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Final grades weigh heavily in uni admissions

Many study spots are being filled via direct admissions this spring in Finland as unis shift entrance exams online.

Noor Assad
Twenty-three year-old Noor Assad took a remote medical school entrance exam on Tuesday with more than 7,000 other hopefuls. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

At many universities in Finland this spring, admission is mainly being granted on matriculation exam results. For those taking the entrance test, traditional sit-in exams have been replaced by online tests, remote assignments and oral exams.

Like 7,300 other applicants, Espoo-based Noor Assad took the first phase of a medical school entrance exam from home on Tuesday.

Officials in charge of the country’s medical school exams said the remote test went smoothly, with no technical hiccups reported.

Assad, who began studying for the test last December, said this year’s exam was shorter than those in previous years. Applicants were given little time to answer questions, according to Assad.

"This was probably done to prevent cheating as there wouldn’t really have been time for that," she said.

Tuesday, however, saw a spike in Google searches for terms appearing on medical school entrance exams, something Jukka Pelkonen, who chairs the national medical school examination council, confirmed to Yle.

Grades matter

Seventy-five percent of new medical school students will be admitted based on how well they performed in their final high school exams. The remaining spots will be filled from the pool of entrance test takers.

Before the outbreak, the share of direct admission for medical, dental and veterinary school had been capped at 51 percent but that changed over the course of the spring.

Some fields provide even slimmer chances for those who didn't get the grades they needed in their matriculation exams. For example, 93 percent of study spots for psychology have been designated for direct admission without an entrance exam.

Ombudsman dealing with grievances

Finland's parliamentary ombudsman has received a stack of complaints regarding this spring’s entrance exam procedures. Some grievances related to schools abruptly changing admission criteria.

Just a few days before the exam took place, Assad learned that her grades didn’t qualify her for direct admission and that she would have to sit the exam. She is now waiting for news on how and where the second phase of the exam will take place.

Technical problems with an online entrance exam for a faculty at the University of Eastern Finland meanwhile led to 750 applicants having to retake the test.

This spring has witnessed calls for expanding uni admission in Finland to help fend off youth unemployment. Finland has some of the most competitive university admissions in Europe, with some 100,000 applicants turned away last year.

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