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German students decry 'difficult' math tests

Alexander Pearson
May 7, 2019

High school students across Germany are deeply unhappy about what they said were very difficult math exams. Skeptical education officials are calling for calm.

German high school students take their leaving exams
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Kästle

Tens of thousands of school children across Germany have been signing petitions since Friday calling on examiners to make the high school leaving test for mathematics easier.

The petitions have popped up in nine states, including Bavaria, where more than 60,000 people have signed a form demanding that examiners loosen the criteria used to judge this year's test takers.

"[The exam in] 2016 was demanding, 2017 was doable, 2018 was almost easy, but 2019 suddenly included questions that almost nobody had previously seen," the petition organizers said.

Read more:  Germany's school system 101: Prepare for the mind-boggling

Topics covered in the exams, which students took on Friday, included mathematical analysis, geometry and probability, according to a copy of a test seen by the DPA news agency.

Each of Germany's 16 states compiled their own version of the final test, which included a mixture of questions devised by state officials and common questions drawn from a nationwide pool.

The head of the German Education Association (VBE), Udo Beckmann, said examiners could loosen their grading criteria for this year's exams if the students' criticism was found to be justified.

Read more: What is Germany’s dual education system — and why do other countries want it?

In an interview with the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung newspaper, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, the president of the German Teachers' Association, dismissed the criticism as premature. "We should wait and see," he said.

The exam forms part of the leaving certificate known as the Abitur, which students in Germany need to have to go to university.

In 2016, complaints about the difficulty of the math test in the state of Lower Saxony caused officials there to discuss adjusting the grading criteria.

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