France scraps baccalaureate exams for 2021

The new school year has only been underway for a matter of weeks, but France has announced that it will be scrapping exams for large parts of the 2021 baccalaureate due to the health situation.

France scraps baccalaureate exams for 2021
French high school students will be taking fewer exams next year. Photo: AFP

Students due to take the end-of-school exams commonly known as le bac in spring 2020 faced the abrupt cancellation of exams and instead were given grades based on their assessed work over the year. France also expanded university places to take account of the difficult situation for students, who had three months of remote-learning during the lockdown in spring.

Now the French education ministry has decided, in order to avoid any more last-minute changes, to also drastically alter the format of the exams for 2021.


  • In good news for pupils who struggle with exam nerves, exams have largely been scrapped and replaced with continuous assessment and coursework
  • Only exams in a pupil's 'speciality' subject will be maintained, with an expanded format
  • These exams will go ahead as planned from March 15th to 17th, but if a pupil is ill on those dates they can take the exam in June
  • These changes are temporary for the 2020/21 academic year and affect pupils in both the first and second year of lycée.

There is more detail on the changes available on the education ministry's website here.

The education ministry added, perhaps slightly optimistically, that: “These adaptations will allow students to work with complete peace of mind this year, for a successful baccalaureate and a good entry into higher education.”

The ministry also laid out plans to guarantee at least 50 percent of face-to-face teaching for pupils in lycée.

At present schools in France are largely open as normal, so this was taken by many as a sign of future plans for a return to more remote learning.

The baccalaureate exams mark a watershed in a pupil's life and avoir le bac ('get the bac', which means pass the exam) is key in order to access higher education or certain jobs.

Unlike the UK system where pupils get grades for each subject, the baccalaureate is taken as a package, with a certain number of compulsory subjects and other chosen 'speciality' subjects. The overall grade is taken as an average of test results, although some subjects carry more weight than others in determining the overall grade.

Most of the subjects are graded at the end of terminale, the final year of studies, but some are taken the year before in première.

READ ALSO What does it mean that France has extended its state of health emergency until February 2021?


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