What are the examination and assessment systems in OECD countries?

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The data below comes from OECD Education at a Glance 2011. There are 34 OECD member countries. However, OECD data below sometimes gives a figure out of 35. The reason is unclear.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) doesn’t just administer international tests in reading, maths and science for 15 year-olds. It researches education systems.

In 2011, OECD reported their findings about the 34 OECD countries.


National examinations: primary level

Only 4 of the 34 countries used national examinations at primary level.

National examinations: lower secondary level (age 16)

15 of the 34 countries used national examinations at lower secondary level. The exams were set at state level by 10 of these. In 3 countries the exams were set at local authority level. 2 countries had a mixture of both state and local authority level exams.

The 2 subjects most commonly covered in lower secondary level exams were maths and national language or language of instruction. 3 extra subjects were used to a lesser extent: science, modern foreign languages and social studies.

National examinations: upper secondary level (age 18+)

More countries, 23 out of 35, use national examinations at upper secondary level.

Sharing data from national exams

14 of the 15 countries which had available data shared it with external audiences and education authorities. All 14 shared results with students. 13 of the 14 shared the data with school administrators. 12 shared it with parents and teachers. Only 8 shared it with the media.


OECD made it clear that “the key purpose of assessment is to provide formative feedback to improve instruction and inform about the relative performance of students.”

Assessment: primary level

Most countries used assessment at primary level

Assessment: lower secondary (age 16)

2/3 used national assessment at lower secondary level. 17 out of 22 used national assessments devised and graded at central-authority level. 3 out of 22 used local authority set assessments. 13 out of 22 used criterion-referenced tests, 8 norm-referenced and 1 used a combination of both.

The subjects most covered in lower secondary assessment are maths and national language or language of instruction. Science and modern foreign languages are also commonly covered.

Assessment: upper secondary (age 18+)

Fewer than 1/3 of countries used national assessment at the end of upper secondary.

Sharing data from assessment

21 out of 22 countries shared assessment data with external audiences in addition to education authorities. 20 countries shared the data with school administrators, 15 with teachers, 14 with parents and students, and only 12 shared assessment data with the media.

12 February 2013