At secondary schools and high schools, students are expected to sit a variety of regular tests and exams. Every school year has two semesters. Each semester includes simple tests, final exams and entrance exam for higher education.
Usually, for every subject in each semester, there is an oral test, a 15-minute test (regular test) and a 45-minute test (midterm test.) The subjects decide the number of tests that students have to take. For example, for main subjects as Maths, Literature and English, students at some schools have to take at least two 15-minute tests and two 45-minute tests in each semester, while for other subjects as History and Geography, one 15-minute and one 45-minute tests are needed.
The oral test normally checks whether students have learned and understood the last lesson or not. Generally, a teacher will look at the student list and then randomly call one student each turn to come to the teacher’s table and answer the teacher’s questions. It takes around 5 till 10 minutes each turn.
The 15-minute test would be taken when students have already learned three or four lessons. It is usually conducted at the beginning or the end of the class. The test mostly takes place unexpectedly, which means the students are not informed about the test in advance. This kind of test is sometimes used to replace the oral tests as there may be not enough time for the teachers to conduct oral tests for every student.
The more important test is the 45-minute test, or one-period test (one period of teaching in Vietnam indicates 45 minutes) usually conducted once in every semester. This test would require students to learn about 5-6 lessons. Its difficulty level is higher than the previous two ones since there is a lot of content to cover. Besides, for this type of tests, the students will be informed one-two weeks in advance for preparation.
Students would have to take this exam at the end of every semester. Unlike simple tests where the students can sit in the same class to take the tests, schools will rearrange the list of all students in the same grade by their names’ alphabet and divide them into smaller groups of 20-30 students. Each group will sit in one examination room.
The final exam makes up the largest part of the final average score of the students. Basically, the final test score is tripled, the score of 45-minute test doubled while other test scores are kept the same. Then the average score is calculated on the combination of all these scores divided by the number of the tests taken.
There are four level achievements in the education system of Vietnam: Excellent (Giỏi,) Good (Khá,) Average (Trung bình) and Below Average (Yếu.) To earn the highest achievement, students must have at least 8.0 average score of all subjects and no average score of any subjects lower than 6.5. Also, either average score of Math or Literature must not be lower than 8.0.
* High School Entrance Exam:
After finishing four years of secondary level, Vietnamese students have to take this exam in three subjects: Mathematics, Literature, and Foreign language (English.) Every year the headmaster of every high school sets a minimum score by which every student can be accepted at this particular school. Students write down their preferred high school, as well as (usually) two alternative institutes in case they cannot reach the required score to be accepted as their first choice.
For many students, high school entrance exam is considered really tough, especially among top schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. For instance, in this year, one examinee has to compete with seven for a seat at Nguyen Thuong Hien High School in HCMC. But the competition among high schools for gifted is even fiercer. Besides the three major subjects taken in the entrance exam, students who want to attend in these schools must write a paper on one of the eleven subjects offered for the classes, each specialized in a single subject including Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, History, Literature, English, French, Chinese and Japanese.
Among students at public schools, fifty-thousand secondary school graduates in Hanoi and HCMC will not be able to enrol in state-owned high schools this year. Le Hong Phong High School for the Gifted (HCMC) is the foremost high school in the area attracts many applicants from Southern Vietnam. According to Vietnamnet, 2,871 students registered to compete for the seats there. The reason why high schools for the gifted are more attractive in the eyes of students because of opportunities to enter prestigious universities open for the students. Some universities, including national universities, have announced that the students from some high schools for the gifted will be admitted after graduation without having to attend entrance exams.
*National High School Exam
Starting from 2015, high school and university entrance examinations were merged into one exam. Securing a place in a public university is considered a major step towards a successful career, especially for those from rural areas or disadvantaged families. That is the reason why National High School exam is the most important and has put much pressure on candidates. In 2004, it was estimated that nearly one million students took the exam, but on average, only 20% passed.
Normally, each student will take at least 4 subjects for the exam including 3 compulsory ones – Mathematics, Literature and Foreign Language (mostly English) and one more subject such as Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Biology, and History. After receiving the results, the students can use their scores to pass high school graduation exam and to apply for their desired college(s) with 3 chosen points from the 4 given. Each major requires different groups of subject scores. For instance, if the major in the university is English, candidates take three exams for Group D1 (Literature, English, and Mathematics) or Group A1 (Mathematics, Physics and English.)
In 2007, Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training started to use multiple choice test formats for several subjects in the university entrance examination. The Foreign Language exam consists of 50 multiple choice questions, lasting for 1 hour; meanwhile, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History and Geography exams has 40 questions in 50 minutes. The Math constructed-response format has recently changed into multiple choice exam, which contains 50 questions with 90- minute time limit.
As you can see, Vietnamese students have to go through many tests in schools. Many of them are put under a lot of stress since they have to enrol in extra classes for gaining more advanced knowledge to get higher scores. To release students’ pressure, the Ministry of Education is trying hard to reduce the content in the textbooks and replace some periods of learning with some activities so that students can enjoy their study.