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End of an era: Last old-school paper matriculation exams begin

As of next spring, the Finnish matriculation examination will only be offered in digital form.

Ylioppilaslakki maalaus asfaltilla
This marks the final year that matriculation exams will be offered in the traditional format. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

On Monday, high-school students will begin taking this year’s matriculation examination, the last wave of such tests to include traditional paper exams. This autumn’s maths exam will still be done with pen and paper, but as of next spring it will join the others as a solely digital test.

The first matriculation exams on Monday test students’ reading skills in their native language. Each matric candidate must take at least four tests, including one in his or her mother tongue. The only options are however Finnish, Swedish and the Sámi language spoken by the indigenous population, which is concentrated in Finnish Lapland. All other examinations are offered only in Finnish or Swedish.

This autumn, the native-tongue exams and those on Swedish and Finnish as a second language are for the first time carried out digitally. Exams gauging skills in the Sámi and Russian languages, as well in physics and chemistry, are also now all-digital.

The last remaining paper exam is in mathematics, which will only be offered digitally as of next spring.

Linux OS blocks access to other files on laptop

Digital tests have been phased in since the autumn of 2016, starting with geography, German and philosophy. The Matriculation Examination Board notes that digital testing facilitates the use of images, video and audio. Exams can also include spreadsheet data that must be analysed, for instance.

Candidates can either bring their own laptops or borrow one from the school. They boot into a Linux operating system that blocks access to local files and programmes on the device, only allowing pre-installed applications and materials. The Linux kernel was originally developed by Linus Torvalds while he was a student at the University of Helsinki in the early 1990s.

Altogether more than 37,600 candidates have signed up for this fall’s matriculation examination. Such national examinations have been held in Finland since 1852, more than six decades before the country gained independence from the Russian Empire. At that point it was the entrance examination to the University of Helsinki, which had moved to the city from Turku in 1829.

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