The Finnish Matriculation Examination

The Matriculation Examination was first arranged in Finland in 1852. In the beginning, the examination was the entrance examination to Helsinki University, and in it one had to show sufficient evidence of an all-round education and a knowledge of Latin.

Nowadays, the purpose of the examination is to discover whether pupils have assimilated the knowledge and skills required by the curriculum for the upper secondary school and whether they have reached an adequate level of maturity in line with that school's goals. Passing the Matriculation Examination entitles the candidate to continue his or her studies at university. The examination is arranged in upper secondary schools.

The Matriculation Examination is regulated by Section 18 (766/2004) of the Upper Secondary School Act, the Act on the Organisation of the Matriculation Examination(672/2005) and the Government Decree on the Matriculation Examination (915/2005).

The Matriculation Examination Board is responsible for administering the examination, its arrangements and execution. The Board issues guidelines on the contents, the arrangements and the assessment of the tests. The Ministry of Education nominates the chair of the Board and its members (about forty in number) at the suggestion of universities, institutions of higher learning and the National Board of Education. The members represent the various subjects covered by the Matriculation Examination. About 330 associate members assist the members in the work of preparing and assessing the tests. The technical arrangement of the tests is taken care of by the Board's secretariat, which has twenty-two civil service employees.

The Matriculation Examination is held biannually, in spring and in autumn, in all Finnish upper secondary schools, at the same time.

A candidate must complete the examination during not more than three consecutive examination periods. The examination can also be completed in one examination period.

The tests

The compulsory and optional tests

The examination consists of at least four tests; one of them, the test in the candidate´s mother tongue, is compulsory for all candidates. The candidate then chooses three other compulsory tests from among the following four tests: the test in the second national language, a foreign language test, the mathematics test, and one test in the general studies battery of tests (sciences and humanities). As part of his or her examination, the candidate may additionally include one or more optional tests.

The headmaster of the upper secondary school will check to see whether the candidate fulfils the requirements laid down concerning participation in the examination and in the tests that are part of it.

The levels of the tests

Tests are arranged at two different levels of difficulty in mathematics, the second national language and foreign languages. The levels in mathematics and foreign languages are the advanced course and the basic course, and in the second national language the advanced course and the intermediate course. The candidate may choose which level of each of the above-mentioned subjects he or she takes, regardless of his or her studies at the upper secondary school. The candidate must take a test based on the advanced course in at least one compulsory test. The candidate may take only one test in the same subject on the examination.

Descriptions of the tests

The mother tongue test is arranged in Finnish, Swedish and Saami. The Finnish and Swedish tests have two parts: a textual skills section and an essay. In the textual skills test the candidate's analytical skills and linguistic expression are measured. The essay focuses on the candidate's general level of education, development of thinking, linguistic expression and coherency. The weighted sum of points determines the candidate's grade on the mother tongue test. In the Saami language only an essay test is arranged. A candidate whose mother tongue is not Finnish, Swedish or Saami can replace the mother tongue test with the Finnish or Swedish second language test. These two tests include reading comprehension and written production sections.

The second national language tests and the foreign language tests include sections for listening and reading comprehension and sections demonstrating the candidate's skill in written production in the language in question. The candidate may also take the mother tongue test in Finnish or Swedish in place of the second national language test in that language.

In the mathematics test the candidate must complete ten questions. The candidate is allowed to use calculators and books of tables that have been approved by the Board as aids.

The general studies battery includes tests in Evangelical Lutheran religion, Orthodox religion, ethics, philosophy, psychology, history, social studies, physics, chemistry, biology, geography and health education. Furthermore, the tests incorporate questions which cross the boundaries of these disciplines. Depending on the test in question, the candidate answers six or eight test items.

Retaking tests

A candidate who has passed a test may retake it once. There is no time limit for retaking a test that has been passed. If a candidate has retaken a test before a Matriculation Examination Certificate has been awarded, the better grade achieved on that test will be entered on the certificate.

A candidate who has failed a compulsory test may retake the test twice during the three examination periods immediately following the examination period in which the test was failed. A candidate retaking a failed compulsory test can change the level of the test, but not until it has been confirmed that one test based on the advanced course is included in the examination. If the examination is not passed within the prescribed time limit, the examination must be retaken in its entirety.

A failed optional test may be retaken twice without a time limit.

Supplementing the examination

A person who has passed the Matriculation Examination can supplement it by sitting tests that he or she has not previously taken. He or she can also supplement the examination by taking a test at a different level in a subject already passed. Supplementing the examination is possible only after the examination has been passed.


The Matriculation Examination Certificate

A candidate receives a matriculation examination certificate following the examination period when all the compulsory tests have been passed. The Matriculation Examination Certificate shows the compulsory and the optional tests passed, together with their levels and grades. The grades and corresponding points are as follows:

laudatur (L)......................7
eximia cum laude approbatur (E)...6
magna cum laude approbatur (M)....5
cum laude approbatur (C)..........4
lubenter approbatur (B)...........3
approbatur (A)....................2
improbatur (I)....................0

Certificate for a test that has been passed

If a person who has successfully passed the Matriculation Examination retakes a test that he or she has already passed in an examination, or supplements his or her examination, he or she will receive a separate certificate for this.

Extract from the official register

If a candidate takes his or her examination during different examination periods, he or she will be given, on request, an extract from the Matriculation Examination Register, which will show all that he or she has accomplished to date.

Re-evaluation by means of a recheck

A candidate who is dissatisfied with his or her test evaluation may ask the Matriculation Examination Board to recheck the evaluation. If the Board discovers that an error was made in the evaluation, the error will be rectified.

Guidelines and instructions

The Matriculation Examination Board issues guidelines and instructions for the examination and its execution, for the various tests, and for the hard-of-hearing / deaf, dyslexic and dysgraphic, for those who fall ill, are handicapped or whose mother tongue is a language other than Finnish, Swedish or Saami. These guidelines and instructions are available in Finnish and Swedish on the Board's website.

The Finnish Matriculation Examination (ppt)

Improving the comparability of the grades (pdf)

Statistics from the Matriculation Examination Board 2007 (pdf)