2 B

Grade 6

Indicates a general grasp of the subject but not a sufficiently deep understanding of it.

Paper 2 B

Grade 7

Indicates a low level of attainment and is the minimum certificate grade.

Paper 2 B



Paper 2 A

Paper 2 B