Israel's Matriculation Exams to Be Curtailed This Year Due to Coronavirus

The army's summer draft will be postponed and the psychometric exam that should have been given in April has also been postponed to an unspecified date

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Students taking a matriculation exam.
Israeli students taking a matriculation exam.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Due to the coronavirus, only three to five compulsory matriculation exams will be given this year, rather than the seven normally administered, the Education Ministry announced Wednesday.

Additionally, the exams will begin in late June rather than early May and run through the end of July.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 72

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As a result, the army will postpone its usual summer draft.

In elective subjects, there will be no matriculation exams at all. Instead, schools will grade students based on their tests and projects during the year.

The required exams will be language (Hebrew or Arabic), math and English. In addition, schools will have to choose one humanities exam, with the choices being literature, Bible, history and civics, while students studying science will take one science exam – chemistry, biology, computer science or physics.

The exact dates for each exam will be published on Monday, but “no child will have to take two exams in one week,” ministry director general Shmuel Abuav said.

The ministry’s assumption is that by late June, the lockdown regulations will have eased, so it will be possible to have groups of students take the exam together. Nevertheless, it’s trying to limit the size of these groups by spreading out the exams. For instance, the math and English exams will be given on several different days depending on what level the student is taking (three-point, four-point or five-point).

In another unusual move, schools have been told what material the exams cover so they can teach that material only. But several teachers said this doesn’t actually reduce the amount of material students have to learn, because the material the ministry is omitting is actually necessary to understand the material that remains.

David Gal, who heads the ministry’s examination department, admitted this, but said the ministry would publish a revised list of exam topics next week to make life easier for the students.

Eleventh graders who take the slimmed-down exams this year won’t have to make up the missing exams next year, the ministry added. It also said that even if the coronavirus restrictions end quickly, it won’t reinstate the exams that are being dropped.

However, it does intend to set clear standards for the grades given by schools in subjects where there’s no matriculation exam this year, and it’s consulting with universities on those standards. In addition, these grades will undergo statistical validation to ensure that they reflect the students’ real abilities.

The psychometric exam that was supposed to be given in April has also been postponed to an unknown date. The National Institute for Testing and Evaluation said the exam would be given as soon as the coronavirus restrictions are removed.

People who signed up for the April test will be given only one week’s notice of the new date. However, they can reschedule for a later date at no extra cost.

Universities are currently debating how to alter their acceptance standards to account for the coronavirus changes. Some departments are lowering the minimum psychometric grade for acceptance; others are considering scrapping the psychometric altogether and instead requiring students to take online summer courses or department-specific exams.

The universities said they will extend the current semester into the summer if needed. However, they are still charging full tuition, which has outraged many students.

On Tuesday, the Council for Higher Education promised the National Student Union that financial aid will be available for students who have trouble meeting their payments. It also agreed to give special consideration to students who have trouble keeping up with their coursework because they were summoned for work in essential industries or have young children at home.

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