Passing Your Abitur… Do You Have What It Takes?

By Corinna Bienger on Email

This is about  high school and the Abitur in Germany; as it is the  main conversation in our house these days. My daughter is in the midst of her final exams for the Abiturzeugnis, the document which contains the student’s grades and enables them to attend university.  The importance of the Abitur has grown beyond admission to the university.   It has increasingly become a pre-requisite to start an apprenticeship in some professions (e.g. banking.) Therefore career opportunities for Hauptschule or Realschule graduates who do not have the Abitur, gradually receded in the past years.

Passing the Abitur requires a total score of at least 280 in a complicated scale of points and grades, acquired in the final two years of high school. Students with a score below 280 fail and will not receive their Abitur. There are some more conditions that the student has to meet in order to receive the Abitur, like taking mandatory courses in different subject areas and limits to the number of failing grades in core subjects. A score between 768 points and the maximum of 840 generally leads to the best-possible grade of 1.0.

Historically, very few people in Germany received their Abitur, because there were a number of attractive jobs which did not need one. Even now, there are still attractive jobs that do not require the Abitur, such as in nursing or early childhood education. The number of persons getting the Abitur has been going up since the 1970s and younger jobholders are more likely to have it than older ones, but the vast majority of Germans still do not have the Abitur.

Despite the fact that the duration of the Gymnasium (high school) has been reduced by one year just a short while back (depending on the Bundesland,) the contents of the thirteen, now twelve, school years has stayed the same. This means that the school timetable is prolonged and that the students have to be at school for fifty hours a week, plus the time the kids have to study at home for the written Abitur exams they have to take in their final year.

All this work ends with the final the oral exam. After that, at the end of the school year, which means the end of their entire school life (this sounds so scary,) the Abiturzeugnisse are officially presented in a certificate award ceremony. Then  comes the Abiball, the first formal ball most of the kids will attend. This has already turned into formerly unheard-of conversations in our home about which gown to buy, where to go for hair, nails, make-up and so on. It may be the most strenuous time of our lives, but it is also definitely the most exciting.


Photo by maximilian.haack via flickr

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Corinna Bienger