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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: 20 February 2024

Pupil/Students assessment

The assessment of the learning process of students in compulsory secondary education (ESO) must be continuous, formative and inclusive.

With regard to pupils with special educational support needs, the most appropriate measures must be established to ensure that the requirements for carrying out the processes associated  to the educational assessment are adapted to their needs.

The Government, through the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports (MEFD), in consultation with the autonomous communities, is responsible for designing the basic aspects of the curriculum in relation to, among others, the assessment criteria for each stage, in order to ensure a common education throughout the national territory.

The evaluation criteria are the specific referent to assess the learning process of the students. They describe whatever needs to be valued and what the student must achieve, both in terms of knowledge and skills. They respond to what must be achieved in each subject

They are completed and specified by the educational authorities in their respective administrative scopes. The educational institutions also do so in their programmes, while the Teachers’ Assemblies are responsible for setting the criteria for pupil’s assessment.

Each teacher can adopt the evaluation techniques and instruments that he/she deems most appropriate in each context.

In the school year 2023/2024, the implementation of the modifications introduced by the Organic Law 3/2020 (LOMLOE) modifying the Organic Law 2/2006 on Education (LOE) regarding the curriculum, organisation and objectives of ESO (Royal Decree 217/2022) has been completed.

Assessment during the stage

The evaluation in compulsory secondary education students is continuous, formative and integrative.

During the educational stage, a special emphasis is placed on guaranteeing educational inclusion; on personalised attention to students and their learning, participation and coexistence needs; on the prevention of learning difficulties and the implementation of reinforcement and flexibilisation mechanisms, methodological alternatives or other appropriate measures as soon as any of these situations are identified;

Compulsory secondary education assessment has these characteristics:

  • In the assessment of the students' learning process, the achievement of the objectives established for the stage and the development of the corresponding skills must be taken into account as the final reference points, from each and every one of the subjects or areas.
  • The inclusive nature of assessment does not prevent teachers from carrying out the assessment of each subject or area in a differentiated manner, based on their assessment criteria.
  • The education authorities  establish three moments  throughout such process: initial assessment, continuous assessment and final assessment.

In the context of a continuous assessment process, when any student's progress is not adequate, educational support measures are to be provided. These measures are adopted as soon as difficulties are identified, with special monitoring of the situation of pupils with special educational needs, and are aimed at guaranteeing the acquisition of any learning that is essential to continue the educational process, with the support each pupil may require.

The results of the assessment are expressed in the terms Fail (IN-insuficiente) for negative marks and Pass (SU-suficiente), Good (BI-bien), Very Good (NT-notable), or Excellent (SB-sobresaliente) for positive marks. These terms are accompanied by a numerical grade, without using decimals, on a scale of one to ten, with the following equivalences:

  • Fail (IN - Insuficiente): 1 , 2, 3 or 4;
  • Pass (SU - Suficiente): 5;
  • Good (BI - Bien): 6;
  • Very Good (NT - Notable): 7 or 8;
  • Excellent (SB - Sobresaliente): 9 or 10.

The educational authorities may establish procedures for awarding an Honourable Mention or Matrícula de Honor for students who have shown excellent academic performance at the end of the stage or in the final assessment.

With regard to the communication of assessment results throughout the academic year, the following characteristics are present:

  • It is made in writing to the families at least on a quarterly basis.
  • It has no official academic value, but is key to consider whether the student's progress is adequate.
  • Whoever is tutoring each class group, as class teacher, is responsible for informing the families regularly about the students’ progress and any difficulties identified.

At the end of the second year of ESO a guidance counselling is issued, including an individualised report for each student on the degree of achievement of the objectives and acquisition of the corresponding skills, as well as a proposal of the most appropriate option for continuing their education, which may include joining a curricular diversification programme or a basic level training cycle.

 The MEFD, in consultation with the other educational authorities, determines the basic assessment documents  and the formal requirements resulting from the assessment process, in order to guarantee student mobility.

At the same time, in those autonomous communities which have, together with Spanish, another official language, students may be excused from the assessment of said co-official Language area or subject, as established by their regional regulations.

In the case of pupils with special educational needs, the assessment reference points are those included in the corresponding adaptations to the curriculum, without this fact preventing them from being promoted or obtaining a qualification. In turn, it is necessary to establish flexibility measures and methodological alternatives in the assessment of the foreign languages for students with specific educational support needs with difficulties in comprehension and expression in said language.

Evaluation of the education system

In ESO the education system includes two assessments:

  • a diagnostic evaluation at the end of the 2nd year;
  • an assessment at the end of the stage (general assessment of the education system).

These evaluations are carried out by the educational institutions according to what the education authorities set.

Individualised assessment at the end of the second year of ESO

Article 29 of Organic Law 2/2006 on Education (LOE), as amended by LOMLOE, establishes that in the second year of compulsory secondary education, all schools must carry out a diagnostic assessment of a census nature to evaluate the skills acquired by their pupils (at least the degree of mastery in linguistic communication skills and mathematical competence is checked). This assessment, which falls under the responsibility of the education authorities, is informative, instructional and orientative in nature for schools, teachers, pupils and their families and for the education community as a whole.

Within the framework of improvement plans based on the analysis of the results of this assessment, education authorities must encourage schools to draw up proposals for action that will help pupils achieve the established skills, enable them to adopt measures to improve the quality and equity of education and guide teaching practice.

Assessment at the end of ESO

Article 143.2 of the LOE, as amended by the LOMLOE, states that, in the last year of compulsory secondary education, an assessment of the skills acquired by pupils shall be carried out on a sample and multi-annual basis. This assessment is informative, instructional and orientative in nature for schools, teachers, pupils and their families and for the education community as a whole.

The National Institute for Educational Evaluation, in collaboration with the educational administrations, will carry out this evaluation.

This test has not yet been implemented and is currently pending regulation.

Progression of pupils/students

The Government, through the MEFD, is responsible for establishing the general criteria for student promotion. This regulation is found in article 28 as amended by the LOMLOE, and in article 16 of Royal Decree 217/2022. 

The educational authorities define these in their respective management areas and they are applied at the end of each year.

Decisions on student promotion are adopted collegially by the teaching staff teaching each student, taking into account the achievement of objectives, the degree of acquisition of the established skills and the assessment of the measures favouring the progress of each student.

Students progress to the next year in the following cases:

  • if they have passed all the subjects studied;
  • if they have a negative evaluation in one or two subjects;
  • if the teaching team considers that the nature of the subjects they have not passed allows them to continue successfully in the following year, it is considered that they have favourable expectations of recovery and that such promotion will benefit their academic progress.

Progression with pending subjects implies that students must enrol in the subjects they have not passed and follow the reinforcement plans established by the teaching team, which will periodically review the personalised application of these plans at different times during the academic year and, in any case, at the end of it. These students must pass the assessments corresponding to these plans, in accordance with the provisions of the educational authorities. This circumstance is taken into account for progression and qualification purposes.

Repetition, is considered an exceptional measure and is taken after having exhausted the ordinary reinforcement and support measures to solve the student's learning difficulties. It has these characteristics:

  • students can repeat the same year only once;
  • students can repeat a maximum of two times during compulsory education (primary education and ESO);
  • exceptionally, it is possible to remain one more year in the 4th year, even if the maximum length of stay has been used up, provided that the teaching team considers that this measure favours the acquisition of the skills established for the stage. In this case, the age limit of eighteen years established by law may be extended by one year.

The repetition of a year always requires the adaptation of the curricular conditions to the needs of the pupils and must be oriented towards overcoming the identified difficulties, as well as to the advancement and deepening of the learning already acquired. These conditions are set out in a specific individualised plan with as many measures as are considered appropriate for these pupils.

Certification and qualification

Students receive their first official certificate on completion of compulsory secondary education, the end of the basic, compulsory and cost-free educational period of the education system.

The Compulsory Secondary Education Graduate qualification is awarded to students who, at the end of ESO, have acquired, according to the teaching staff's judgement, the key competences established in the Output Profile and have achieved the stage objectives. This diploma is also awarded to students who have passed all the modules included in a basic vocational training cycle.

Decisions on the awarding of the diploma will be taken collegially by the teaching staff who teach each student. The Education Administrations may establish criteria to guide the decision-making process of the teaching teams in relation to the degree of acquisition of the key competences established in the Output Profile and in terms of the achievement of the stage objectives, provided that these criteria do not entail the determination of the number or type of failed subjects.

The Compulsory Secondary Education Graduate certificate will be unique and issued without an associated grade.

All pupils will receive, at the end of their Compulsory Secondary Education studies, an official certificate stating the number of years studied and the level of acquisition of the key competences established in the Output Profile.

The following particular cases are considered:

  • Students who have not completed all compulsory secondary education in the Spanish education system: the final grade for the stage only takes into account the grades obtained in the Spanish education system, without prejudice to the provisions of international agreements in this respect.
  • Students who obtain a Basic Vocational Training qualification: the final ESO qualification is the average qualification obtained in the modules associated with the common areas.
  • Students who obtain the Lower Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate after having passed the examination for people aged over 18: the final grade for compulsory secondary education is the grade obtained in such examination.

The Compulsory Secondary Education Graduate certificate is unique and is issued without an associated grade.

In any case, all pupils receive, at the end of their ESO studies, an official certificate stating the number of years studied and the level of acquisition of the skills for this stage.

Those who, once the evaluation process of the fourth year of ESO has been completed, have not obtained the diploma, and have exceeded the age limits established by the regulations (eighteen years of age), also taking into account the exceptional one-year extension of the permanence in the stage foreseen by the law itself, may do so in the following two years by taking tests or extraordinary individualised activities in the subjects they have not passed, in accordance with the curriculum established by the educational authorities.

The certificates are issued, on behalf of the King, by the head of the Ministry of Education or the relevant educational authority. The following details are included on the back:

  • an explicit mention of the fact that the certificate is issued, on behalf of the King, by the head of the Ministry of Education or the corresponding educational authority in each autonomous community;
  • mention of the fact that it is issued on successful completion of the corresponding studies leading to the award of the said certificate;
  • name and surnames, place and date of birth and nationality of the student;
  • name and location of the educational institution where the studies were completed, month and year of completion;
  • name and location of the institution where the corresponding qualification was requested, indicating month and year;
  • place and date of issue of the certificate;
  • codes identifying the official nature of the diploma;
  • three signatures: in the case of the Autonomous Communities, the signatures of the competent body, the relevant authority of the executive body responsible for controlling the issuing of certificates in the Autonomous Community and the interested party. As for the certificates issued by the Ministry of Education the signatures of the Minister, the Director-General responsible for issuing certificates and the interested party;
  • the national and regional regulations guaranteeing the official nature of the studies.

The Lower Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate qualifies them for access to the post-compulsory bachillerato studies and intermediate vocational training, as well as to the labour market.