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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Assessment in vocational upper-secondary education


6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary Education

6.6Assessment in vocational upper-secondary education

Last update: 24 January 2024

Student/trainee assessment

Despatch No 6605-A/2021, 6 July, determines that the frameworks of curriculum development (including external assessment) are the exit profile of students leaving compulsory schooling, essential learning and the National Strategy for Citizenship Education, as well as the professional profiles/competence frameworks (when applicable). 

Vocational courses

On vocational courses, internal assessment of learning is both formative and summative. 
Formative assessment is part of the teaching and learning process, supporting its development and facilitating pedagogical measures that suit the students and the learning objectives.
Training in a work context (FCT), summative assessment is the joint responsibility of the supervisor and the tutor of the host organisation, and this proposal is presented to the assessment class council for consideration. 

Summative assessment is marked on a scale of 0 to 20. External evaluation of learning includes assessing the capacity to mobilise and integrate all knowledge, skills, attitudes and professional skills, in addition to the internal assessment of learning, through the vocational aptitude test (PAP).

On the courses that started in the 2018/19 and following school years, external assessment is undertaken as a complement to the internal assessment.
On these courses, external assessment is the professional aptitude test (PAP), which includes the assessment of the student’s capacity to use all the knowledge, skills, attitudes and professional skills acquired on the course.
The external nature of the vocational aptitude test is provided by a panel including respected external figures of vocational training or course-related sectors. It involves the presentation and defence of a project regarding a product (material or intellectual), an intervention or performance, depending on the nature of the different courses. It also involves the respective final report and critical assessment that demonstrates the vocational knowledge and skills acquired during the training and which is key to the student’s professional future.

Specialised artistic courses

On specialised artistic courses, internal assessment is both formative and summative.
Formative assessment is part of the teaching and learning process, supporting its development and facilitating pedagogical measures that suit the students and the learning objectives.

The summative assessment provides an overall appreciation of students’ learning and demonstrates the need to inform students and parents, or guardians about learning progress. It is formalised in class council meetings at the end of each semester and a grade is given on a scale of 0 to 20.

Courses in the areas of dance and music may also include final exams in the scientific and technical-artistic training subjects, as well as the administration of tests for grade transition, which take place by the end of February.

Internal assessment is completed via the external evaluation of learning that must include assessing the capacity to mobilise and integrate all knowledge, technical, artistic and relational skills, attitudes and professional skills through the artistic aptitude test (Prova de Aptidão Artística - PAA) in grade 12.

The external nature of the artistic aptitude test is ensured by a panel that includes respected external figures in the artistic field and other representatives from of the sector of the respective course. It consists of the presentation and defence of a project based demonstrates the knowledge and technical and artistic skills acquired by the student throughout their training and the respective final report with a critical appreciation. 

Own-school-curriculum courses

The learning evaluation system for students attending own-school-curriculum courses is regulated by the course creating ordinances, which establish the principles and procedures for the evaluation and certification of students studying upper secondary, dual certification own-school-curriculum courses at public, private and cooperative schools/educational establishments.

Summative evaluation is graded on a scale of 0 to 20 and is undertaken according to the characteristics of each discipline and training component and to previously defined parameters. It may have one of the following types of tests: a) written; b) oral; c) practical; d) a written test with a practical component; e) a project; f) an aptitude test.

The abovementioned tests focus on the learning throughout all the years that subject syllabus covers.

Apprenticeship courses

On apprenticeship courses, the learning assessment process includes:

  • Formative assessment, which occurs in skills units and/or short-term training courses and the training in a work context component. It is systematic and continuous, allowing for a readjustment of the teaching-learning process that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes that foster greater autonomy in learning.
  • Summative assessment, which occurs in skills units and/or short-term training courses and the training in a work context component. It predominantly adopts practical tools. This assessment is expressed on a quantitative scale from 0 to 20 points.

The final assessment consists of one or more practical assignments, resulting in a final evaluation test.

Progression of students/trainees

Students’ progression depends on summative assessment and there are specific criteria for each type of educational provision. This leads to decisions being made on grades and the completion of each subject, module or short-term training unit progression in ongoing subjects, transition/progression to the following grade, acceptance of enrolment and completion of upper secondary education.

For courses initiated before the 2018/19 school year, grades in physical education (when is part of the basic curricular model) do not count towards the final average grade of upper secondary education, except when the student intends to continue studies in this subject area. 

With the publication of Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July, from the 2018/19 school year onwards (for the initial years of cycles/courses), physical education is now considered, alongside all other subjects, for calculating the final classification of all secondary education courses.  
Moral and religious education is not considered for these purposes. 

With regard to training path readjustment, this is planned, in line with Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July, for courses that started in the 2018/19 school year and Decree-Law No 139/2012, 5 July, for courses begun in previous school years.

This way, it is possible for students to readjust their training path through the permeability between courses with curricular affinities and the system of equivalences, enabling the student to study on another course of the same or other educational type.

The training path readjustment process between courses is regulated by Legislative Order No 29/2008, 5 June, which makes amendments to Legislative Order No 36/2007, 8 October. These changes improve the existing redirection system through more flexible solutions and expanding the diversity of the current of upper secondary education provision.

Vocational courses

Passing each subject and training component depends on obtaining of a mark equal to or higher than 10 in each module or short-term training unit. Passing the  training in work-context (FCT) and the vocational aptitude test is also dependent on obtaining a grade equal to or higher than 10 in each.

Successful completion of a vocational course is obtained by passing all training components, subjects, UC, UFCD, FCT and PAP.

Students on vocational courses only do final national exams as self-proposed candidates, if they choose to pursue studies in higher education, such as entrance exams for the courses they apply for.

In addition, Decree-Law No 11/2020, 2 April, created a special application mechanism for higher education access for students coming from the vocationally oriented courses at upper secondary level. This includes vocational courses, which means that those higher education institutions interested can offer a new access route appropriate for vocationally oriented courses. Under this decree-law, candidate assessment considers the respective training course results, as well as the tests set by HEIs they apply to. 

For courses beginning before the 2018/19 school year, for purposes of progression, students are given the option to take final national exams that effect their final grades, in accordance with Decree-Law No 139/2012, 5 July. In this case, students take final national exams in the subject of Portuguese from the general training component of science-humanities courses and in a chosen subject from among those that make up the curricula of the various science-humanities courses.

Specialised artistic courses

For a student to pass each course, FCT (when applicable) and artistic aptitude test, they require a final grade of 10 or over.

In the case of dance and music courses:

- progression in scientific and technical artistic training subjects occurs irrespective of progression in general training subjects.

- a grade of less than 10 in any scientific and technical training subjects prevents progression or approval in the respective subject, without prejudice to progression or approval in the other subjects.

Students doing specialised artistic courses only take national final exams if they choose to study in higher education, as they constitute entrance examinations for the courses they apply to.
In addition, Decree-Law No 11/2020, 2 April, created a special application format for access to higher education for students from vocationally oriented upper secondary education pathways, including specialised artistic courses. According to this legislation, higher education institutions can create a new entry pathway that are tailored to such students. According to this decree-law, candidate ranking considers the results of the respective training paths and the exams conducted by the higher education institutions they apply to.

Own-school-curriculum courses

To pass the FCT and PAP, a student needs a final grade of 10 or more in each subject. The attendance grade in the final year of multi-annual subjects cannot be lower than 8.

A student’s transition to the next school year occurs whenever the annual attendance or final subject grade, depending on the situation, is not lower than 10 for more than two subjects.

In the transition from 11th to 12th grade, the subjects in which the student did not pass when moving from 10th to 11th grade are also considered.

Students moving from one grade to the next with 8 or 9 in one or two subjects can enrol in all subjects in the next school year. However, students do not pass subjects in which they have obtained a grade of less than 10 in two consecutive years.

For more detailed information, see course creating ordinances.

Apprenticeship courses

A trainee’s progress throughout the training cycle depends on them gaining a minimum score of 10 in the summative assessment and at the end of each training period in all training components.

Taking the final assessment test (PAF) depends on obtaining a grade of 10 or higher in the skills units and/or short-term training courses by the end of the third training period, inclusive, as well as in training in a work context.
For the purposes of concluding the course, the minimum classification for the final exams must be equal or higher than 10. 
Trainees who successfully complete apprenticeship courses and want to continue their studies are subject to the access requirements of the courses they wish to study, which include special application formats for access to higher education.


Course completion in vocational upper-secondary education is certified via the award of:

  • A diploma that indicates completion of upper secondary education (grade 12), the concluded course and respective final grade, as well as the level of qualification (level 4), according to the National Qualifications Framework (QNQ) and the European Qualifications Framework (EQF);
  • A certificate that indicates the level of qualification, identifies the subjects/training components and respective final grades, as well as the exam results obtained in the external assessment and the level of qualification according to the National Qualifications Framework (QNQ) and the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

All dual certification upper secondary education courses confer a level 4 qualification (National Qualifications Framework/European Qualifications Framework), except for specialised artistic courses in music, which confer level 3 qualification (NQF/EQF).