Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

Table E.3.02. National standardized assessment system as reported in International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Internet Archive (INCA), by type of education and country: 2010

Country Primary Lower secondary Upper secondary
England1 no 16 17/18
Ireland no 15 17/18
Northern Ireland1 no 16 17/18
Scotland no 16 17/18
Wales2 no 16 17/18
France3 no 15 16+/18
Germany4 no 15/16 18/19
Hungary no no 18+
Italy5 no 14 18/19
Netherlands 12 14/15 16, 17, 18
Spain no 16 18
Sweden6 16 18/19
Switzerland7 no no 18+
Australia no no 18+
Canada no no 18/19
Japan no 14+/15 18
Korea8 no 15 18
New Zealand no 16 17/18
Singapore 12 16/17 18+
South Africa no 15 18
USA no varies 18
† Not applicable.
1 At the upper secondary level, students in schools generally study for General Certificate of Education Advanced-level examinations (GCE A-levels). These are single-subject examinations, which may be studied in any combination, within the limitation of a school’s timetable and the range of subjects it offers. Since September 2000, GCE A-levels have been structured as follows: AS – During the first year of post-compulsory education in the sixth form (Year 12, age 16 to 17), students typically take four or five subjects leading to the GCE Advanced Subsidiary qualification (AS) (GCE AS qualification). A2 – Taken in the second year of sixth form (Year 13, students aged 17 to 18), this is the second half of the full A-level qualification. Students typically pursue three of their four or five AS qualification subjects to A2.
2 In Wales, the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification was introduced in 2007. It combines personal development skills with existing qualifications like A levels, NVQs and GCSEs to make one wider award. The aim is that this qualification is valued by employers and universities. The two parts of the 'Welsh Bac' are: Core – consisting of five components: key skills; Wales; Europe and the World; work-related education; personal and social education; and individual investigation Options – courses/programs which are currently offered such as General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), Advanced Subsidiary/Advanced (AS / A levels). The Welsh Government has set a target of 25 per cent of students in Wales to be following the Welsh Bac by 2010.
3 All students take the lower secondary leaving examination (‘diplome national du brevet’) at age 15. Various vocational qualifications are available at age 16+; the Baccalauréat at age 18.
4 In each Land, there is secondary school leaving examinations of various types at age 15/16. There is national agreement on the content of the Abitur examination (the upper secondary leaving examination which is required for university entry).
5 Until the 2004/05 academic year, students took the primary school leaving examination at age 11 which was required to gain access to lower secondary school. This has now been discontinued as primary and secondary education form 'sub-divisions' of the first cycle of education in Italy.
6 Primary and lower secondary compulsory phase education is provided in one 'all-through' school (grundskola).
7 In some cantons, there is an examination during the final year of primary education (age 10, 11 or 12 depending on the canton)which may, in combination with other factors, influence lower secondary entry. Again, in some cantons, at the end of lower secondary education (age 15/16), students can take a written and oral examination in their main subjects to obtain a leaving certificate.
8 Entrance tests, combined with continuous assessment results and lottery allocation, govern access to high school, age 15+. The College Scholastic Achievement Test, taken at age 18 (on completion of high school), governs entry to higher education.
NOTE: All systems feature ongoing teacher assessment, which frequently determines student progression between classes. This is NOT shown in the tables. Figures indicate the ages at which national certification/public examinations take place. Bold figures indicate that examinations/certification are compulsory or essential for admission to the next phase. For those countries with devolved structures (Australia, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, and the USA) it is not always possible to provide ‘national’ data. Readers should therefore recognize that the data may refer to specific states or provinces, as examples, and cannot necessarily be taken to reflect a national position.
SOURCE: O'Donnell, S., Sargent, C., Byrne, A., and White, E. (2010). International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Internet Archive Comparative Tables. Table 9.2. International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Internet Archive.
Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey


No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education