Finnish Upper Secondary School in a Nutshell

  • starts after 9 years of compulsory basic education
  • takes three years on average
  • the same study group  may have students who vary in age from 16 to 19
  • the academic year starts in mid- August and ends  in late May or early June (190 school days)
  • the academic year is divided into 5 periods of six weeks each
  • one lesson lasts 75 minutes
  • you study 4-7 subjects per period
  • you have about 20-22 lessons in each subject per period
  • the  exam week follows at the end of the period. At that time students attend only revision classes and take exams
  • in order to graduate from upper secondary school, students must take 75 courses, obtain a school leaving certificate and pass the matriculation examination 


  • compulsory courses
  • specialisation courses (national and local)
  • applied courss (e.g. choir, active participation in the student body, student exchange, etc.)
  • students must take 47-51 compulsory courses and minimum 10 specialisation  courses. The rest they can freely choose from the courses that are offered each year
  • If a student doesn’t pass the course exam, he can take part in a make-up examination,  which is arranged after each period.

The Matriculation Examination

  • takes place in autumn and spring
  • you must pass  minimum four subjects
  • the mother tongue (Finnish in our school) is compulsory
  • one exam must be a so called A-level exam (in most cases, advanced English or advanced mathematics)
  • the subjects of your choice are math, Swedish, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, biology, ethics, physics, geography, history, philosophy, chemistry,psychology, health science, religion and  social sciences.  
  • all the exams are written and foreign language exams  include a listening comprehension test
  • one written exam takes maximum 6 hours
  • A  student can take the exam in parts ( some subjects in autumn, the rest in spring. E.g history and mathematics in autumn and  mother tongue and English in spring)
  • you can take max. six exams per autumn/spring
  • the exam can be retaken if you want to improve your result
  • as a sign of passing the matriculation examination , the student receives a  certificate and a white cap