Matriculation exam (Finland)

The Finnish abitur gives the right to wear the student cap

The Finnish Matriculation Examination (Finnish ylioppilastutkinto, Swedish studentexamen) is the examination taken at the end of Secondary education to qualify for entry into University. The test also 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.


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

The insignia of Finnish matriculation exam board

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:

This distribution is such that one grade on the scale is equivalent to approximately one standard deviation; 64% are within M-B and 90% within E-A.

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.

Compensation system

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 by good results in other exams. Based on the compensation system, the total exam score of the student is calculated and compared with the result of the failed test. To receive their diploma, a student must accumulate sufficient compensation points from the other exams. The improbatur is divided into four classes (i+, i, i, i=), each describing the degree of a student's failure (i+ is the least failure), and each class has its own number of compensation points needed for an acceptable result (12, 14, 16 and 18, respectively). Points from accepted exams are awarded as follows: L, seven points; E, six; M, five; C, four; B, three and A, two.

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