Exams and grading

Tests and exams

All universities are required to end courses with examinations (eksam) or preliminary examinations (arvestus). There may be several independent examinations or tests in separate parts for a subject. Usually, oral and written examinations are held at the end of each semester during the four-week examination session. In an oral examination, students get one or two specific questions at the beginning of the exam and, after preparation, answer the examiner. The examiner may ask additional questions which are obligatory for passing the examination. Oral examinations usually last longer, from thirty minutes to an hour. Oral examinations are sometimes organised such that a small group of students may answer questions at the same time.

In a written examination, a group of students receive one or several questions related to the subject area that must be answered comprehensively. There may also be written tests that include questions with multiple answers, and the students must select the right answer from the presented choices. A written examination usually takes one to two hours to complete. The results of an examination or preliminary examination are given in the form of marks or may be evaluated as a pass (arvestatud) or a fail (mitte arvestatud). 


According to government regulation, all Estonian institutions of higher education use a standardised 6-point scale of grades based on the percentage of acquired knowledge:

Grade Description
5 or A suurepärane / excellent
4 or B väga hea / very good
3 or C hea / good
2 or D rahuldav / satisfactory
1 or E kasin / sufficient
0 or F puudulik / insufficient


Some institutions use letters (A – F) for grading, while other have opted for numbers (5 – 0), however, the principles of grading are still similar regardless of which of these is used. A grade of A/5, B/4, C/3, D/2 and E/1 is considered as a pass, with a grade of F/0 considered as a fail.

It is important to emphasise that grades awarded according to the Estonian grading scale are not directly transferable to the ECTS rating scale, regardless of their apparent similarity. According to the Estonian national grading scale, each student’s knowledge and skills are assessed independently, not in comparison to each other. The ECTS rating scale aims at the evaluation of students’ abilities in relation to other students in the same study group. As the basis for assessment is different, the transfer of grades from one system to another is problematic.

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