Description of tests

Mother tongue

The mother tongue test is arranged in the Finnish, Swedish and Sami language.

The Finnish and Swedish tests have two parts: the textual skills test and the essay test. They are organised on separate days, and the time for sitting each test is six hours. The weighted sum of points determines the candidate’s grade on the mother tongue test. If the candidate does not complete either one of the tests, the mother tongue test is considered discontinued and failed. Thus a candidate cannot divide the two tests into separate examination periods.

In the Sami language, only an essay test is arranged.

The textual skills test measures the candidate’s analytical skills and linguistic expression. The essay test focuses on the candidate’s general level of education, development of thinking, linguistic expression and coherence. In the textual skills test, the candidate is given material that consists of different literary texts, expository texts and artwork. On the basis of the material, the candidate answers three assignments out of five. The candidate may be asked to analyse the meanings, structures, expressions and context of the material, or to write a summary or a commentary. In the essay test, the candidate chooses one assignment out of a minimum of 12 assignments, and writes an essay of 4−5 pages according to instructions. Some of the assignments include background material; some only have a headline or a short instructive text.

A candidate whose mother tongue is not Finnish, Swedish or Sami, or who uses sign language as first language, can replace the mother tongue test with the test of Finnish or Swedish as a second language. The test has sections for reading comprehension and written production.

The candidate may also take the mother tongue test in Finnish or Swedish in place of the second national language test in that language.


The tests in the second national language (Swedish or Finnish) are arranged at advanced syllabus level and intermediate syllabus level. The foreign language tests in English, French, German, Russian and Spanish are arranged at advanced syllabus level and basic syllabus level. In addition, tests at basic syllabus level are arranged in Italian, Inari Sami, North Sami, Skolt Sami, Latin and Portuguese. The test in Latin is also organised at extended basic syllabus level which is not equivalent to the advanced syllabus level of the other foreign languages.

In most languages the test consists of two parts, the listening comprehension test and the test of written comprehension and production, which are arranged on separate days. If the candidate does not complete either one of the tests, the language test as a whole is considered discontinued and thus failed.

The tests in Inari Sami, North Sami, Skolt Sami, Latin and Portuguese do not include a listening comprehension test.

The test of written comprehension and production consists of three parts. Test items can be, for example, multiple-choice questions, cloze tests, open questions, summaries, and translation or description assignments. In tests of advanced syllabus level candidates also write an assignment of 150–200 words (in the English and Finnish tests 150–250 words). In tests of intermediate and basic syllabus level candidates write one shorter assignment (35–50 or 50–70 words depending on the language) and one longer assignment (65–100 or 100–130 words depending on the language).

The first digital language tests were organised in the autumn of 2016, when the German language tests at both advanced and basic syllabus level were arranged digitally. Tests in the other languages will be digitised gradually. Digital tests will still have separate sections for listening comprehension and for written comprehension and production, but candidates will answer both sections on the same day, during the same test period. The basic structure of the sections will stay the same, but test items and materials will become more diverse and authentic.

Humanities and natural sciences

Each subject in the field of humanities and natural sciences has its own test in the Matriculation Examination. Every examination period has two separate test days for the tests in humanities and natural sciences. On the first test day, candidates may take a test in psychology, philosophy, history, physics, or biology. On the second test day they may take a test in Evangelical Lutheran religion, Orthodox religion, ethics, social studies, chemistry, geography, or health education. The candidate can only sit one test a day, so he or she can take a maximum of two tests during one examination period. The maximum time for sitting a test is six hours.

The number of questions in a test depends on the subject. In physics, the candidate answers a maximum of eight questions out of thirteen. In chemistry and biology, the candidate answers a maximum of eight questions out of twelve. In the rest of the subjects, the candidate answers a maximum of six questions out of ten. In each subject, two of the test questions are more demanding than others.

The candidate receives a maximum of six points per question, except for the more demanding questions of which candidates can receive up to nine points. Only full points are given.

In each subject, the test incorporates 1−4 questions that cross the boundaries of disciplines. These questions guide the candidate to consider the assignment from different perspectives as part of a larger thematic entity.

As the tests gradually turn digital, the number of questions and points given will be different from above. In the digital tests in humanities and natural sciences, the maximum score is 120 points. In physics, chemistry and biology there will be 11 test items of which the candidate answers a maximum of seven. In the rest of the subjects there are nine test items of which a maximum of five are answered. The digital tests feature different modules that may include several questions and vary in type and complexity. Some questions may be compulsory. Test items may be traditional essay questions, multiple-choice questions, drawing assignments, data analyses, and combinations of these. Test items can also feature more diverse background material than in traditional paper tests. Questions may include text, pictures, videos, tape recordings, maps, animations and statistics. The maximum score for a test item will vary between 15 and 30 points.


The mathematics test is arranged at two different levels of difficulty; the advanced syllabus and the basic syllabus. The candidate may choose which level test to take, regardless of his or her studies at the upper secondary school.

The structure of both tests was renewed in the spring of 2016. The candidate must complete ten questions out of 13. Each question scores a maximum of six points. The tests have two parts: Part A and Part B. Part B is furthermore divided into two parts: Part B1 and Part B2. Both tests feature separate task booklets for Part A and Part B. Calculator may be used as aid in Part B but not in Part A.

Part A consists of four questions, all of which are compulsory. Part B1 consists of five questions of which the candidate chooses three, and Part B2 consists of four questions of which the candidate again chooses three.

At the beginning of the test, the candidate is given task booklets for both Part A and Part B. When the candidate returns the Part A booklet at the latest three hours after the start of the test, he or she is given a calculator. In Part B, the candidate is allowed to use any scientific calculator, graphing calculator or symbolic calculator that does not have a data transfer feature. The candidate may also consult a book of tables in both parts of the test. Calculators and books of tables are inspected in advance and calculators’ memories must be cleared.

The first digital test in mathematics will be arranged in spring 2019.