CSE GCSE equivalent grades in Germany shall be addressed just as A-Levels highschool degrees in this part 3 of the series. In part 1 we focussed on general differences in Germany’s compulsory education compared with the American one.
In part 2, the specifics of how teachers are formated in Germany are addressed.
In this part 3 you’ll come across CSE and GCSE equivalent grades in Germany along A-Levels assessments in their centralized form. The external exams in all of those degrees shall be discussed in part 4.
If you need more information on basic facts, official addresses, or teaching opportunities check Germany’s Eduserver in English, or in German – see top left corner. It’s run by the reputative Leibniz Institute of Research in Education.
Certification Procedures in Secondary Education in Germany
First, you get an introduction into the half-annual certifications within grades, then some insight in the degree certification in secondary school. Finally, you’ll get introduced into the centralized exam procedure throughout the nation.
In Germany, you find two types of certification within a school year – after a semester, and after the entire year, which consists of 40 weeks. As you may know, the US only requires 36 weeks. In the first two years, German ‘schools’ usually don’t give marks. This has changed because a couple of years ago, those grades were assessed, indeed.
Depending on the ‘Bundesland’ or State, if you will, grade 3 is optional with mark giving. Sometimes, you have differences with public and private schools such that private schools start giving marks from grade 3 on, whereas public schools rely on description certificates and give marks no earlier than in grade 4. This is somewhat tense with some parents because grade 4 is the final year of elementary education. Therefore, right after the first semester parents receive a recommendation whether to enter CSE GCSE equivalent grades in Germany, or if to A-Levels with their child, which is the more challenging education course from grade 5 on.
Now let’s switch back to those (half-) annual certifications. They reflect learning outcomes in a mark per subject. They have two components: oral and written performance. The written performance exclusively consists of so-called class tests. Depending of the ‘Bundesland’ and/or grade, there are either 2 or 3 per half a year in the ‘main’ subjects like Math, Language Arts (German), and English as Second Language (ESL). Sometimes, only Language Arts require 3 class test, and other major subjects don’t. And there are usually 1, and seldom 2 class tests per semester in the minor subjects, which are all others – except for P.E., arts, and few similars. In those, a project would replace a class test.
All other graded work like homework, vocabulary tests, and oral attendance make up the oral marks. The distribution varies by school type – primary or secondary education, and within secondary education whether it’s the basic or advanced level of both, a school type or subject.
In general, the componants of oral and written marks may vary from a relation of 40:60, 50:50, or 60:40 percent. As said before, it depends if a student is in elementary or secondary education, and if the student is heading for CSE GCSE equivalent grades in Germany, which is ‘ESA’ or ‘MSA’, or highschool graduation, which is ‘Abitur’.
For balancing grading in class tests, there is a common standard, when to grade an ‘A’ (1), that may vary from 92-95% of achievement, or e.g. a ‘D’ (4) that may vary from 45-55 % of a poll’s overall requirement. If you need to know more on the details feel free to contact me.
In general, the percentages are easier to achieve in a more basic education, where “passed” my be reached with only 45% of the overall assessments, or an A-grading is achievend with only 90-92%. In contrast, the more challenging branch of secondary education, ‘Gymnasium’, is not only more challening in choosing content but as well with grading. An A-grading there requires 95% of achievement.
Expectations of Grading in Written Assessments & Procedures
Expectations of grading are communicated to the student within the written exam as “points”, beforehand. This is similar with polls and Multiple-Choice tests in the US and common practise in education. The higher the classes, the more the expectation level is adapted to three different achievement qualities. They’re progressive in challenge up to high school.
In highschool, it looks like this:
- Level I – repeating familiar content with some 20% of the total test;
- Level II – applying content into a similar problem with a 50% quantity;
- Level III – creating and problem-solving on unfamiliar topics with 30% of a total.
Such distribution shall reflect both, the amount (quantity) as well as the intellectual challenge (quality) of required student performance in any (to be) graded answer. If you’re familiar with those categories you’ll almost immediately detect the competencies described with the help of Bloom’s taxonomy in a somewhat light version of only 3 levels instead of the actual 6 levels.
By the way: The latter is a reflection of the final degree examinations of written highschool assessments, as well. It’s therefore implemented from as early as grade 9 on (expectation level I), ongoing in grade 10/ middle school (with stress on expectation levels I and II).
One final comment of the quality of polls within a classtest. You have an intraindividual performance of one student over time. And second, there’s an interindividual performance that describes how well an entire group did. Some teachers, typically in primary or lower middle school, include an interindividual-based performance table at the end of each written test to communicate to parents on how their child is situated amongst peer performance. A test is considered well-balanced when a normal curve of distribution (Gauss, blue curve) is reflected in the students’ achievements.
All class tests are being handed over to parents for a week’s time, to be re-collected again for justifying issues in the case of future questioning (e.g. lawsuits). They are stored within schools for the period of 10 or 20 years, even. Additionally, those (important) class tests are not accepted by the principal if more than 50% of all students failed (lower than “D” or 4) and have to be repeated with similar content shortly after. In sum, these half-annual certifications communicate to parents their kid’s progress all way down the school road. There could be said more but let’s envision centralized secondary degrees now.
CSE GCSE Equivalent Grades and A-Levels Assessments in Germany
There are actually two ways to reach final school degrees: Either by centralized or through external degrees. Go here on the CSE GCSE and A-Levels equivalent terms. The external degrees will be discussed in part 4.
The centralized exams have got three components:
- The annual grading by the subject’s teacher (60% of the overall degree);
- The written centralized exam binding within a ‘Bundesland’ (20%), equal for every school partaking in the centralized exams and graded by the subject’s school teacher (internal staff), proof-read by a teacher appointed by the State’s school agency (external staff); and finally
- The oral exam by the subject’s teacher and assisted by another school staff of the same subject (20%), internal.
In short, the centralization has an almost frightening effect on all students and thus, allow a perception of outside-induced stress so that the teacher may perform the role of a “coach” rather than that of a judge but actually, the centralized exams have not so much influence on the final grading in this subject. However, the reality mentioned in the list above shows that there’s actually much internal influence – a whole 80% of internal evaluation, and of the 20% of the centralized exam it’s still the subject’s teacher who does both:
- Choice of the two over-arching themes out of three options – it’s those themes the teacher considers his students to pass best (and students work on one theme of their choice, only);
- Suggestion of mark, which sometimes allows for room of interpretation in some areas.
To sum this up: Those 20% of a central standard are evaluated to some degree based on the prior teaching practise of an individual teacher, too. Although it’s assumed that all teaching itself is based on the State’s binding curriculum there’s still always some room for interpretation, too. Thus, centralized exams allow for different standards of grading in practise – depending on how strict a teacher is when assessing students’ learning outcomes. That is a completely different from how external exams work.
A few more comments on centralized exams in Germany’s formal education:
- Only the ‘main’ subjects are under centralized testing – Math, Language Arts (German), and English as Second Language (ESL) in CSE GCSE equivalent grades;
- In highschool / A-Levels there are four major written subjects assessed centralized, see examples here;
- All tests are task-/ problem-orientated and not multiple choice. Such practise has been almost un-known to German education in contrary to American education;
- All centralized exams can be taken in three levels: grade 9/ basic or general degree (CSE equivalent), grade 10/ middle school degree (GCSE equivalent), and grade 12 /13 (depending on States’ school system policies)/ A-levels;
- There is a somewhat “lower” A-level degree (“Fachabitur”) that denies access to German universities and colleges (“Hochschulen) but does allow entrance into Universities of Applied Science (formerly, “Fachhochschulen”), and such higher education graduate will not be allowed to enter as teacher into Germany’s public education, by the way;
- The Centralized Exams are for both, public schools including German foster schools world-wide, and accredited (“anerkannte”) private schools but they’re not for acknowledged (“genehmigte”) private schools, where you have only external exams;
- Along oral exams for all major written subjects, there are 1-3 oral exams but not centralized, one of which is an obligatory oral exam – in CSE GCSE equivalent grades it’s one of the sciences (biology, chemistry, or physics), in A-Levels it’s a bit more varied;
- The topic(s) of content in the (written) centralized exams are communicated publicly on the school agency’s website about 9 months ahead of the exams, so that indeed teachers are ready to “teach to the test” to some degree if they are willing to inform themselves and pass on that knowledge to their students and their respective parents (which is not always the case with all teachers);
- Each student can individually chose an option to skip one theme in every written centralized exam, as mentioned before.