Secondary school leaving examination

The school-leaving examination for secondary education consists of a school examination and a national written examination at the end of the final school year.

School examination

Schools set their own exams. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science prescribes which subjects must be taught during the exam year. The school examination dates are not nationally fixed: schools are free to test pupils in particular subjects whenever they wish. The school exam usually comprises two or more tests per subject, which may be oral, practical or written. Subjects outside the national exam framework may therefore be completed before the final year of school.

National examination

There is one national written exam per subject for all pupils receiving the same type of education. Whether a subject is compulsory or optional, the exam questions are the same across the whole country. The national exam always takes place at the end of the final year and is compiled by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

School-leaving exam in extra subjects

Pupils may sit exams in extra subjects, if they so wish. The final mark for these extra subjects is calculated in the same way as for the other exam subjects. The pupil may ask for their extra subject results to be included in their list of grades, so that they count towards the overall result.

Taking the exam at a higher level

A pupil may opt to sit the school-leaving exam at a higher level than they have studied for. So, for instance, a HAVO pupil could take the English exam at VWO level.

Special exam arrangements

School-leaving examinations may be taken in an adapted form, for instance if the candidate is disabled or dyslexic, or living with a chronic condition, or if their first language is not Dutch.

Pupils from other language backgrounds

Special arrangements may be made for pupils whose first language is not Dutch and who have attended a Dutch school for no more than six years (including the school-leaving exam year). The school may allow candidates in this category to:

  • have up to 30 minutes’ extra time for the national examination;
  • use a Dutch monolingual dictionary;
  • use a bilingual dictionary (from their first language into Dutch).