Abitur (from Latin abire "leave, go off") is a designation used in Germany, Finland and Estonia for final exams that pupils take at the end of their secondary education, usually after 12 or 13 years of schooling (see also for Germany Abitur after twelve years).
Abitur in Germany
The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife, often referred to as Abiturzeugnis, issued after candidates have passed their final exams, is the document which contains their grades and formally enables them to attend university. This means it includes the functions of a school graduation certificate and a university entrance exam.
The importance of the Abitur has grown beyond admission to the university, however, in that it has increasingly become a prerequisite for starting an apprenticeship in some professions (e.g., banking). Therefore, career opportunities for Hauptschule or Realschule graduates who do not have the Abitur have almost universally seen a downturn in recent years. More than just being a school leaving certificate, having an Abitur is also widely regarded as granting personal prestige.
The official term in Germany for this certificate of education is Allgemeine Hochschulreife; the contraction Abi is common in colloquial usage. In 2005, a total of 400,000 students passed the Abitur exam in Germany.
Up until the 18th century, every German university had its own entrance examination. In 1788 Prussia introduced the Abiturreglement, a law that—for the first time within Germany—established the Abitur as an official qualification. It was later also established in the other German states. In 1834 it became the only university entrance exam in Prussia, and it remained so in all states of Germany until 2004. Since then the German state of Hesse allows also students with Fachhochschulreife (see below) to study at the universities within that state.
The academic level of the Abitur is comparable to the International Baccalaureate, the GCE Advanced Level and the Advanced Placement tests — indeed, the study requirements for the International Baccalaureate differ little from the German exam requirements. It is the only school-leaving certificate in all states of Germany that allows the graduate (or Abiturient) to move directly to university. The other school leaving certificates, the Hauptschulabschluss and the Realschulabschluss, do not allow their holders to matriculate at a university. Those granted certificates of Hauptschulabschluss or Realschulabschluss can gain a specialized Fachabitur or an Abitur if they graduate from a Berufsschule and then attend Berufsoberschule or graduate from a Fachoberschule.
However, the Abitur is not the only path to university studies, as some universities set up their own entrance examinations. Students who successfully passed a "Begabtenprüfung" ("test of aptitude") are also eligible. Students from other countries who hold a high school leaving certificate that is not counted as being equivalent to the Abitur (such as the American high school diploma) and who do well enough on the ACT or SAT test, may also enter German universities. A person who does not hold the Abitur and did not take an aptitude test may still be admitted to university if he or she has completed at least the 10th grade and does well on an IQ-Test (see: Hochbegabtenstudium).
The official meaning behind the word Abitur in Germany is Zeugnis der allgemeinen Hochschulreife (often translated as General Qualification for University Entrance or Certificate for Overall Maturity for Higher Education). During the two final years of secondary school studies and in their final exams students receive grades on a scale of 15 (best) to 0 points (failed). These points are weighted and then added up and converted to the final grade on a scale from 1 (best) to 6 (failed). If a student receives 14 points or more on average in all of his/her courses and exams he/she will have earned the best possible final grade of 1.0.
Other qualifications called Abitur in colloquial usage
Fachabitur was used up until the 1970s in all of Germany for a variation of the Abitur. The official term for this German qualification is fachgebundene Hochschulreife. This qualification includes only one foreign language (in most cases English). The Abitur, in contrast, usually requires two foreign languages. The Fachabitur also allows the graduate to start studying at a university. However, he is limited to a specified range of majors, depending on the specific subjects covered in his Fachabitur examinations. But the graduate is allowed to study for all majors at a Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences, in some ways comparable to polytechnics). Today, this school leaving certificate is called fachgebundenes Abitur ('restricted subject Abitur').
Now the term Fachabitur is used in most parts of Germany for the Fachhochschulreife (FHR). This school leaving certificate was introduced in West Germany in the 1970s together with the Fachhochschulen. It enables the graduate to start studying at a Fachhochschule, and in Hesse also at a university within that state. In the Gymnasiums of some states it is awarded in the year before the Abitur is reached. However, the normal way to obtain Fachhochschulreife is graduation from a German Fachoberschule, a vocational high school, an education entity also introduced in the 1970s.
The term Notabitur ('emergency Abitur') is used for a qualification which existed only during World War I and World War II. It was granted to male German Gymnasium (prep school) students who voluntarily enlisted for military service before graduation. The Notabitur during WWI included an examination, roughly equivalent to the Abitur exam. The WWII Notabitur, in contrast, was granted without an examination. After the war this was a major disadvantage for Germans with this qualification since, unlike its WWI counterpart, it was generally not recognised in West Germany and never recognised in East Germany.
Equivalent high school graduation certificate in other countries
The equivalent graduation certificate in Austria, Poland and other countries of continental Europe is the Matura; while in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the West Indies, it is A-levels; in Scotland it is Higher Grade; in the Republic of Ireland it is the Leaving Certificate; in Greece and Cyprus it is the "apolytirion" (a kind of high school diploma); in Malta it is the Matriculation Certificate (MATSEC).
In Australia, the graduation certificate awarded to high school students is the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (SSCE). However, the name of the SSCE varies from state to state. In Victoria, it is called the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).
In India various states call this differently.In the state of Andhra Pradesh this is known as Board of Intermediate Examination BIE. Each Indian state has it's own Board of examination, passing the examination qualifies the student to enter in to undergraduate program in an university.How ever for professional, specialist programs and well reputed institutions there are entrance tests.Some times individual state has its own entrance test system. For Entering into engineering there is a Joint Engineering Entrance JEE conducted at all India level.For entering in to medicine undergraduate MBBS program there is - National Eligibility cum Entrance Test also known as NEET-UG National Eligibility and Entrance Test conducted at all India level. There is also an all India level examination conducted by Central Board of Secondary education CBSE the certification is known as 12th class.
During the final examinations (called Abiturprüfungen), students will be tested in four or five different subjects, at least one of which must be taken orally. The specific procedure varies widely across the Bundesländer.
|Course||Type of examination|
|1st advanced course||written|
|2nd advanced course||written|
|BC (basic course)||written|
|BC||oral or written|
|(BC)||(oral, presentation, "BLL" (literally 'exceptional learning achievement'))|
Despite the fact that the tested subjects depend on each student's personal choice, in general there are three obligatory areas (Aufgabenfelder) which have to be covered:
- Language, literature and the arts
- German, foreign languages (typically English or French)
- Music, visual and/or performing arts
- Social sciences
- Mathematics, natural sciences and technology
Occasionally, schools (especially so called berufsorientierte Gymnasien) are offering more vocational orientated subjects like Pedagogy, Business informatics, Biotechnology or Mechanical engineering. In some parts of Germany, students can complete an exam by doing a presentation, handing in a research paper or taking part in a competition (BLL). Students have also the opportunity to take additional oral exams if the written part was done poorly. The final exams require students to write essays to answer the given question(s) or to comment on statements or excerpts. In recent years, most of the Bundesländer decided to introduce centralized written exams (called Zentralabitur) in core subjects like German, Mathematics and the first foreign language (usually English). The KMK of several Bundesländer also announced to expand the concept to scientific subjects.
Each semester of a subject studied in the final two years yields up to 15 points for a student, where advanced courses count double. The final examinations each count quadruple.
The exact scoring system depends on the Bundesland, in which one takes Abitur. Passing the Abitur in general requires a composite score of at least 300. Students with a score below that minimum fail and do not receive an Abitur. There are some other conditions that the student also has to meet in order to receive the Abitur, e.g., taking mandatory courses in selected subject areas, and limits to the number of failing grades in core subjects. Finally, students often have the option of omitting some courses from their composite score if they have taken more courses than the minimum required.
The best possible grade of 1.0 can be achieved if the score ranges between 823 and 900 points; the fraction of students achieving this score is normally only around 0.3-2% even among the already selective population of Abitur candidates. Around 12%-30% of Abitur candidates achieve grades between 1.0 and 1.9.
Historically, very few people received their Abitur in Germany, because many attractive jobs did not require one. The number of persons holding the Abitur steadily increased since the 1970s and younger jobholders are more likely to hold the Abitur than older ones. The percentage of students qualified for tertiary education is still lower than the OECD average.
Percentage of students graduating with Abitur or FHR (Studienberechtigtenquote):
|Hauptschulabschluss||87.7 %||79.3 %||66.5 %||54.9 %|
|Realschulabschluss||10.9 %||17.7 %||27 %||34.1 %|
|Abitur||1.4 %||3 %||6.5 %||11 %|
Abitur in Finland
A similar test has also existed in Finland since the mid-19th century. The test is called ylioppilastutkinto in Finnish and studentexamen in Swedish. The official English language translation is matriculation examination, but the test in fact constitutes the high school's final exam(s), in other words it is a high school graduation exam. Since 1919, the test has been arranged by a national body, the Matriculation Examination Board. Before that, the administration of the test was the responsibility of the University of Helsinki.
Under former law, successful completion entitled one to enroll as a university student (hence "matriculation"). Although the legal requirement has been lifted, matriculation without completing the test is still an exception. The universities are now free to arrange their own entrance examinations in addition to considering scores from the matriculation examination. Thus, universities accept students based on the entrance exam points, the matriculation exam points, and also a combined score of these two. Successfully passing the test entitles one to wear the Finnish student cap.
|This section may require copy-editing. (May 2013)|
Each examinee is required to participate in at least four tests in order to pass the exam. As of 2005 the only mandatory part of the test is that of äidinkieli ("mother tongue"; Finnish for most students, Swedish or Sámi for some), including a composition test. The student then has to choose three other subjects from
- Second domestic language: (Swedish for Finnish speakers or Finnish for Swedish speakers)
- Foreign language: Languages are separated into A and B levels depending on the demanded skill. The language counted as part of the four obligatory subjects must be one of A-level. However, if a student takes advanced level mathematics as an obligatory subject, he may take B-level language exams. English, German and French are the most popular choices among students, but in addition, the students may take Russian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Inari Sámi, and Northern Sámi exams. The foreign language exams include listening and reading comprehension tests, grammar test and an essay.
- Mathematics: (ordinary or advanced level), including 15 assignments 10 of which must be completed.
- Reaali" ("realämnen in Swedish): Here the examinees take between one or two exams and are only allowed to answer questions from a single subject per exam. These subjects have to be chosen by the examinee well in advance prior to the exam. Exams consist of questions which require answers in the form of an essay. The subjects of reaali category are
- Religion, Evangelical Lutheran
- Religion, Orthodox Christian
- Education on ethics and moral history
- Health education
The exam takes place at schools according to minute regulations laid out by the national board. Each exam takes six hours. After the exam, the teachers grade the papers and send the graded papers to the national board which then re-grades every paper. The grading of the exam may be appealed against. In this case, the board re-examines the grading. The result of the re-examination is final and cannot be appealed to any authority.
The score of each test varies with the subject. For example, the maximum score for the test in Finnish or Swedish as a first language is 114 points, in mathematics 66 points and in foreign languages 299 points. The tests are graded according to normal distribution into seven verbal grades with Latin names: improbatur (I), approbatur (A), lubenter approbatur (B), cum laude approbatur (C), magna cum laude approbatur (M), eximia cum laude approbatur (E) and laudatur (L), from bottom to top. (A rough literal translation of the grades is "not approved", "approved", "gladly approved", "approved with praise", "approved with much praise", "approved with exceptional praise", and "praised"/"lauded".) In general, at least the grade A is required for the test to be passed. The grades received by the students generally follow a distribution of:
- 5% of students receive a laudatur (L)
- 15% of students receive an eximia cum laude approbatur (E)
- 20% of students receive a magna cum laude approbatur (M)
- 24% of students receive a cum laude approbatur (C)
- 20% of students receive a lubenter approbatur (B)
- 11% of students receive an approbatur (A)
- 5% of students receive an improbatur (I).
Traditionally, the test is taken in the spring, but it is also arranged every autumn and may be taken in up to three parts. Thus completing the matriculation exam may take up to one and half years. Usually, the last set of exams is taken at the end of the third year in upper secondary school. The exams take place in late March, but for the school-leavers, the school ends in mid-February, giving the students ample time to prepare for the test in solitary study. This occasion is celebrated by the traditional festivity of penkkarit.
|This section may require copy-editing. (May 2013)|
If a student receives an improbatur in any of the obligatory exams, s/he fails the entire exam. However, a single failed obligatory exam may be compensated for through good results in other exams. Based on a compensation system, the total exam result of the student is calculated and it is compared to the result of the failed test. In order to get his/her diploma accepted, student must gather enough compensation points from all the other exams. Improbatur is divided to four classes (i+, i, i−, i=), each describing the depth of student's failure (i+ being the least bad) and each class has its own number of compensation points to be reached for an acceptable result (12, 14, 16 and 18 respectively). Points from accepted exams are awarded as follows: L 7 points, E 6, M 5, C 4, B 3 and A 2.
- For some university subjects, there may be additional entrance exams, for example Sports, Music and Arts. Along with the Bologna Process more subjects might introduce additional entrance exams.
- German: [Abiturnoten-Ländervergleich 2005 - Abiturnote "sehr gut" in den Bundesländern 2005 http://www.gew.de/Binaries/Binary29531/9graf-abinote%20sehr%20gut%20bul%c3%a42005.pdf], Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, 15 Aug 2007
- German: [Abiturnoten-Ländervergleich 2005 - Verteilung der Abiturnoten in den Bundesländern 2005 http://www.gew.de/Binaries/Binary29529/7graf-verteilung%20abinoten%20bul%c3%a42005.pdf], Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, 15 Aug 2007
- Frietsch, Rainer (November 2003). ""Intensivierung" von Bildungsabschlüssen zwischen 1970 - 2000" (PDF). Studien zum deutschen Innovationssystem (5-2004). ISSN 1613-4338. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
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