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An estimated 1.4 million high school students will be taking their matriculation exams between today and July 5, at 1,000 high schools across the country.

The English exam is scheduled for May 18 and the math for May 25 - early enough to allow the students, who typically consider these the toughest exams, to retake the tests in mid-July in a bid to improve their scores.

Some 90 percent of 12th-graders take the tests, though data for the past several years show that less than half the seniors pass them.

The Education Ministry has set a special date for students in Nazareth taking the matriculation exam in computer science because the test date, set for mid-May, falls during the pope's visit to their city.

Exams in Israel are considered particularly complex because the country has several different school systems - requiring different history exams for students at secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox, Druze and Arab (non-Druze) schools. The Education Ministry administers 87 types of tests, 28 of which cover required subjects.