The problem posed by exam choice on the comparability of results in the Finnish matriculation examination

Sirkku Kupiainen, Jukka Marjanen, Jarkko Hautamäki


The article by Kupiainen, Marjanen and Hautamäki focuses on the upper secondary matriculation examination in Finland as a school leaving and university entrance examination. The presented research addresses the question of whether increased choice of the subject-specific examinations has the potential to undermine the comparability of examination results and to direct students’ choices not only in the examination but already beforehand at school. The authors refer to Finland’s tradition of more than 160 years of a national examination connecting the academic track of upper secondary schools with universities. The authors explain the Finnish system by describing the adoption of a course-based (vs. class- or year-based) curriculum for the three-year upper secondary education and the subsequent reforms in the matriculation examination. This increases students’ choices considerably with regard to the subject-specific exams included in the examination (a minimum of four). As a result, high-achieving students compete against each other in the more demanding subjects while the less able share the same normal distribution of grades in the less demanding subjects. As a consequence, students tend to strategic exam-planning, which in turn affects their study choices at school, often to the detriment of the more demanding subjects and, subsequently, of students’ career opportunities, endangering the traditional national objective of an all-round pre-academic upper secondary education. This contribution provides an overview of Finnish upper secondary education and of the matriculation examination (cf. Klein, 2013) while studying three separate but related issues by using data from several years of Finnish matriculation results:

• the relation of the matriculation examination and the curriculum;

• the problems of comparability vis-à-vis university entry due to the increased choice within the examination;

• the relations between students’ examination choices and their course selection and achievement during upper secondary school.


Exit exams; Grade comparability; Impact of choice on comparability; Teachers’ vs. national grades

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Journal for Educational Research Online/Journal für Bildungsforschung Online (ISSN 1866-6671)