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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

Pupil Assessment

The Bylaw on Pupil Assessment in Basic Education defines the assessment of pupils’ progress as a continuous process which should have a positive impact on their motivation and approach to learning. Each pupil should be assessed in compulsory subjects, compulsory options and other activities which he/she takes. Assessment is based on seven principles: objectivity, relevance, the necessity of different assessment methods and techniques, fairness, timeliness, non-discrimination and respect for individual differences, age, capacities, needs, previous achievements and conditions in which the assessment is conducted. 

Assessment of pupils’ learning and development can be formative or summative. 

Formative assessment is feedback about a pupil’s current achievement level and engagement in a course or an activity. The main objectives of formative assessment are the description of the pupil’s current competence level, use of an individualised approach, provision of specific instructions for further learning and development etc. 

Summative assessment is the evaluation of achievement at the end of each term. In the first grade of primary school, assessment is exclusively descriptive, including end of term and end of year assessment. 


In general, grades can be descriptive or numeric. 

Grades are defined as reliable and objective indicators of pupils’ knowledge (or skills, performance, practical work and engagement in case of practical activities, sports or art). They are also indicators of quality and efficacy of teachers’ work. Grades should be public and supported by explanations, which means that they include recommendations for pupils’ further learning and development. There is a five-point numeric scale with the following qualitative and quantitative grades: 5 (excellent), 4 (very good), 3 (good), 2 (pass), and 1 (fail). 

Depending on the weekly instruction time, each pupil must have a particular number of grades in each term. If the weekly instruction time for compulsory subjects, compulsory options or other activities is more than 45 minutes, each pupil must have at least four grades in each of these subjects during one term. If the weekly instruction time of such subjects is 45 minutes, pupils must have at least two grades in each subject during each term. These grades are used at the end of the term to determine the final grade. There are three forms of assessment: oral, written and practical work. There should be at least one oral assessment grade during each term. 

The Bylaw on Pupil Assessment in Basic Education specifies that previous pupil achievement should be assessed at the beginning of every school year. This assessment is called initial assessment of pupils and it can be done within a specific topic, module or subject. The result of the initial assessment is not part of the summative assessment process, but it is relevant for teachers’ planning and teaching in general. 

All forms of assessment and assessment criteria are adaptable to pupils with special educational needs and defined in their Individual Education Plans (IEP). This category includes all pupils who need additional support in education due to social deprivation, disability, learning difficulties, the risk of early school leaving etc. For pupils who follow IEP-1, assessment techniques and the assessment process should be adapted. For pupils who follow IEP-2, outcomes and standards of achievement need to be modified as well, in addition to assessment techniques and the assessment process. The modifications are included in personalised learning plans.  

If a pupil who follows an IEP does not achieve the planned goals and outcomes, the IEP should be revised. 

Pupils with exceptional abilities and gifted pupils follow an adapted and/or enriched educational programme defined in a special individual education plan, IEP-3. These pupils are assessed based on the achievement of the outcomes defined in IEP-3 and their engagement. More information about the concept of IEP, its types and assessment and monitoring procedures is available in the Bylaw on Guidelines for the Implementation and Evaluation of Individual Education Plans.

The final grade is proposed by the teacher and approved by the school’s board of teachers. Grade point average (GPA) is calculated at the end of the first term as an average of final grades in all subjects during that term, and at the end of the school year based on final grades in all subjects during that year. There are 4 GPA categories: excellent (GPA>4.50), very good (3.50<GPA<4.49), good (2.50<GPA<3.49), and pass (GPA<2.49). GPA cannot be calculated if any of the final grades is 1 (explained in the Pupils’ progress section). 

All grades, including final grades, GPAs and any other comments on pupils’ assessment and progress, are recorded in the class register. At the end of each term and school year, pupils receive their own report booklets with their final grades.  

Pupils’ behaviour is also assessed at least twice per term (during and at the end of each term). The assessment is descriptive in grades 1 to 5 and it does not affect the GPA. Assessment of pupils’ behaviour in grades 6 to 8 is descriptive during a term and numeric (from 1 to 5) at the end of the term and it does affect the GPA. 

Summative assessment is also used at the end of grade 8, when pupils are required to take the final exam in order to complete basic education. Along with the pupil’s GPA, final exam results are required for upper secondary school enrolment as specified in the Law on Upper Secondary Education. Until 2022, the final exam comprised three tests: native language, mathematics and a combined test (in natural and social sciences). In accordance with the Amendments to the Bylaw on the Final Exam in Basic Education, as of the beginning of the 2022/2023 school year, the final exam has a different structure, consisting of tests in the native language, mathematics and a subject chosen by the pupil. Instead of a combined test pupils choose one subject from the list of five: Biology, Geography, History, Physics or Chemistry. Pupils can score a maximum of 14 points in the native language test, 14 points in the mathematics test and 12 points in the test in another subject.  

Another aim of the final exam is to assess the quality of schools’ and teachers’ work, as well as the current state and development of the education system. Each school receives a report on the final exam results, which may be used for the analysis of correspondence between these results and pupils’ grades, comparison with other schools, and external evaluation. 

Pupils wishing to enrol in special general secondary schools (e.g. mathematical or philological grammar schools) or art schools (e.g. music or ballet schools) are required to take a school-specific additional test assessing relevant knowledge and competences.  

The attainment of pupil achievement standards is also evaluated through national examination in a sample of schools and with pupils in different grades. This examination affects neither pupils’ grades nor upper secondary school enrolment; however, pupils are required to participate.

Progression of Pupils

Pupils whose final grades at the end of a school year are all at least pass (2) can proceed to the next grade, which is the most common scenario. However, a pupil can, under certain circumstances, repeat a grade. If pupils in grades 4 to 7 have up to two failing final grades (1) at the end of a school year, they are required to take a make-up exam in the subject(s). If they do not pass this exam, they have to repeat the grade. In case they have more than two failing final grades at the end of a school year, they automatically have to repeat the grade. Eighth-grade pupils cannot repeat the grade; in case of failing final grades, they continue taking make-up exams until they pass them. Pupils in grades 1 to 3 do not have to repeat a grade even if they have failing grades unless their parents decide so.  

Pupils who do not have any grades in a particular subject at the end of a term (e.g. due to absence) are obliged to take a grade exam in that subject. Pupils who fail these exams undergo the abovementioned procedure. Homeschool and distance learning pupils also need to take grade exams.  

Pupils whose capacities and achievements are well above average can, upon approval of the school board and principal, switch to accelerated education, which allows them to complete two grades in one school year. They are assessed through grade exams, following the rules described above. 

Attainment of pupils with special educational needs is defined in their Individual Education Plans. 


Besides report booklets with final grades, pupils receive certificates on grade completion at the end of each grade at ISCED 2. At the end of 8th grade, pupils are awarded the Basic School Certificate as proof of the completion of this education level. 

As specified in the Bylaw on Certificates for Exceptional Achievement in Basic Education, pupils can receive special certificates for exceptional school achievement. There are two types of special certificates in basic education: ‘Dositej Obradović certificate’ and ‘Vuk Karadžić certificate’. 

‘Dositej Obradović certificate’ is awarded to pupils for exceptional achievement in a compulsory subject or compulsory option, who: 

  • achieve at least a 4 GPA (very good) with exemplary behaviour (5) at the end of each school year during basic education; 
  • achieve final grade 5 (excellent) in a relevant compulsory subject or second foreign language as a compulsory option, or ‘exceptional’ in a relevant elective programme at the end of each school year during basic education; 
  • receive one of the first three awards in a competition in a relevant compulsory subject at municipal, city, district, national or international level. 

A student may be awarded several ‘Dositej Obradović certificates’.  

 To receive ‘Vuk Karadžić certificate’, pupils should meet the following two criteria: 

  • 5.00 GPA in all basic school grades (1–8) in all compulsory subjects, compulsory options, other activities within the curriculum and behaviour; 
  • at least one ’Dositej Obradović certificate’ 

Based on criteria determined by the school, one pupil in each generation is chosen to be the best pupil and is usually awarded a book and/or a certificate issued by the school.