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Assessment in vocational lower secondary education (VMBO)


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.6Assessment in vocational lower secondary education (VMBO)

Last update: 27 November 2023

Pupil assessment and evaluation in the upper years of secondary education

Pupil assessment in the upper years of secondary education is broadly the same as in the lower years of secondary education. For more information see chapter 6.3.

Continuous assessment

  • Takes place throughout the school year. At most schools pupils receive a report three or four times a year.
  • Each school has its own assessment system.

Summative assessment

  • Is carried out using tests and observation methods.
  • The Secondary Education Act sets out the requirements that school boards must meet.

Pupil progression

Pupils who have successfully completed the theoretical programme in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) may transfer to the fourth year of senior general secondary education (HAVO). Pupils who have successfully completed HAVO may transfer to the fifth year of pre-university education (VWO) provided they meet certain requirements. For more information about pupils progressing to another type of secondary education, see chapter 6.4.



The VMBO leaving examination consists of every subject in a school examination (i.e. physical education, social studies and arts I) or of a school examination and a national examination (the other subjects).

  • The school examination consists of an exam file. This file contains several parts such as a school project, this is a practical assignment on a theme from the sector in which the learner follows education. The school exams are normally spread over the penultimate and final school year, but take always place before the national examination.

All learning pathways in VMBO have a common segment, a profile segment and an optional segment. The common segment comprises the Dutch and English language, social studies, physical education and at least one of the subjects in visual arts, music, dance or drama.

  • The national examination consists of central written exams and combined written and practical exams. The national examination is normally conducted in the last school year and has three periods. The first is in May, the second in June and the third in August. In May, all students do their exam. The other periods are for students who have to take the exam again or students who have to overtake an exam. 

The final grade for the final exam for all pathways of VMBO are established as follows: for each subject or program the grade for the school examination is combined with the grade for the national examination. A candidate is graduated if:

  • The arithmetic mean of the marks obtained at the central examination is at least 5.5.
  • He / she has obtained at least a 5 for the subject Dutch.
  • He / she has obtained one 5 and further grades of 6 or higher.
  • He / she has obtained one 4, further grades of 6 or higher, including at least one 7 or higher.
  • He / she has obtained two fives, further grades of 6 or higher, including at least one 7 or higher.
  • He / she has achieved for physical education and arts I 'satisfactory' or 'good'.
  • The school project is assessed with 'good' or 'satisfactory', in case of the theoretical (VMBO-TL) or combined program (VMBO-GL). 

The final grade, for the vocationally-oriented subject in VMBO-B (basic vocational programme) and VMBO-K (middle-management vocational programme), is counted as two grades. An unsatisfactory final grade for this vocationally-oriented subject is counted as two unsatisfactory grades. For example: the grade ‘7’ is counted as two times a ‘7’, and the grade ‘5’ is counted as two times a ‘5’. If a student obtained a grade ‘4’ for the vocationally-oriented subject, it means that he/she did not pass the exam.

Another results determination accounts for students who, via learning support (LWOO), follow the work-study program. Students in the work-study program should take at least an exam in Dutch and the vocationally-oriented subject and for both subjects they must achieve at least a grade ‘6’. 

Not all subjects are marked numerically:

  • physical education and arts I in the common component, and the school project, are marked as ‘satisfactory’ or ‘good’;
  • the mark obtained in the school examination for social studies counts in its entirety towards the final results.

Pupils who pass the exams receive a VMBO certificate that specifies the learning pathway followed. Pupils who followed a combined work and study programme receive a VMBO certificate for the basic vocational/work-study pathway. Pupils who trained to assistant level receive a level 1 MBO certificate. Pupils leaving a school for practical training receive a certificate of attendance.

Source: Examination decision Secondary education (only available in Dutch)